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My Passion for Music as a Part of My Life

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Updated: 6 December, 2023

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Hook Examples for Music Essay

  • A Symphony of Emotions: Music has the extraordinary power to evoke a wide range of emotions in its listeners. In this essay, we’ll explore how melodies and harmonies can transport us to different emotional landscapes, from joy to sorrow and everything in between.
  • The Rhythms of Culture: Music is not only an art form but also a reflection of culture. Join us as we delve into the role of music in shaping and expressing cultural identities, from traditional folk songs to modern pop hits.
  • The Science of Sound: Behind every beautiful melody lies the intricate science of sound. This essay will unravel the mysteries of music’s physics and psychology, offering insight into what makes a tune catchy or a chord progression moving.
  • From Beethoven to Beyoncé: Music transcends time and genre, connecting generations through the ages. Explore the evolution of music and its enduring appeal, from classical compositions to contemporary chart-toppers.
  • The Healing Power of Music: Music has the remarkable ability to heal and soothe the soul. This essay delves into the therapeutic aspects of music, from its use in healthcare settings to its role in our everyday lives as a source of comfort and solace.

Works Cited

  • Campbell, D. (2016). The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. International Journal of Music Education, 34(1), 39-55.
  • Chew, E. (2019). The therapeutic effects of music. Singapore Medical Journal, 60(5), 235-236.
  • DeNora, T. (2013). Music asylums: Wellbeing through music in everyday life. Routledge.
  • Hargreaves, D. J., & North, A. C. (Eds.). (2017). The social psychology of music. Oxford University Press.
  • Juslin, P. N., & Sloboda, J. A. (Eds.). (2010). Handbook of music and emotion: Theory, research, applications. Oxford University Press.
  • Krumhansl, C. L. (2010). Cognitive foundations of musical pitch. Oxford University Press.
  • MacDonald, R. A., Kreutz, G., & Mitchell, L. (Eds.). (2019). Music, health, and wellbeing: Exploring music for health equity and social justice. Oxford University Press.
  • Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2003). The do re mi’s of everyday life: The structure and personality correlates of music preferences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(6), 1236-1256.
  • Schäfer, T., Sedlmeier, P., Städtler, C., & Huron, D. (2013). The psychological functions of music listening. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 511.
  • Thompson, W. F., Schellenberg, E. G., & Husain, G. (Eds.). (2015). The psychology of music. Oxford University Press.

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personal essay about music

  • Entertainment

Personal Narrative Essay: How Music Changed My Life

Everyone has a passion for something, whether it be sports or public speaking. Well, for me, that passion is music. I have always loved music, and that love has increased more and more over the years. From being in music classes for most of my high school career, I have felt a lot of love and support from my friends and teachers. When I had realized the family bond there is in musical groups, I never wanted to leave. As I was often in either band or choir, I would often see the joy of my teachers when things went according to plan and when we played or sang something amazing. One piece in particular comes to mind. While in my junior year of high school, I was in the chamber choir. My choir director had introduced us to a Christmas piece called “Go, and Tell It on The Mountain.” This arrangement of the song was a very jazzy version of the original piece. After several days of practicing in class, my director stopped us and asked us if we had thought about the words and what they meant. This really took me back, as I had never really been asked such a question before. This experience let me gain more gratitude for the words we were singing, and it helped me to be more expressive and have a love for the music. By the end of singing this piece at our concert, my friends and I were tearing up at the message of joy that the song gave to the audience. I want to help students realize the joy of music and the way that it can touch the souls of the people who listen to them. I want them to feel that they can be united as a family of musicians, that, no matter what part they sing or play, each one of them matters and contributes to the ensemble. I also want them to feel how blessed they are for being able to create music with the talents that they have.

I have felt deep emotions when singing in choir in high school, but nothing has compared to having the privilege to sing in the Brigham Young University Men’s Chorus. Several times I have felt overwhelming joy or deep sadness from singing songs in that choir. For instance, one of the first songs we sang was an arrangement of “How Great Thou Art.” In that song it spoke about the wonderful creation of the earth, the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us, and the power of the Atonement in our lives. Every time we sang that in class, I nearly wept with immense sadness and deep joy at what we were singing about. Countless times our director, Rosalind Hall, would also be in tears because she could feel the joy of music radiating from those men who sang the truth of Jesus’ Creations and His Atonement. From this experience, I have felt the power that music has in our lives and the way that it can change people.

In high school, I always considered myself lucky to be in such amazing groups with such amazing people. When I wasn’t doing as well as I thought, I would often ask myself if it was worth the effort to be in these good ensembles. When I thought about it, I would always think about what my middle school band director always said to us. He would say, “Each of you has a part to play here, each one of you matters. To this ensemble, to me, to your friends, your parents. But you should always matter to yourself.” This has stuck with me throughout all my years in junior high and high school. Even to this day, when I don’t feel like I’m worth it, I always remember what my band director said to us. I want kids to feel like they belong together, and that they matter. Not just to an ensemble, but to me, their peers, their parents, and most importantly to themselves.

I have always been told how talented I am. I’ve gotten comments from my friends, my teachers, and even my parents. Often, my parents would tell me that I should share the talents that I had with others. I had always learned in church about sharing our gifts with others, so I had always kept a high standard when I practiced, so that I could share my talents with others and make them feel happy and to help them feel joy. I have many younger siblings, and when they were all little, I would always sing to them to make them happy. This was especially apparent when I would sing to them as infants. Many times I would have to put them down for naps or calm them down when they were screaming. When I did, I would sing soft hymns to them and within a few minutes, they would calm down or go to sleep. I would often pray to God for allowing me to have this gift of music and to have the opportunity to be able to share it with others.

Music has changed my life in so many ways, and it will continue to change my life as well as others’ lives. I have seen the ways that it can bring joy into not only the lives of the audience, but to the lives of the performers as well. I have seen the ways in which people can contribute to the ensembles that I have been in. Often people don’t think that they matter or that they have an important part, but in reality, everyone is important. I have also learned about how using our talents for good purposes can bless the lives of others. Overall, music has influenced many of my decisions in life, including what college I wanted to attend. I want to be able to share the effects of music with everyone that I meet.

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Blog > Essay Advice , Personal Statement > How to Write a Great College Essay About Music (with examples)

How to Write a Great College Essay About Music (with examples)

Admissions officer reviewed by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University

Written by Alex McNeil, MA Admissions Consultant

Key Takeaway

Ask any admissions officer if they’ve read a college essay about music, and they’ll definitely say yes. Between music extracurriculars and academic interests in music, it’s is one of the most common college essay topics.

So does that mean that you shouldn’t write your college essay about music?

Not necessarily. But as with any common college essay topic, some approaches are better than others.

Let’s get into it.

Why you should (and shouldn’t) write your Common App essay about music

As we explained in our Stanford Items exercise , writing your college essay on a common topic isn’t off-limits. In fact, most college essays share common topics and themes. Trying to find a completely unique, never-been-done-before topic is almost impossible. And writing about a quirky topic in hopes of coming across as unique usually backfires.

