How to Write Your First Song

About the course


Ever wanted to write a song, but not known how? This free online course will give you the practical and theoretical understanding you need to create a finished song of your own.

Get to grips with songwriting theory

Over six weeks, we’ll be exploring the basic musical concepts that underpin successful songs. From the fundamental elements of melody, rhythm, harmony, metre and key to the relationship between words and music.

We’ll uncover the tools and techniques that songwriters use to create effective melodies and discover how chords combine to give shape and structure to your songs. We’ll also learn how giving your song a musical form or structure can help to make it captivating and memorable.

Learn from established musicians and songwriters

As well as experts in music and psychology at the University of Sheffield, we’ll be talking to established musicians to find out what makes their songs successful. Special guests include:

  • Martin Simpson (award-winning folk songwriter)
  • Tom Ravenscroft (BBC Radio 6 Music presenter)
  • Christopher Hague (Producer, Sheffield Steelworks Studios)
  • Shahbaz Hussein (Tabla player)
  • Martin Curtis Powell (Cradle of Filth)
  • Kate Jackson (The Long Blondes)
  • Nat Johnson (singer-songwriter)
  • MC Matic Mouth (Clubs and Spades)
  • Mat Welsh and Sean Long (While She Sleeps)
  • Jon McClure (Reverend and the Makers)
  • Neil McSweeney (singer-songwriter)
  • Toddla T (DJ and producer)
  • Anastasia Walker (Bang Bang Romeo)
  • Paul Wolinski (65daysofstatic)

Write your first song using specially commissioned lyrics

To help get you started, we have commissioned Sheffield poet, Matt Black, to write some song lyrics. Each week, we’ll be using these lyrics to build up a song and encouraging you to do the same: setting the words to rhythm; writing a melody; harmonising the melody with chords; and structuring your ideas into a satisfying musical form.

World-renowned musician, Martin Simpson, will be using the same words and the same set of techniques to write a song. We’ll be checking in with him each week for inspiration and guidance on the songwriting process.

Presenting organisation

University of Sheffield/FutureLearn

Course leader

Adam White
Hello, I'm Course Director for Music at The Department for Lifelong Learning, University of Sheffield, an Associate Lecturer in Music with The Open University and a professional musician.

Further information

Course duration: 6 weeks; 3 hours per week
Delivery: Online
Cost: £Free
Certification: Certificates available


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.

All FutureLearn music courses