Popular song: what it is, main characteristics and how to write a song


What is the folk song?

In the literary world, the popular song, also known as traditional song, consists of a relatively short composition that is structured by a simple argument. The song is a poem through which an emotion is expressed. In fact, its popularity is mainly due to the fact that one of its most frequent themes is love. Many experts qualify the song as an admiring poem.

The song is part of the types of oral literature, because in its beginnings it was a composition that was transmitted orally from generation to generation. Although it is still presented under this modality, it undergoes a change when it begins to be recorded in writing. In this section we will focus on the song as an oral literary subgenre, so we will refer to its beginnings.

Main characteristics of the popular song

Nowadays, the song is one of the most important artistic phenomena of our era. That is why, according to its initial emergence as an important part of oral literature, it is important to identify some key aspects. Among them, we find the following:

Origin of the term

The term comes from canto, in Latin, which refers to any composition that can be sung. This is why this type of oral literature is mainly characterized by representing any type of composition that can be sung.

Importance of melody

This aspect is fundamental for the construction of a song, since it comprises the central axis of the song and facilitates its differentiation from other formats. In this sense, the song may include a melody that appears as the main melody, as well as a series of secondary melodies that complement the composition. These are usually assigned to secondary voices or choirs, even musical instruments.

Transformed format

Another important aspect that we must consider of the traditional song, has to do with the fact that with the passage of time, it has been one of the subgenres of the oral literature that has suffered greater transformations, which has allowed that in its evolution up to the present time, it shows a great variety of formats, intentions, contents, etc.

What is the folk song

Structure of a popular song

The construction of a song is based on a series of stanzas, often consisting of between five and seven, called stanzas, which include combinations of acconsonant verses with nine and fourteen syllables, although it is necessary to mention that these numbers may vary.

Each of the stanzas is divided into two elements. On one side is the frente or fronte, and on the other side is the cola, also known as sira or coda. According to the composition chosen by the author, it is possible to identify two types of song.

Types of popular songs

According to the above information, following the structure it may have, it is possible to identify two types of initial songs that began to develop. Thus, we have the following:

Sicilian song

In this case, the song is constituted by the forehead, which is divided into two feet, which are also composed of the same number of verses. However, the rhyme scheme of this song can also present variations. The tail of the song, on the other hand, is decomposed in two turns that have the same metrical scheme.

Petrarchan song

In the second type, we find a type of song that was tested by Dante and that is considered of great importance in the literary field not only by him, but also by Petrarch. It is a song with a two-footed forehead and a tail, although a tail that is not divided is often used. The forehead and tail have an equal rhyme in the last line of the forehead. It may or may not have a full tail.

How to write a folk song?

Before presenting the key elements to write a song, it is necessary to take into account that in this occasion we will refer to the field of the writing of the lyrics of the song, since the composition of a song implies a domain of musical knowledge in its complementary part and in this occasion we will refer to the written scheme, its verbal content and that includes the oral literature.

Having clarified this, it is time to see the most important steps at the time of writing a song, and although they do not follow a certain order, they become indispensable elements for the process that the artist must consider. These are:

Choice of the theme

To start writing it is necessary to start with the theme we are interested in telling. Each song turns out to be, in most cases, a story that is told, therefore the author must think about what he wants to tell, so he must address a feeling, an emotion, a concern, an atmosphere, a confession, etc.

Here it is also convenient to identify who is going to tell the story, so in addition to the subject, we must determine whether it will be a first person narration, that is, about us, or about someone else, a story about a relative, etc.


Before starting to write a song, it is advisable to approach the literary field from which it comes, poetry. It is also possible to start reading the lyrics of songs, in this case, whose genre is of interest to us, because in this way we can get an idea of the structure they usually use if we want to follow it.

The reading aloud of this type of works will allow us to identify several aspects in terms of sound that will facilitate the writing of our song.

Writing the first line

The best way to start is by trying to launch a first phrase through which we can begin to go through the sense of the song. The writing of a first line will be the starting point to continue and go looking for the rhyme. You can start with a question, describing the place where you are or the character, the beginning of the day, the time, in short, the possibilities are many.

This is an exercise that can be taken to start practicing and test which path we will take. Later, if the author prefers, he/she can make the modifications or arrangements that he/she considers.

Meaning of the words

In this type of writing for singing, subjectivity plays a fundamental role in which the author of the song gives meaning to both the words and the sentences that become images of what is happening, so the meaning is crucial in every aspect, fact or feeling that is being told.

For the addressee or audience, the meanings of the whole composition must be clear, so that, in some way, they can understand and even feel what is happening to the protagonist. The more credible, the better the understanding will be.

Final proofreading

Once the writing of the song is finished, it is time to review the content several times. On the one hand, we must check for any spelling or writing mistakes, and on the other hand, the cohesion of ideas, the rhyme when heard aloud with the melody the artist wants to use, the follow-up of the story and other aspects that compromise the objective or purpose of the work.

If you want to know more about other types of oral literature that we can identify in its evolution until today, but from its initial conception, remember that in this section you can find them all. Remember that the literary world is very broad, so we invite you to continue learning more about this artistic field in our section dedicated to this art.