In other words, it’s likely that you’ll write about the same topic as someone else.

The problem arises, however, when you write about a common topic in a cliche way . Cliches are always a danger in college essays, but in especially college essay topics that tend to surface again and again.

To avoid cliches, your college essay about music needs to be deeply personal, specific, and meaningful. You’ll want to let go of any over-generalizations or truisms and focus on the details of your own story.

Because you’ll need to write meaningfully and vulnerably, you should only write your college essay about music if you have something genuine and significant to say.

The Best Ways to Approach Your College Essay about Music

College essays about music aren’t off the table, but you should be thoughtful in how you write about them. The following two approaches will help you avoid cliches and find an authentic, meaningful story that fulfills all the requirements of a personal statement .

Writing about music as an academic interest

If you’re interested in studying music in college, then you can consider writing your college essay about music as an academic interest. A college essay about your academic interest in music can show fantastic intellectual fit with a school.

Let’s say you want to study music theory or composition. You might write about a topic you find compelling, a problem you’ve solved, or even a recounting of your journey becoming interested in the subject.

Or maybe you’re an aspiring performer planning on studying music performance. As an admissions officer, I read outstanding essays about students performing their favorite pieces, creating emotional music projects, and teaching lessons to young children.

No matter your topic, your goal with this approach is to show an intellectual spark, a curiosity and passion that will demonstrate to your admissions officers that you’ll be a great addition to the music community on their campuses.

Writing poignantly about a deeply meaningful extracurricular

The previous approach is great if you want to study music, but what if music is just an extracurricular passion of yours? Don’t worry—you can still write about it.

In that case, the best way is to focus on meaning. Remember: personal statements should be deeply-meaningful reflections on your personal strengths.

To start, reflect on your music extracurricular. Is it playing guitar in a band? Playing trombone in your school’s symphony? Learning piano from your grandma? How your love of poetry turned into a love of songwriting?

Next, think about what strengths you have to showcase. If you play guitar in a band, maybe you want to highlight your collaborative spirit. If you love poetry and songwriting, perhaps you focus on your creativity.

Writing about your love of music in a way that draws upon your strengths will make sure that your Common App essay avoids the following two approaches and gives admissions officers a reason to admit you.

Approaches to Avoid

While the following two approaches aren’t necessarily bad, they are the most cliche ways of approaching a college essay about music. You might want to consider avoiding them.

An inauthentic tale of triumph

Let me tell you a cliche story.

When I was in fourth grade, I decided to join the school orchestra. I found it exceedingly difficult at first. No matter how hard I tried, I never could seem to place my fingers correctly on the fingerboard. Every sound I made mimicked a screeching cat. But I decided not to give up. I practiced every day after school and on the weekends. By the time I was in ninth grade, I had made it into my high school’s top orchestra.

Is that a lovely story? Yes, absolutely. Is it hearty enough for a college essay? No. While it tells a good narrative of growth and progress, it remains on the surface of the writer’s life. It comes across as a convenient way to brag about your strengths instead of exploring them in a genuine way. In this example, the story also focuses on events that happened way too far in the past.

A song that changed your life

This approach is by far the most common cliche in college essays about music. We’ve all been there: a favorite song that transports you to a moment in your life whenever you hear it. It makes sense that you’d want to write about yours.

But there’s a problem with this approach. Too often, it reads as trite or unoriginal, and the end result usually doesn’t say much about the writer. And when it does, the message an admissions officer gets doesn’t typically give them any more reason to admit you. Since you want your college essay to be meaningful, even vulnerable, and strengths-based, you’re better off choosing another topic that better speaks to who you are.

Key Takeaways + Examples

College essays about music aren’t for everyone. But when you get it right, you can strike the perfect chord with admissions officers (you’re welcome for the pun).

As you go, dig deep, find something genuinely personal, and try to avoid the most common and cliche ways of approaching the topic.

Want to see some examples of college essays about music before you get started? Check out our examples, The Time Machine and The Band .

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Essay on Music for Students and Children

500+ words essay on music.

Music is a vital part of different moments of human life. It spreads happiness and joy in a person’s life. Music is the soul of life and gives immense peace to us. In the words of William Shakespeare, “If music is the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die.” Thus, Music helps us in connecting with our souls or real self.

Essay on Music

What is Music?

Music is a pleasant sound which is a combination of melodies and harmony and which soothes you. Music may also refer to the art of composing such pleasant sounds with the help of the various musical instruments. A person who knows music is a Musician.

The music consists of Sargam, Ragas, Taals, etc. Music is not only what is composed of men but also which exists in nature. Have you ever heard the sound of a waterfall or a flowing river ? Could you hear music there? Thus, everything in harmony has music. Here, I would like to quote a line by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the greatest musicians, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”

Importance of Music:

Music has great qualities of healing a person emotionally and mentally. Music is a form of meditation. While composing or listening music ones tends to forget all his worries, sorrows and pains. But, in order to appreciate good music, we need to cultivate our musical taste. It can be cited that in the Dwapar Yug, the Gopis would get mesmerized with the music that flowed from Lord Krishna’s flute. They would surrender themselves to Him. Also, the research has proved that the plants which hear the Music grow at a faster rate in comparison to the others.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Magical Powers of Music:

It has the power to cure diseases such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, etc. The power of Music can be testified by the legends about Tansen of his bringing the rains by singing Raag Megh Malhar and lighting lamps by Raga Deepak. It also helps in improving the concentration and is thus of great help to the students.


Music is the essence of life. Everything that has rhythm has music. Our breathing also has a rhythm. Thus, we can say that there is music in every human being or a living creature. Music has the ability to convey all sorts of emotions to people. Music is also a very powerful means to connect with God. We can conclude that Music is the purest form of worship of God and to connect with our soul.

FAQs on Essay on Music:

Q.1. Why is Music known as the Universal Language?

Ans.1. Music is known as the Universal language because it knows no boundaries. It flows freely beyond the barriers of language, religion, country, etc. Anybody can enjoy music irrespective of his age.

Q.2. What are the various styles of Music in India?

Ans.2. India is a country of diversities. Thus, it has numerous styles of music. Some of them are Classical, Pop, Ghazals, Bhajans, Carnatic, Folk, Khyal, Thumri, Qawwali, Bhangra, Drupad, Dadra, Dhamar, Bandish, Baithak Gana, Sufi, Indo Jazz, Odissi, Tarana, Sugama Sangeet, Bhavageet, etc.

