by Metal Mastermind

August 27, 2020

how to write a metal song

So, you want to write a metal song but you don’t know where to start?

Yeah, that’s frustrating. But that’s why we’re here and we’re going to give 6 steps to writing and composing your own metal song.

Here’s what you’ll learn…

  1. How to determine the subgenre of your song
  2. What to do for the rhythm and riffs
  3. Considering your instrumentation and arrangement
  4. Creating the melodies for your song
  5. Your song structure
  6. How to approach writing lyrics

*We also have the video version of this at the end of the post!

1 – Style (Subgenre) of Your Metal Song

The first thing you have to consider if the type of metal you’re writing. Now, if you’re already in an established band or you’re a solo artist that’s already known for a particular subgenre, this will be easier.

If you’re a new artist or band and just in the beginning phases of songwriting, you’ll need to take a step back and think about the subgenre of metal you represent…

  • Thrash metal
  • Melodic death metal
  • Black metal
  • Symphonic metal

Those are just a few of MANY subgenres!

Of course, oftentimes modern bands will merge several styles to create their songs. However, there’s still an underlying style in the music that’s going to move it towards a particular metal subgenre.

Why is it so important that you figure out your subgenre? There are two reasons…

  1. You need to be able to target the right audience for your style of music.
  2. If you’re already established, and as you grow as an artist, your audience is going to expect a certain style from you.

One thing that can help is you can record a short section of your new song and post it on social media so your audience can hear it. And in that post, just ask them what bands your song reminds them of. They’ll be happy to tell you!

***To help you more with determining your style, check out our post: Subgenres of Metal Music

2 – The Rhythm (and Riffs) of the Song

The rhythm of your song is what drives your song. It’s the heart of the song and its driving force.

Your rhythm section must be a strong element in your writing. You need those chord changes, bridges, different progressions, and such. More importantly, those rhyths and riffs need to be memeorable.

Think of songs like Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets.’ Every guitar riff in that song stand out and it’s one of the most sought after metal songs that guitar players want to learn, note for note.

For metal music, this is where the guitars really shine, specifically the rhythm guitars. However, the bass and drums, and any other instruments you may have are just important as they are supporting those rhythms.

For example, you may have the same progression for the chorus and bridge. But just by changing the drum patterns and bass line could make each section sound completely different.

3 – Instrumentation and Arrangement

Next, you need to think about what the instrumentation and arrangement of your song is going to look (or sound) like.

Obviously there are going to be heavy guitars and blasting drums in your song. But that’s only part of it.

Vocals are another key aspect. This is a crucial part of metal music because it’s going to be that thing that connects your listener to your song at a deeper level.

You need to consider all instrumentals involved because that’s going to add more complexity (and some awesome diversity) into your song arrangement.

Think of bands like Nightwish, with heavy orchestration. Or bands like Amaranthe, who almost has a dance-style groove to some of their music.

Your instrumentation is going to factor in a few things…

  • What’s the vibe you’re looking for?
  • Is this a more melodic tune?
  • Is it more of a heavy-riffing style?
  • Do you need orchestration, such as if you were writing a melodic or symphonic metal song?
  • Do you need a synthesizer virtual instrumentals?

Consider all of the factors that for your instrumentation and arrangement.

**If you’re writing an instrumental metal song, vocals are not part of the equation.

However, if that’s the case, you will need to consider a higher level of guitar work, such as guitar solos and perhaps some complex rhythm parts to keep your listener captivated.

4 – Melodies of Your Metal Song

Right after assessing your instrumentation and arrangement that we just talked about, it’s time to consider the types of melodies in your song.

This can be easily forgotten in the metal music genre, especially with the more extreme styles. But even subgenres like death metal and black metal, there is still some sort of melody that drives the song.

Often times the vocal lines will handle the melodies. Especially when it comes to the chorus, which is considered the heart of the song.

But the guitar riffs and rhythm section also need to carry some sort of melody. You don’t want your metal song to sound like someone just threw a bunch notes in a blender and hit start. There needs to be some sort of flow and distinctions between the different parts of your song.

A great example is Killswitch Engage. They have the perfect mix of heavy thrashing riffs with that metalcore style of vocals. But then they’ll switch over to a melodic guitar progression and ‘clean’ vocals.

Listen to Rose of Sharyn and you’ll hear what we’re talking about:

Now, if you’re doing instrumental metal, you’ll need to make sure the key instruments are handling those melodies to give it that life and character. Because the instruments, more than often the lead guitar, is going to ‘replace’ where the vocals would normally go.

Joe Satriani is the undisputable master at this. When you hear his solos, you don’t even think about vocals and you don’t feel anything missing from his music. That’s because he fills his songs with plenty of melodies.

5 – Song Structure

Now you have to think about the ‘big picture’ the overall song structure. Is your song going to…

  • Traditional verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, etc?
  • Or are you doing venture off and do something completely different?

One really unique song structure is the song ‘Pull Me Under’ by Dream Theater. Like many of the older metal songs, there’s a long instrumental intro and from there, you have a structure that’s anything but the norm. Yet it still flows nicely.

Many metal musicians enjoy getting inspiration from historical references. For example, Yngwie Malmsteen displays a heavy influence of neoclassical styles into his guitar playing.

Knowing what style you want to trend towards is going to help you build out your song structure more efficiently. And there are a lot of options for you.

  • Do you want to write a metal sonata?
  • Do you want to bring back some of the classic metal styles?
  • Do you want to merge older with modern styles?
  • Do you want to create something completely new?

Lastly, let’s talk about the breakdowns that metal music is known for. These can be the bridges of your song but you don’t necessarily have to limit the breakdown to that.

The breakdowns are a great way to ‘break up’ your song. And that’s the thing that makes music interesting and keeps your audience listening and wanting more from you.

6 – Metal Lyrics

Finally, we need to talk about the lyrics of your song And this is where metal music really reaches out and touches, or grabs your listener (and all of us, which is why we love metal so much!).

Here are some things to think about with writing metal lyrics…

  • Metal lyrics are typically much deeper than any other genre of music (of course, we’re biased!)
  • They need to be well-thought-out, portraying what’s really deep inside.
  • You want to write lyrics that your audience can relate to.
  • So don’t make it all about you. Rather, step into the head of someone else.
  • That may be something you’ve gone through or experienced – just make sure that others can relate to that, too.

Remember, you have the opportunity to impact so many people with your lyrics. Even if they’re evil lyrics, your song (and lyrics) are going to make someone that’s having a shitty day an awesome day.

VIDEO: How to Write a Metal Song

Below is the video version of how to write a metal song. We talk about some more important aspects in the video that will help you with your songwriting skills.

**Be sure to subscribe to Metal Mastermind on YouTube, and ding that little bell so you’ll get notifications when we do our weekly live sessions (you do NOT want to miss those!).

Now you have some better ideas on how you write a metal song from scratch! And we truly hope that you move forward with you.

It’s our passion and we must create metal music!

Horns Up,

Ken & Jason
Metal Mastermind

Get Your Free Metal Songwriting Guide

Join our metal musician community below and we'll send you our FREE songwriting guide!