Intro: How to Begin a Song?

Posted on October 26, 2022

First impressions matter and that is true in music as well. A good introduction to a song is crucial as many listeners decide whether or not they’re going to keep listening based on the first few seconds of a song.

What is an intro?

A song introduction, or an intro for short, is the first part of the song structure. It’s used to introduce and establish the song. The song intro gives an idea of the song’s style and genre while establishing the key and basic rhythm. Many song intros also include some kind of lyrics that can hint at the song’s themes and what kind of story it’s trying to tell.

In many cases, the song intro is just the same as the verse or chorus but without any lyrics. However, the intro can also be completely separate from the rest of the song and not have any recurring elements that are repeated later on. Although songwriters need to create an intro that really catches the listener’s ear, the introduction should not reveal everything right away so that the listener wants to keep listening more of what’s to come.

There are different ways of writing an introductory passage to a song. The song can begin right away with the first verse or introduce the chorus. Many songs also begin with the central guitar riff or drum beat, for instance. It’s not uncommon to have an intro with only vocals. The song intro can be completely instrumental just as well.

What is the function of a song intro?

  • Capture the listener’s attention.
  • Establish some of the song’s key elements, such as rhythm and genre.
  • Introduce recurring melodic, thematic, and lyrical elements of the song.
    Sets up expectations for the listener for what’s to come later in the song.

How long is an intro?

The length of a song intro can vary a great deal between songs and musical genres. For example, punk rock songs often jump right into the action and don’t waste too much time on the intro. Meanwhile, a prog rock epic can spend minutes on an introductory passage. The typical length of a song intro is four bars, but as mentioned, the length can vary between songs, artists, styles, and genres.

Do all songs have an intro?

Although all songs have to begin somehow, they don’t all have an intro. Instead of having a separate introductory passage, the song can jump right into the first verse or the song’s chorus.

Some well-known songs without an intro include:

  • Good Vibrations’ by The Beach Boys. The song begins right away with the first verse and song lyrics.
  • Ain’t No Sunshine’ by Bill Withers. The same lyrics and vocal melody that are used later on in the chorus begin the song without extra instrumentation.
  • ‘Buddy Holly’ by Weezer. The distorted rhythm guitar riff and vocals kick in right away with drums and bass.

What is an outro?

Because there’s a separate section in the song structure for the beginning of the song, there’s one for the ending as well. This one is known as the outro. Just like introductions, there are different ways to end a song, such as slowly fading out the song or ending it abruptly.

Learn more about song structure

The intro is only the beginning of a song. If you want to learn more about songwriting and the parts of a song, check out our article about the basic song structure.

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