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Importance of music in my life

Music is one of the most important and powerful things in my life. My life without melodies and harmonies would be totally empty. Listening to and playing different tunes helps me to de-stress, relax and it can also help to motivate me in trying times. I love listening to music while on my way to school, as I feel it helps me to prepare for the day that waits. I think it is like the memoirs to my life as it has been there throughout everything with me. When I was younger, I didn’t have the great love for musical as I do now. I mainly listened to whatever was playing in the background or what my parents were listening to. I didn’t have much of a care for musical compositions. There was sometimes a little bit of pop music thrown in to the mix here and there, but that’s really all I liked back then. Whether I was in the car, the house, or anywhere else there was sure to be some Beatles, Buddy Holly, or the Dubliners constantly playing somewhere in the background. At the time I didn’t care for that genre of music much, but now as I’m older, I enjoy it as it allows me to reminisce on memories from times of my childhood. Once I hit my teenage years music became my life and gradually started to inhibit my soul. I believe music has the ability to convey all sorts of emotion. Whether the emotion is joy and happiness or sadness and despair through rhythms, harmonies and the lyrics music shows it. The song “A little bit longer” by Nick Jonas is such an emotional and inspiring song that when I hear it, I always come close to tears, especially when I watch it being played live. The effect that music can have on our emotions is tremendous, as it can bring people to floods of tears or bursts of laughter. The musical images that music and song are able to create are amazing. Music has the ability to transport me back in time just like a time machine. It lets me revisit lost and forgotten moments in life. Songs can paint a picture, for example in classical and country music where a story is being told. The music in classical music tells a story without lyrics which is an immensely powerful thing. I feel that this applies to the saying “music imitates life and life imitates music”. Recently song writing has wandered its way into my life. I believe there is no better way to express myself than through song. After a bad day, it’s nice to be able to sit down and write about it. It can make all your problems just disappear and float away. Listening to other musical artists that I like gives me inspiration. My guitar teacher also points me in the right direction and gives me guidance as I need it. I love to just sit with my guitar and make up random lyrics about past experiences or what I’m going through at the moment. I started learning how to play the guitar last year and within the past few months I have fallen completely and utterly in love with it. Once I start playing, I find it extremely hard to put the guitar down again. It’s very addictive and can also be distracting sometimes. It distracts me from my homework since my guitar sits right next to my desk. Playing guitar is one of the only things in my life in which I don’t feel pressurized to do well in. I think this is because I have a great teacher and she doesn’t push me to the music exams. This past summer my grandma taught me how to play the piano. I had always heard stories about how my great grandfather, her father, was brilliant at the piano. He would sit at the piano for hours on end playing different well known songs as making up his own little tunes. He had taught my grandma how to play and I felt it was about time that I learnt. So when I was staying with my grandma and grandpa during the summer, I asked her to teach me. She was delighted to and now it’s something nice that we can both do together and bond over. I believe music effects people in many different ways. To me music is more than just something to listen to or play, it’s something to feel. Music is extremely important in my life. I think it brings me closer to my friends and family. I also feel that it helps me to get through things. For example, I remember doing the twenty six kilometre gaisce hike and the whole way along the hike we sang songs. Music is an immensely powerful thing and has a huge place in my life right next to my heart.

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personal essay about music

personal essay about music

Guide on How to Write a Music Essay: Topics and Examples

personal essay about music

Let's Understand What is Music Essay

You know how some school assignments are fun to write by default, right? When students see them on the course syllabus, they feel less like a burden and more like a guaranteed pleasure. They are about our interests and hobbies and therefore feel innate and intuitive to write. They are easy to navigate, and interesting topic ideas just pop into your head without much trouble.


Music essays belong to the category of fun essay writing. What is music essay? Anything from in-depth analysis to personal thoughts put into words and then to paper can fall into a music essay category. An essay about music can cover a wide range of topics, including music history, theory, social impact, significance, and musical review. It can be an analytical essay about any music genre, musical instruments, or today's music industry.

Don't get us wrong, you will still need to do extensive research to connect your opinions to a broader context, and you can't step out of academic writing standards, but the essay writing process will be fun.

In this article, our custom essay writing service is going to guide you through every step of writing an excellent music essay. You can draw inspiration from the list of music essay topics that our team prepared, and later on, you will learn what an outstanding essay on music is by an example of a music review essay.

What are Some Music Topics to Write About

There are so many exciting music topics to write about. We would have trouble choosing one. You can write about various music genres, be it country music or classical music; you can research music therapy or how music production happens.

Okay, forgive us for getting carried away; music makes us enthusiastic. Below you will find a list of various music essay topics prepared from our thesis writing service . Choose one and write a memorable essay about everyone's favorite art form.

Music Argumentative Essay Topics

Music essays can be written about an infinite number of themes. You can even write about performance or media comparison.

Here is a list of music argumentative essay topics. These edge-cutting topics will challenge your readers and get you an easy A+.

  • Exploring the evolution of modern music styles of the 21st century
  • Is it ethical to own and play rare musical instruments?
  • Is music therapy an effective mental health treatment?
  • Exploring the Intersection of Technology and Creativity in electronic music
  • The Relevance of traditional music theory in modern music production
  • The Role of musical pieces in the Transmission of cultural identity
  • The value of historical analysis in understanding the significance of music in society
  • How does exposing listeners to different genres of music break down barriers
  • Exploring the cognitive effects of music on human brain development
  • The therapeutic potential of music in treating mental disorders

Why is Music Important Essay Topics

Do you know which essay thrills our team the most? The importance of music in life essay. We put our minds together and came up with a list of topics about why music is so central to human life. Start writing why is music important essay, and we guarantee you that you will be surprised by how much fun you had crafting it.  

  • Popular Music and its Role in shaping cultural trends
  • Music as a metaphorical language for expressing emotions and thoughts
  • How music changes and influences social and political movements
  • How the music of different countries translates their history to outsiders
  • The innate connection between music and human beings
  • How music helps us understand feelings we have never experienced
  • Does music affect our everyday life and the way we think?
  • Examining the cross-cultural significance of music in society
  • How rock music influenced 70's political ideologies
  • How rap music closes gaps between different racial groups in the US

Consider delegating your ' write my essay ' request to our expert writers for crafting a perfect paper on any music topic!

Why I Love Music Essay Topics

We want to know what is music to you, and the best way to tell us is to write a why I love music essay. Below you will find a list of music essay topics that will help you express your love for music.

  • I love how certain songs and artists evoke Memories and Emotions
  • I love the diversity of music genres and how different styles enrich my love for music
  • I love how music connects me with people of different backgrounds
  • How the music of Linkin Park helped me through life's toughest challenges
  • What does my love for popular music say about me?
  • How the unique sounds of string instruments fuel my love for music
  • How music provides a temporary Release from the stresses of daily life
  • How music motivates me to chase my dreams
  • How the raw energy of rock music gets me through my daily life
  • Why my favorite song is more than just music to me

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Music Therapy Essay Topics

One of the most interesting topics about music for an essay is music therapy. We are sure you have heard all the stories of how music cures not only mental but also physical pains. Below you can find a list of topics that will help you craft a compelling music therapy essay. And don't forget that you can always rely on our assistance for fulfilling your ' write my paper ' requests!

