How to Write an Anthem

“Everyone seems to agree that “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is an anthem and “Shake Your Booty” isn’t.”
Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website
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An anthem is one of those kinds of songs that comes under the heading of, “Hard to define, but you’ll recognize it when you hear it.” audienceAn anthem rouses the spirit and uplifts the soul. But how do you do that? Everyone seems to agree that “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is an anthem and “Shake Your Booty” isn’t. So how do you write one?

You could argue that many songs stir the emotions, but to confer “anthem” status on a song, you need more. Here are some tips:

  1. The lyric needs to be one that focuses on one of the following: ethicsmoralsconvictions of the religious, political or social activism sort, or a mixture of any of those.
  2. The tempo should generally be slow to medium, a metronome setting of 70 – 100 bpm is most common.
  3. The harmonies of an anthem usually include more chord changes than standard songs. Six to eight chords for the verse and chorus are common.
  4. The harmonies of an anthem often include the so-called secondary dominant V/V chord. In other words, if your anthem is in C major, you’ll use a dominant chord (G), and that chord should be appraoched at some point by a D chord (as opposed to the Dm chord.. see the sample below.)
  5. The chorus melody of an anthem needs to differ from the verse melody. This is to allow the chorus to stand as the definitive anthem melody; in other words, the verse prepares the audience for the rousing chorus.
  6. The pre-chorus is an important 8 bars. The pre-chorus is the second half of the verse, and the energy (vocal range, loudness, etc.) needs to build.
  7. The chorus melody needs a definite high point. This high point should be near the end of the chorus.

You can find anthems that don’t necessarily adhere to all of those guidelines, but if you’re stuck, following the tips above should help you write a song that gets the audience to its feet and waving those lighters.

Here’s a chord progression for a chorus of an anthem you might want to play to get your brain thinking “anthem”:

(first four chords of 1st line receive 4 beats each, next six chords receive 2 beats each.
////  ////    ////  ////  //       //       //       //     //  //     ////
C  F/A  C  F/A C/G  Am  C/G  Am F  D  G

(first six chords of this line receive 4 beats each, next two chords receive 2 beats each.
////  ////    ////  ////     ////   ////  //      //  ////
C  F/A  C  F/A  C/G  F  C/G  G  C

6 Songwriting E-booksGary Ewer has written a set of songwriting e-books that will show you how to write great songs. (Hisnewest e-book, “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting- Chord Progression Formulas” is being offered for free when you purchase any other of his songwriting e-books.) Let these six e-books show you every aspect of how to write great songs! Read more..

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  1. Please help me out i am going to write the school amthem for my school Mt. Sinai higher sec. School and moto is “learn to Excel and Serve”

  2. Please I have been asked to write an anthem for my school and am finding it difficult and need your help

  3. Pls I Need Ur Help Am Just Starting A School,i Need To Compose School Anthem Can U Help Me,my School Name Is Igbeyin Adun,motto A way Progress.Pls I Need A Reply

  4. please I want to help me to compose my school anthem.
    The motto of my school is FOR LEARNING AND GODLINESS.

  5. Thanks man!
    At my school we are designing island/country societies and this helped me a lot making the anthem, so yet again, thank you very much for writing this page!


  6. hello!! help me please I’m in trouble now of making a school hymn that talks about excellency. I don’t know how to start with.

  7. hi thanks alot. was also asked to compose an anthem. something i havent done before. help me out

    • Hi – The kind of help I offer is the writing of these kinds of blog posts. If you’ve written something and are having difficulties with it, I’d be happy to give it a listen and see what I can suggest. You should put something on a streaming service like SoundCloud, and then send me the link (


  8. sir, by the grace of god im asked to compose an anthem song for ‘nagaland for christ’ national peace prayer center, North/east india. I hv never composed anthem song, need help!!!! Please email. Thank you

  9. av read ur article,and i will surely put it to action,jst keepin ma fingerz crossed.thank u gary

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  11. I am an avid songwriter, but when I learned that the exam for my American Literature class was to write a patriotic anthem, I hit writer’s block. This got my brain working again.

    I’m about to go grab my guitar and start working out a melody. Thank you so much!

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