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How to write a song analysis for english class

Updated March 23, 2017

Analysing a song for an English class project is much like analysing a novel or a short story. English teachers often use songs to see if students can pick out literary and poetic devices in the song lyrics and to see how students are able to take in and describe the mood of the song. You don't have to be a musician or songwriter to analyse a song, though it is beneficial when it comes to analysing musical elements. Analysing songs for English class can be fun, challenging, and will help increase your appreciation of an art form most of us enjoy in our lives on a regular basis. Learn how you can do a song analysis for your English class that will impress the teacher.

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  1. Determine what format your teacher wants your song analysis to be in. Those formats could be MLA or APA style, or you may be allowed to write a short free-form essay. Whatever your instructor's requirements, refer to the style guidelines before you write (see Resources).

  2. Unless your instructor assigns you a song to analyse, select a song you feel certain tells a good story and makes use of literary or poetic devices you will be able to turn into a good essay paper. You're not likely to get a lot of meaning from a rock 'n' roll song about girls and partying all night. Those songs serve a purpose, but not in an English-class analysis.

  3. Listen to your song choice several times. Pay attention to the lyrics. Write them down and make notations if it helps. Try to read between the lines. Look for literary devices such as simile, metaphor and parallelism. These devices are often used in well-written song lyrics. Consult a literary device guide to help you understand these literary elements (see Resources).

  4. Look for poetic devices and poetic structure, such as internal and other rhyme schemes found in poetry. Search the lyrics for hyperbole, symbolism and beautiful language you would be more inclined to find in the works of noted poets. You can find more about poetic devices by referring to a guide as you analyse your song (see Resources).

  5. Discuss the music of your song in terms of tone, mood, and how it works with the song lyrics to enhance the overall message of the song. You don't need to be able to read music to hear what's going on musically within a song.

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About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.

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