  • The effectiveness of music therapy in reducing stress and pain for cancer patients
  • Does pop music have the same effects on music therapy as classical music?
  • Exploring the benefits of music therapy with other genres beyond classical music
  • The potential of music therapy in aiding substance abuse treatment and recovery
  • The Role of music therapy in Addressing PTSD and Trauma in military veterans
  • The impact of music therapy on enhancing social interaction and emotional expression in individuals with developmental disabilities
  • The use of music therapy in managing chronic pain
  • Does musical therapy help depression?
  • Does music reduce anxiety levels?
  • Is music therapy better than traditional medicine?

History of Music Essay Topics

If you love analytical essays and prefer to see the bigger picture, you can always write a music description essay. Below you can find some of the most interesting topics for the history of music essay.

  • The Significance of natural instruments in music production and performance
  • Tracing the historical development of Western music theory
  • How electronic music traces its roots back to classical music
  • How the music industry evolved from sheet music to streaming services
  • How modern producers relate to classical composers
  • The Origins and Influence of Jazz Music
  • How folk music saved the Stories of unnamed heroes
  • Do we know what the music of ancient civilizations sounded like?
  • Where does your favorite bandstand in the line of music evolve?
  • The Influence of African American Music on modern pop culture

Benefits of Music Essay Topics

If you are someone who wonders what are some of the values that music brings to our daily life, you should write the benefits of music essay. The music essay titles below can inspire you to write a captivating essay:

  • How music can be used to promote cultural awareness and understanding
  • The benefits of music education in promoting creativity and innovation
  • The social benefits of participating in music groups
  • The Impact of Music on Memory and Learning
  • The cognitive benefits of music education in early childhood development
  • The effects of music on mood and behavior
  • How learning to play an instrument improves cognitive functions.
  • How music connects people distanced by thousands of miles
  • The benefits of listening to music while exercising
  • How music can express the feelings words fail to do so 

Music Analysis Essay Example

Reading other people's papers is a great way to scale yours. There are many music essay examples, but the one crafted by our expert writers stands out in every possible way. You can learn what a great thesis statement looks like, how to write an engaging introduction, and what comprehensive body paragraphs should look like. 

Click on the sample below to see the music analysis essay example. 

How to Write a Music Essay with Steps

Writing music essays is definitely not rocket science, so don't be afraid. It's just like writing any other paper, and a music essay outline looks like any other essay structure.

music steps

  • Start by choosing a music essay topic. You can use our list above to get inspired. Choose a topic about music that feels more relevant and less researched so you can add brand-new insights. As we discussed, your music essay can be just about anything; it can be a concert report or an analytical paper about the evolution of music.
  • Continue by researching the topic. Gather all the relevant materials and information for your essay on music and start taking notes. You can use these notes as building blocks for the paper. Be prepared; even for short essays, you may need to read books and long articles.
  • Once you have all the necessary information, the ideas in your head will start to take shape. The next step is to develop a thesis statement out of all the ideas you have in your head. A thesis statement is a must as it informs readers what the entire music essay is about. Don't be afraid to be bold in your statement; new outlooks are always appreciated.
  • Next, you'll need a music essay introduction. Here you introduce the readers to the context and background information about the research topic. It should be clear, brief, and engaging. You should set the tone of your essay from the very beginning. Don't forget the introduction is where the thesis statement goes.
  • One of the most important parts of essay writing is crafting a central body paragraph about music. This is where you elaborate on your thesis, make main points, and support them with the evidence you gathered beforehand. Remember, your music essay should be well structured and depict a clear picture of your ideas.
  • Next, you will need to come up with an ideal closing paragraph. Here you will need to once again revisit the main points in your music essay, restate them in a logical manner and give the readers your final thoughts.
  • Don't forget to proofread your college essay. Whether you write a long or short essay on music, there will be grammatical and factual errors. Revise and look through your writing with a critical mind. You may find that some parts need rewriting.

Key Takeaways

Music essays are a pleasure to write and read. There are so many topics and themes to choose from, and if you follow our How to Write a Music Essay guide, you are guaranteed to craft a top-notch essay every time.

Be bold when selecting a subject even when unsure what is research essay topic on music, take the writing process easy, follow the academic standards, and you are good to go. Use our music essay sample to challenge yourself and write a professional paper. 

If you feel stuck and have no time our team of expert writers is always ready to give you help from all subject ( medical school personal statement school help ). Visit our website, submit your ' write my research paper ' request and a guaranteed A+ essay will be on your way in just one click.

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FAQs on Writing a Music Essay

Though music essay writing is not the hardest job on the planet, there are still some questions that often pop up. Now that you have a writing guide and a list of essay topics about music, it's time to address the remaining inquiries. Keep reading to find the answers to the frequently asked questions. 

Should Artists' Music be Used in Advertising?

What type of music is best for writing an essay, why do people love music, related articles.

 How to Write a Policy Analysis Paper Step-by-Step

Essay About Music for Any Student

  • Essay Writing Guides

essay about music writing tips

Our extensive article will walk you through the complex process of writing an essay about music. We’ll present you with a step-by-step guide on conveying the subtleties of music through writing, from picking an exciting topic and doing extensive research to dissecting musical aspects and adding personal observations.

Whether you’re analyzing the historical significance of a musical era, assessing the influence of a particular musician or band, or investigating the cultural and emotional aspects of music, our guide seeks to provide you with the fundamental knowledge and abilities required to write a well-reasoned essay. Come along on this journey with us as we explore the skill of turning music’s profound message into an engaging story.

Essays about Music: Importance and Impact

Music is a profound expression of human creativity, emotion, and culture that transcends cultural boundaries. It serves as a companion, providing solace and amplifying the human experience. Its influence extends beyond individuals, shaping the collective identity of communities and contributing to global culture.

To effectively explore the world of writing about music, one must first understand the fundamental elements that constitute this universal language. The music encompasses a vast array of sounds organized in a structured manner, from classical symphonies to contemporary pop hits, traditional folk tunes, and avant-garde experimental compositions. The diversity of musical forms reflects the kaleidoscope of human creativity, and understanding this diversity lays the groundwork for appreciating the nuanced aspects of different genres and styles.

Music’s emotional and cultural impact is remarkable, as it evokes feelings ranging from joy to sorrow, nostalgia to anticipation. It is a vessel for cultural narratives, preserving traditions and reflecting the spirit of an era. Exploring music’s emotional and cultural dimensions provides writers with a rich tapestry of motifs to weave into their essays about music, allowing for a more profound exploration of the human experience through the lens of musical expression.

