How to Annotate a Song

Collecting detailed information is key to annotating songs.

Song annotation is the practice of analyzing musical compositions in the interest of classifying and cataloging the gathered information. Collecting songs and observing details of their construction is the field work performed by musicologists. Software programs such as iTunes cross-reference music by using specific qualities and characteristics of the works. This technology has made song annotation easier and more efficient for professionals and amateurs alike.

Computers facilitate the once-arduous task of manual music annotation.

Download or upload song files to the annotation software. Alphabetize the songs by title initially, if given the option. Study the musical terms in the dictionary.

Documenting past song collections through annotation preserves history.

Collect facts such as name of artist, genre, year or month released and who produced the song. Move on to composer, lyricist, poet, librettist, musical, opera or collection.

Listen to and note details of musical characteristics.

Listen to the song to discern the texture and emotion. Make notes on timbre (texture), whether it is soothing or gritty, by noticing which instruments are being played. Note whether it is legato (smooth) or staccato (choppy). Also note the volume of the song.

The human body can determine musical rhythm naturally.

Tap a finger or foot along with the rhythm. Note specifics about the rhythm, if possible, such as timing of the piece. The speed of the song is important. Labeling a selection as a dance song can be a misleading because of the large variety of dance styles. Specific detailing is critical.

Singing the blues uses techniques that other styles do not.

Sing or hum along with the melody. Whether it has lyrics or not is important. The language in which a song is written, quality of voice, gender of singer and lyrical content are all notable characteristics. Determine whether the composition is strophic, a typical verse-chorus construction, or through composed, which is a style that does not repeat any musical content throughout the piece.


Never download music without proper permission.

About the Author

Lisa GillespieFeng is a certified Georgia Master Gardener and pending Graduate of Augusta State University with a Bachelor of Arts in music and a minor in multimedia communications. Her career in professional writing began with song lyricism in 1998, then transitioned into journalism.