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The University of Sheffield

How to Write Your First Song

The University of Sheffield via FutureLearn


Ever wanted to write a song, but not known how?

This course will introduce you to the tools and techniques you need to write your first song. You’ll look at some of the fundamentals of songwriting, building your knowledge as you progress.

By the time you’re done, you’ll have gone through the process of writing your own song, working with pitch, melody, chord progressions and more.

Learn how to write a song

The art of songwriting is one that just about anyone can learn. Whether or not you’ve tried your hand at music composition in the past, this course gives you the opportunity to get creative.

As you work your way through, you’ll learn how to make a song, exploring the main steps involved in the process.

Explore the principles of songwriting

Writing songs is an enjoyable and creative way to express yourself. With this course, you’ll discover the underlying principles of song composition.

As well as looking at how to set words to a rhythm, you’ll examine what an effective melody looks like, and how to structure your piece. These techniques can help you write future songs on your own.

Create a song of your own

If you’re struggling with how to write song lyrics or what to write a song about, we’ve got you covered. Each week, using specially-commissioned lyrics, we’ll build up a song and encourage you to do the same.

World-renowned musician, Martin Simpson, will use the same words and techniques and we’ll check in with him each week for inspiration and guidance on the songwriting process.

We’ll also talk to experts in music and psychology as well as established musicians and songwriters to find out what makes a song successful.

Whether you’re a complete novice who has never written a song in their life, a budding amateur looking to develop further skills or an accomplished professional brushing up on the basics, this course will deliver comprehensive practical and theoretical knowledge to help set you on your path.

While it will be useful to have access to a musical instrument this is not a requirement, you can participate in the course just using your voice or with freely available music software.

Taught by

Adam White

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4.8 rating, based on 157 reviews

Start your review of How to Write Your First Song

  • Anonymous
    This was a great course for someone who has been writing songs but without any musical background. It has enhanced my skills and given more meaning to what I am doing and would be doing in the future. Hope to get more courses that will continue to make me grow. Thank you very much!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I am sorry to leave a rather negative review. I stayed through the course and I am trying to put some of the advice into practice, but in the end, I didn’t find the course particularly engaging or effective. The course is heavily based on music theory,...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Great course covering lots of ground. You don't need to be able to write or read music, though if you play an instrument it helps! The vdeos were good, not only the tutor's videos, but those from songwriters - how they go about the process of writing...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    A very high quality & enjoyable course. The tutors, presenters and guest musicians are all excellent - well-informed & engaging personalities. We were exposed to a broad range of musical styles and influences, from the weekly playlists for listening &...
  • David Parkin

    David Parkin completed this course.

    The course starts slowly and builds at just the right pace, the amount of work you put in is up to you but if you work on the song around the weeks topic it is probably easier, I didn’t do that and am now backtracking, revising little bits to refresh...
  • Anonymous
    Excellent course! I love music and can play guitar/piano at beginner/intermediate level. I know a good song when I hear one but had never tried to write one. How hard can that be? Recently I retired so it was time to put it to the test. Turns out not...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    A really interesting course on many levels. I enjoyed the weekly selection of tracks to illustrate the focus of each week's learning, which has really enriched both my learning and how I listen to music. Having the opportunity to hear professional musicians...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course has definitely de-mystified songwriting for me. It is a brilliant course, and I would recommend it to all musicians who have never written a song, as well as those those who have taken tentative steps into writing but are unsure what to make...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    It is a very well-made and generous course for those who are trying to communicate their ideas by writing songs and song lyrics. However, I found that this course is specifically made for people who don't know a lot about songwriting in general, not for...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course was really well presented . It covered all the principal elements of music in a way that was clearly understandable. The staging and course layout was highly commendable. The demonstrations and activities, interviews to accompany the educational...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I am very greatful to Adam and the team. I have just started playing an instrument (in my retirement) and could not understand music theory.
    This course has clarified the mystery of how music works. I cannot believe how much difference it has made in just six weeks.
    I now understand what I am seeing and hearing when I learn or (unbelievably) compose/construct a piece. I am only allowed, by my children and grandchildren, nephews nieces, friends and neighbours to sing in private. Despite this I enjoy putting words to the chords and notes I string together, they now sound like music, whereas before they sounded like my singing.
    I am so happy.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I found the six weeks course very enjoyable and instructive. I had already written and recorded several songs, but I had never had any instruction before. The course has provided me with a better understanding of the process of producing a good song.
    I now feel more confident about writing my next song with a number of extra techniques for improving the quality of a song.
    The structure of the course and the quality the presentations were of a high standard.
    When I started the course I had no intention of upgrading it, but I did so.
  • Anonymous
    So enjoyed this course and felt the way it was structured worked exceptionally well. A nice amount of text and video content to keep it interesting and informative. As well as providing a decent and relevant amount of background on chords, song forms and the elements of a song, I particularly enjoyed that each week had a weekly playlist, songwriter sessions (with artists representing various genres) and Martin Simpson's writing process which was all really inspirational.

    Thank you!
  • Profile image for Ronald Rusianto
    Ronald Rusianto
    I'd say that The University of Sheffield has made a good decision on opening this great music course on How to Write Your First Song. The whole session has provided me with remarkable lessons and insights. I've been experiencing great moments with Adam and the team. I think it's such a recommended course especially for those who hope to gain an opportunity to see how music is produced with the support of the elements of music.
  • Anonymous
    Although I've done songs before I enjoyed this and the chance to interact with others doing the same journey at the same time. My version of the song never seemed to get into the #FLSong folder though it was there on Soundcloud. Just waiting now for the Open Mic and Folk Club to re-open in Swindon and sorry that Marlborough College Summer School was cancelled again. Cheers to the folk in Sheffield.
  • Anonymous
    This is a pretty awesome course, easy to learn and full of value.

    Althought it lasts 6 weeks it´s really easy going and you´ll feel motivated in each session.

    I´m really glad I did it, it guided me to a new ways to discover music.

    I feel more confortable to expressing myself throught music and with a different perspective, more wide.

    Awesome musicians. Really valuable knowledge.


  • Pam Gould completed this course.

    Fabulous course. The emphasis is on music rather than lyrics. The 'lyrics' are provided by poet Matt Black, to use as you see fit. The song writing process is broken down into its basic elements with wonderful interviews with performers and video demonstrations. There are also excellent interviews with songwriters and producers, And Martin Simpson, folk singer/songwriter and stunning guitarist, writes his song along with you, laying bare his process. You'll listen to wide variety of music, and you can share your own music with fellow students.
  • Anonymous
    interesting, nice, small course, goes briefly through process of songwriting. Somebody put effort to make it. If you have had some musical education once, you'll remember musical shapes and harmony classes ;)
    We've been introduced to many Sheffield musicians too
    You have to take some time, to think, listen, make some of your stuff etc.
  • Anonymous
    Amazing course. I learned alot about song writing and was inspired. Thank you Adam and all who contributed to this well organised course. The only obstacle was the unability to get the model answer of analysing the song that needed upgrade. That's the only frustrating thing in this course! But all in all, well done guys.
  • Anonymous
    I not only learned so much, but I understand so much more as well. Songwriting is a very comprehensive craft. I do wish every child would be taught how to write a song and play one instrument at school. Maybe there would be less mental illness in the world.

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