Choose Essay Topics About Music

The essay-writing process involves selecting a topic that shapes the narrative and allows the writer to explore the intricacies of musical expression, history, and cultural impact. There are three main ways to choose essay topics about music:

  • Selecting a specific genre or style: Each genre has unique characteristics, histories, and cultural contexts. For example, the evolution of hip-hop can be explored by examining its roots in African and African-American communities, its socio-political impact, and the artistic innovations that have shaped its trajectory over the decades.
  • Exploring the historical significance of a musical era: Music has reflected societal changes, political movements, and cultural shifts throughout history. Writers can focus on a specific period, such as the Renaissance, the Roaring Twenties, or the counterculture movements of the 1960s, and analyze how the music of that era influenced and was affected by the broader socio-political landscape. For example, an essay could explore the impact of the Beatles during the tumultuous 1960s, examining how their music mirrored the cultural upheavals of the time and influenced popular music.
  • Analyzing the impact of a particular artist or band: Focusing on the life and work of a specific artist or band allows for a detailed examination of their contributions to the musical landscape, unique style, artistic evolution, and lasting impact on music and society. For example, an essay focused on Bob Dylan’s impact could explore his role as a poet-prophet during the folk revival of the 1960s, his transition to electronic music, and his enduring influence on subsequent generations of musicians.

Understanding the background of the chosen topic is essential for providing readers with a comprehensive view of its development and significance. That’s what we are going to analyze further.

Understanding Music Essay Examples

In crafting an insightful essay about music, it is crucial to conduct thorough research. This involves using credible sources such as scholarly articles, books, academic journals, and reputable websites dedicated to music history, theory, and criticism. By drawing on authoritative sources, writers can ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information in their essays.

This involves delving into the historical evolution of the genre, key milestones, and cultural influences that shaped its trajectory. By studying the background, writers can contextualize the music within a broader historical narrative, unraveling the threads that connect artistic expression to the time’s social, political, and cultural landscapes. For example, if the essay focuses on the development of blues music, researching the historical roots in African American communities, migration patterns that spread the genre, and its evolution through different regions and eras would be integral to providing a nuanced understanding.

Understanding the cultural context of the music adds depth and richness to the narrative. Culture shapes and is shaped by music, and understanding this symbiotic relationship is crucial for a comprehensive analysis. Writers should explore the societal norms, values, and movements that influenced the creation and reception of the music they are examining. They should consider the cultural milieu, social dynamics, and even geographical influences that contributed to forming a particular musical style.

In conclusion, the research and information-gathering phase lays the groundwork for a well-informed and insightful exploration of the chosen music essay examples. By utilizing credible sources, studying the background, and understanding the cultural context, writers can embark on a journey that informs, captivates, and enriches the reader’s understanding of music in its multifaceted dimensions.

How to Write an Essay About Music – Valuable Insights

A well-structured essay about music is essential for capturing the reader’s attention and understanding of the subject matter. The essay should follow a structured approach, starting with an introduction about music essay that captures the reader’s attention with a compelling hook. This can be a thought-provoking question, anecdote, quote, or surprising fact. The thesis statement should clearly articulate the central argument or perspective of the essay, outlining the central theme and key points to be explored in subsequent sections.

The body paragraphs should be divided into distinct paragraphs dedicated to a specific aspect or point related to the thesis. Evidence and examples should be provided to support arguments, such as quoting lyrics, citing critical reviews, or referencing historical events. This helps provide a comprehensive understanding of the chosen topic.

Maintaining a logical flow between paragraphs is crucial, as it helps readers follow the logical progression of the essay and understand the relationships between different aspects of the topic. Transitional phrases and explicit connections between ideas help readers follow the logical progression of the essay.

In the conclusion, summarize critical points discussed in the body paragraphs, reinforcing the thesis statement and emphasizing how the evidence presented throughout the essay supports the overarching argument. This reinforces the central theme and leaves a lasting impression on the reader. In the Beatles essay, the conclusion might reiterate how their innovative approach to music defined a generation and left a significant mark on popular music history.

Lastly, the argumentative essay about music should leave a lasting impression on the reader by connecting the themes to broader cultural or societal implications or posing a thought-provoking question that encourages further reflection. In the case of the Beatles essay, the conclusion might invite readers to consider the ongoing impact of their music on contemporary artists or encourage reflection on the timeless nature of artistic innovation.


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Write a Strong Thesis Statement

A strong thesis statement is vital for a music essay, providing a clear roadmap for the writer and the reader. It defines the central argument or perspective, ensures clarity and relevance, and sets the tone for music essays. A concise and focused articulation of the central argument or perspective is essential, such as analyzing the cultural impact of a genre, the artist’s style evolution, or the societal resonance of a musical movement.

Clarity is paramount in a thesis statement, as it should convey the essay’s main idea in a way that the reader quickly understands. Avoiding vague or overly broad statements enhances clarity and relevance.

The thesis statement serves as the introductory handshake between the writer and the reader, setting the tone for the essay. Depending on the essay’s nature, it can range from analytical and objective to passionate and subjective. For example, if the essay explores the emotional impact of a specific genre, the thesis might set a tone of subjective reflection.

Incorporating Analysis and Critique

An essay about my favorite music requires a nuanced analysis and critique that delves into the intricacies of musical elements, assesses the impact on the audience, and allows the music writer to offer personal insights and interpretations. The music essay writing should evaluate the musical elements such as lyrics, melody, harmony, and rhythm, focusing on their poetic qualities, thematic depth, and storytelling capacity. It should also explore the symbiotic relationship between the music and its audience, exploring how the chosen music resonates with listeners, triggers emotional responses, and influences societal attitudes.

This may involve examining historical reactions, critical reviews, or audience testimonials. When you write an essay about music, you should also offer personal insights and interpretations, allowing the writer to inject their voice into the narrative and share their views of the music’s meaning. This multifaceted approach to analysis and critique enriches the narrative and encourages readers to engage with the music more profoundly, resulting in a lasting impact.

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College Essay About Music: “Music Is My Life”

EssayEdge > Blog > College Essay About Music: “Music Is My Life”

Here, you will find an example for an admission essay about “Music in my Life” aimed to show the applicant’s originality. Look through it to find out the basic structure and main features of the well-done college essay.

“Music is My Life” Essay Sample

I am an addict. I tell people I could stop anytime, but deep inside, I know I am lying. I need to listen to music, to write music, to play music every day. I can’t go a whole day without, at the very least, humming or whistling the tunes that crowd my head. I sing myself hoarse each morning in the shower, and playing the trumpet leaves a red mouthpiece-shaped badge of courage on my lips all day. I suspect that if someone were to look at my blood under a microscope, they would see, between the platelets and t-cells, little black musical notes coursing through my body.

On many occasions I’ve woken my family (and perhaps the neighborhood) composing on the piano early in the morning. Other times, my mother will admonish, “It’s too late to play the trumpet.” But I can’t understand why people wouldn’t want to hear music any time of the day. Keeping the music bottled up is more than I can bear. “I never worry about you sneaking up on me,” my friend once admitted to me. “I’ve never seen you walking without humming or whistling to yourself.”

For me, playing the trumpet is the opiate of music in its purest form. I love to play in all types of ensembles. I’m not just addicted to one kind of music; I couldn’t imagine limiting myself like that. Choosing just one kind of music would be worse than choosing one food to eat for the rest of my life. Playing orchestral music, for example, I become a sharpshooter. Waiting, I hide behind rows of string players, ready to jump out with a staccato attack that pierces the hearts of the audience. Playing in an orchestra, I can be Atlas, holding the other musicians above my head, or Icarus, flying through a solo in a desperate attempt to reach the heavens.

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Completely different, small jazz ensembles are like a conversation with your closest friends. “So,” someone asks, “what do you think about. . . .” We mull it over together, and then each has a say. I build on what the piano proclaimed, or disagree with the saxophone. Playing jazz like this makes me giddy; jazz musicians know that music isn’t little dots on a piece of paper, but a feeling that makes you want to stomp your feet, shout for joy, or grab a partner and swing. Taking a solo, I extend my wings, a baby bird jumping out of my nest for the first time. Flapping madly, I hope that by some act of seeming magic my music will fly on its own.

Not only am I an addict, I am also a pusher. The schools in the neighboring community are unable to afford musical instruction, so each week several other high school musicians and I teach music at an elementary school on the east side of town. I work with all of the trumpets for an hour before we join the other instruments to play as a band. Having tutored since freshman year, I’ve seen my students gradually improve. Four years ago, few of them could read music.

This year, one of my best students won a scholarship to the Stanford Jazz Workshop. Many students from the east side of town never continue on through high school. At our last homecoming game, all of my students came and played with the pep band. One student, who had been struggling in school, confided in me that playing with us had made him excited about attending high school for the first time. That afternoon, I saw a new music addiction forming; it was almost better than being hooked myself.

The given example of a well-done college essay “Music is my Life” aims to show how you can write an essay that works. Apart from this essay about music, see other samples of admission writings .

This sample is given not for mere reading. Applicants must check good samples from time to time to see the proper essay structure, the differences between writing styles, and even borrow some features. However, you’ll need to spend time editing your paper. If your skills in it are poor, our college essays editing service is ready to help you 24/7.

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Essay on Importance of Music

Students are often asked to write an essay on Importance of Music in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Importance of Music


Music is a universal language that transcends boundaries and brings people together. It’s an essential part of our lives, influencing our emotions and thoughts.

The Emotional Impact of Music

Music has the power to evoke deep emotions, making us feel happy, sad, excited, or peaceful. It’s a tool for expressing our feelings and understanding others’ emotions as well.

Music and Learning

Studies show that music can enhance learning. It helps in concentration, improves memory, and makes learning more enjoyable.

In conclusion, music plays a significant role in our lives. It’s a source of joy, a tool for expression, and a catalyst for learning.

Also check:

  • Speech on Importance of Music

250 Words Essay on Importance of Music

Music, often regarded as a universal language, plays an integral role in human society. Its significance is multifaceted, spanning from personal expression to societal bonding and therapeutic benefits.

Music as a Medium of Expression

Music provides an avenue for self-expression, allowing individuals to articulate their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It serves as a creative outlet, fostering imagination and innovation. The lyrics, rhythm, and melody of a song can encapsulate a range of emotions, creating a shared human experience.

Social Cohesion through Music

Music also fosters social cohesion. It is a powerful tool for communication, transcending language barriers and cultural differences. Through its universal appeal, music can unite diverse groups, promoting mutual understanding and tolerance. It can also serve as a catalyst for social change, resonating with shared societal values and concerns.

Therapeutic Benefits of Music

The therapeutic benefits of music are increasingly recognized in modern society. Music therapy is used in various clinical settings to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. It can stimulate emotional responses, promote relaxation, and enhance cognitive functioning.

In conclusion, music is more than just a form of entertainment. It is a powerful medium of expression, a tool for social cohesion, and a therapeutic resource. Its importance in our lives is undeniable, enriching our experiences and contributing to our overall well-being.

500 Words Essay on Importance of Music

The ubiquity and universality of music.

Music is an integral part of human existence, a universal language that transcends borders and cultures. It is a powerful tool that expresses emotions, communicates ideas, and fosters connections among individuals. The importance of music in our lives cannot be overstated, from its role in our personal development to its impact on society at large.

The Psychological Impact of Music

Music has a profound effect on our emotions and cognitive processes. It can evoke a wide range of emotions, from joy and excitement to melancholy and introspection. Research has shown that music can alter our mood, improve our focus, and even help us process complex emotions.

Moreover, music has therapeutic properties. It is used in various forms of therapy, such as music therapy, to aid in the treatment of mental health disorders. The soothing nature of music can alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation. It can be a source of solace during challenging times, providing comfort and a sense of belonging.

The Sociocultural Significance of Music

Music is a significant cultural artifact, reflecting the values, beliefs, and experiences of a society. It serves as a medium for cultural expression and preservation, allowing societies to pass down their heritage across generations. Through music, we can gain insights into different cultures and broaden our understanding of the human experience.

Furthermore, music plays a crucial role in social bonding and cohesion. It brings people together, fostering a sense of community and shared identity. Music festivals, concerts, and communal singing are examples of how music facilitates social interactions and strengthens communal ties.

The Educational Value of Music

The educational benefits of music are manifold. Learning to play a musical instrument can enhance cognitive abilities, such as memory and problem-solving skills. It fosters discipline, patience, and perseverance, qualities that are essential for personal and academic success.

Music education also promotes creativity and self-expression. It encourages students to think critically and creatively, to explore their unique voice, and to express their thoughts and feelings through music. It can also enhance their appreciation of different music genres and cultures, fostering cultural sensitivity and global awareness.

In conclusion, music is a powerful and multifaceted entity that enriches our lives in numerous ways. It impacts our emotions, contributes to our cultural identity, facilitates social bonding, and enhances our cognitive abilities. The importance of music extends beyond mere entertainment; it is a vital part of our personal growth and societal development. As we continue to explore and understand the depth of music’s influence, we can harness its power to create a more empathetic, connected, and enlightened society.

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267 Music Essay Topics + Writing Guide [2024 Update]

Your mood leaves a lot to be desired. Everything around you is getting on your nerves. But still, there’s one thing that may save you: music. Just think of all the times you turned on your favorite song, and it lifted your spirits!

Our specialists will write a custom essay specially for you!

So, why not write about it in a music essay? In this article, you’ll find all the information necessary for this type of assignment:

  • 267 brilliant music essay topics,
  • a sample paper,
  • a step-by-step guide and writing tips.

And don’t forget to bookmark  custom-writing.org  where you can find helpful essay tips in articles like this one.

🔝 Music Essay Topics: Top 10

  • 🎵 Music Essay Definition
  • 🎼 Essay Topics
  • ✍️ How to Write
  • 📑 Essay Sample

🔗 References

  • Compare different recording formats.
  • The purpose of music.
  • Ternary and rondo: compare and contrast.
  • Music as a lifestyle.
  • The benefits of singing.
  • Ethnomusicology as a career.
  • Evolution of the radio.
  • The importance of school musicals.
  • Music as a tool for meditation.
  • Music in sports.

🎵 Essays about Music: What Are They?

A music essay describes or analyzes a piece of music, its context, or one’s personal attitude towards it. This type of assignment requires a compelling primary argument and a clear structure.

To write well about music, you don’t have to be a professional musician. All you need is to be able to listen, understand, and evaluate it. You should also provide your interpretation and opinion on it.

Writing about Music: Assignment Types

An essay on music is a popular assignment in high school and college. However, many students find it hard to describe sounds in a written form. In this article, we will give you some tips on writing about music.

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Here are the typical tasks that you might receive:

  • Concert report. It requires describing the music you’ve heard using as many details and terms as you can.
  • Historical analysis of a piece. Your aim is to describe the historical context of a piece or its relation to the historical setting. For this type of assignment, you may need to do some research.
  • Song analysis. In this type of essay, you explore song lyrics’ meaning and show how they work together with the melody.
  • Performance or media comparison. Here you need to compare several interpretations or performances of one piece of music.

The picture shows different tasks related to writing about music.

All of these assignments require a different approach and topic. You will find topics for these types of tasks below.

How to Choose a Music Essay Topic

First things first, you need to find a suitable music essay topic. To accomplish this task, you might want to take the following steps:

  • Analyze your relationship with music . What role does it play in your life? Your topic choice will be different if you are a musician or merely a listener.
  • Think about how music influences your everyday life . For instance, you can study how listening to music affects our mental health. Impressing your readers with some historical facts from the world of music is also a great idea.
  • Try reflecting on the role of different music genres in your life . Whether you prefer rap or classical music, exploring a genre is an excellent topic idea. Topics related to musical instruments are also worth attention.
  • Narrow your topic down. Otherwise, it will be too difficult to focus your essay on just one idea.

🎼 Music Essay Topics List

The first thing you need to do is to choose your topic. We have prepared a variety of music topics perfect for research papers and short essays. You can also use them for speeches or college application essays.

Argumentative Essay about Music: Topics & Ideas

Argumentative essays about music are usually concerned with a specific music-related issue you choose to address. Just like with any other argumentative essay, you should present both sides of the topic. Also, reliable facts are a must for this type of essay.

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  • The influence of modern technologies on the music industry. Technologies allow artists to create and promote their songs independently. Because of this, record labels are less critical to musicians than before. However, the emergence of new technologies also gave rise to piracy . Do the positives outweigh the negatives?
  • What’s the effect of pop music on the modern generation? Today’s pop songs are usually commercial . Because of this, some people say that pop has ruined the current generations’ perception of music. Others argue that contemporary pop music expanded the possibilities of the genre.
  • Rock music makes people more aggressive . Some consider rock music merely an arrangement of aggressive tunes that foster violence. On the counter side, science has proven that people who prefer rock to other genres are calmer and more concentrated. Which position do you agree with?
  • Can people with hearing impairments become famous musicians ? Many believe that access to fame and fortune is limited for disabled people. The deaf may seem especially unsuited for the music business . Yet, the examples of Beethoven, Neil Young, and Chris Martin show that hearing problems don’t have to be an issue.
  • Will streaming completely substitute physical copies? Digitalization is on its way to replacing LPs and CDs. For most people, it’s simply more convenient. But their opponents claim that an MP3 file can never sound as good as a physical copy.
  • Some music genres can be a catalyst for violence. While their beats may be calm, hip-hop and rap’s lyrics are often aggressive and brutal. Does it have adverse effects on a listener?
  • Can a person become addicted to music ?
  • Censorship on the radio: why stations shouldn’t bleep out obscenities.
  • Is mandatory musical education in high schools practical?
  • The impact of Mozart’s music on toddlers.
  • Should a musician’s personal life affect people’s perception of their art?
  • How susceptible are teenagers to political messages in songs?
  • Music influences one’s mental and physical capabilities .
  • Are children who listen to music more intelligent than others?
  • Music genres are inherently dependent on musical instruments .
  • Is music as an art form more popular than cinema ?
  • Debate whether rap musicians promote a frivolous and careless lifestyle .
  • Many musicians became famous only because they’ve had connections.
  • Music festivals are the best form of entertainment.
  • Does music always sound better live than on records?
  • Is classical music better than modern genres?
  • Is it justified that some religions view music as a sin?
  • Typically, music defines a culture and its traditions: true or false?
  • Rap music has a strong connection to rebellious movements.
  • Jamaican music’s link to the stoner lifestyle is unjustified.
  • Synesthesia: how is music related to visuals?

Opinion on Music: Essay Topics

Opinion essays about music might seem similar to the argumentative type. Here, you are expected to write your personal opinion on a topic. Naturally, you can have many opinions on musical topics. Why not broadcast them? Keep in mind that you also need to provide reasons for your point of view.

  • Music therapy can help people with mental illnesses . It’s a well-known fact that music affects the human brain. This ability makes it perfect for treating mental health problems. On the one hand, psychologists established that listening to classical music increases one’s cognitive capacity . On the other hand, listening to heavy rock impacts responsiveness.
  • The questionable treatment of women in the music industry . While it may seem that both sexes are treated equally, women still earn much less than they deserve. Moreover, the extreme sexualization of girls persists as one of the most pressing problems in the industry.
  • Which musician or band impacted your worldview ? Discuss what makes your favorite artist special. Consider analyzing their lyrics, genre, and evolution. If you want to, add a review of one of their albums .
  • What are the challenges of being an independent artist? Typically, independent artists deal with all the financial, promotional, and distributional affairs by themselves. In the increasingly complex music business, this is not an easy task.
  • Is social media efficient for promotion? Almost every modern artist uses social media to promote their albums or songs. Users often check their networks for updates, which increases the musician’s visibility. But do such methods help in the long run?
  • Passion is the essential personal quality for every musician . If an artist is not eager to continually produce high-quality output, they’re unlikely to succeed. However, qualities such as responsibility, honesty, hard work, and creativity are also vital.
  • Is music good for stress relief?
  • How does music connect people ?
  • Analyze qualities that good musicians shouldn’t have.
  • Who are the most excellent musicians in the country genre ?
  • Is it possible to live without interacting with music ?
  • Choose three successful rappers and analyze their influence.
  • How can a musician become famous without having money or connections?
  • What are the difficulties of being in a band ?
  • Who impacted the development of indie music the most?
  • Is pop music losing its popularity? If so, why?
  • Three factors that affected your choice of a favorite genre .
  • Which artists are the most prominent in power metal?
  • Which record label is the most influential now?
  • Can Justin Bieber’s songs be considered legendary?
  • Did Kanye West introduce a new kind of rap?
  • Which rock bands lost their fame because of a scandal ? How did it happen?
  • Discuss Dire Straits’ impact on music history .
  • Who are currently the most successful women pop singers ?
  • Why are some music genres more popular than others?
  • What does success in the music world depend on ?

Topics for a Persuasive Essay about Music

Is there anything music-related you want to convince people of? A persuasive paper is your chance. Carefully craft your arguments to show your readers you’ve always been right about the beauty of cowbells. If it’s not your jam, consider these essay topics about music:

  • A seven-string guitar is superior to a six-string one. The additional string gives more room for creativity. It might be challenging to master, but in the end, the music has a fuller sound . Do you think it’s worth the effort?
  • The lyrics don’t matter as long as the melody is good. It’s possible to like songs from different countries, even if the listener doesn’t understand the language. The singing is simply part of the composition. Does this mean that what the vocalist says is unimportant?

The picture shows the information about the oldest surviving musical composition.

  • Most people living in big cities neglect country music. People from urban areas tend to think that country music is tasteless. For them, its tunes and lyrics sound too simple. Does the strong association with cowboys, farms, and long roads simply not appeal to the city lifestyle?
  • Should rap music be performed only by black people ? The genre hosts a large portion of African American artists . Not only that, but black rappers are widely considered the best of their craft. Do white artists do the genre justice?
  • Music that artists make merely to get money is soulless. Passion is a critical factor for every musician. If money is the primary driver for creating a song , the result is inevitably flawed. Do you agree?
  • Pop music is undergoing a transformation. Listeners acknowledge pop as the primary genre of contemporary music . Yet, new musical instruments are changing the game. Even the lyrics touch on more serious topics than before.
  • Indie is the new pop. Indie music is a relatively novel genre. Still, it continues to gain popularity. The light-hearted tunes paired with existential lyrics have captured the audience’s hearts. Is it possible to envision the future of music without bands such as Coldplay, The 1975, and the Arctic Monkeys?
  • The meaning of freedom for jazz as a musical genre .
  • Punk rock has recently witnessed a renaissance.
  • Exposing plants to classical music makes them grow faster.
  • Classical music: intellectually stimulating or relaxing ?
  • Is it justified that some countries legally prohibit artists from performing?
  • Is it easier for children to learn with music?
  • Can a person ever become a great artist without a natural talent ?
  • Should workplaces allow their employees to listen to background music ?
  • Jimi Hendrix’s guitar skills are still unmatched.
  • The impact of pop music on European culture and trends.
  • Kurt Cobain’s death should have been a wake-up call for the music industry .
  • Why is music beneficial to society?
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s legacy can be felt even today.
  • Nintendocore is a legitimate genre that the industry should take more seriously.
  • Should you listen to a bands’ music even if you disagree with their opinions ?
  • Musicians should receive more government support.
  • Patriotic songs make people feel passionate and energetic about their country.
  • Depressive and sad tunes can worsen a person’s mood.
  • Doctors and therapists need to understand the importance of music .

Music Evaluation Essay Topics

Do you want to know how to evaluate music? The point is to divide your overall impression into several parts. Music evaluation requires much attention and concentration, so try to do your best to stay focused while listening.

Use these criteria for evaluating music performances:

Now all you need to do is choose a topic and get down to writing!

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  • Discuss the rise and fall of hardcore punk. Many bands that started in the hardcore punk scene softened their sound over time. Why did this genre disappear from the mainstream?
  • Copyright laws are going too far . It’s getting increasingly difficult to use somebody else’s intellectual property. Creators on YouTube have to fear lawsuits for creatively repurposing copyrighted music. Moreover, laws such as the DMCA are frequently abused to generate revenues.
  • More bands should use their influence for political purposes . Renowned artists have a broad reach. Bands like Rise Against or Anti Flag use this influence to raise political awareness among their fans. Is it a fair approach?
  • Borrowing and plagiarism in contemporary music . New artists don’t emerge without having listened to other musicians. They draw inspiration from their predecessors. Thus, songs are always a mix of already existing tracks. In your essay, discuss the difference between homage and plagiarism.
  • What are the similarities between poetry and song lyrics? Songs and poems are similar in that they deliver a message to the audience. Their creation demands extensive knowledge of rhyming, literary devices, and other components.
  • Why do some musicians ask others to write lyrics for them? It is a common practice to have a crew of songwriters who create texts for performers. Sometimes it happens due to a lack of imagination or inspiration. Does finding out that your favorite artist doesn’t write their lyrics destroy the magic of their music?
  • How can popular music diversify as a genre? Pop music reached its peak. Adding and borrowing elements from different genres can be one way to diversify a streamlined genre.
  • The history of music as political propaganda .
  • Explain the difference between high and low contemporary music culture .
  • How is contemporary music related to that from other periods?
  • What are the connections between pop music and the hip-hop genre?
  • What connects popular music and contemporary culture ?
  • How does music in the United States relate to Spanish music ?
  • Analyze the evolution of Indian music .
  • Discuss why certain albums manage to climb to the top of the charts.
  • The link between social classes and musical genres.
  • Differences and similarities of music and other art forms .
  • How does a musical instrument’s origin influence its development?
  • What is the role of traditional music today?

The picture shows a Victor Hugo quote about music.

  • What are the main processes in music production?
  • How is music theory relevant today?
  • Analyze which contemporary artists’ albums had an effect comparable to that of Queen’s A Night at the Opera .
  • Eurodance: Europe’s most extravagant genre.
  • Songs and everyday life of Michael Jackson vs. Madonna: who wins the ultimate pop crown?
  • What difficulties has Eminem faced throughout his career?
  • Over-ear headphones provide a better sound experience than on-ear ones.

Topics for an Expository Essay on Music

An expository essay explains or describes a subject. In the colorful world of music, topics can range from the physics of sound waves to artists’ social impact.

  • The importance of Blues music in the late 19 th century and now . Blues originated in the 19 th century American South. It was an outlet for African Americans to express their sorrows. Later, it exceeded by far the cultural boundaries that confined it.
  • The role of music in prison camps. Singing was an essential part of life in the Nazi concentration camps . One of the most well-known songs of that time is called Peat Bog Soldiers . In your expository essay, explore why prisoners started singing and how it developed.
  • How did Chester Bennington’s death impact the music industry? Linkin Park was a giant in the business for decades until depression made their lead singer take his own life. The event sparked debates surrounding mental health and pressure in the creative industry. What long-lasting effects did these discussions have?
  • How did Baroque music reflect the zeitgeist? Compared to the Renaissance period, Baroque was in all aspects very pompous. The artists of the Sun King’s time didn’t shy away from the extravaganza. This ideal is especially prominent in architecture. How does music fit into the picture?
  • Investigate the development of musical harmony. The Ancient Greeks already had an idea of some tones fitting together better than others. However, it wasn’t until the 1600s that tonality became a crucial part of music theory.
  • Music in commercials: an analysis. Songs and jingles are commonplace in TV commercials. But what are they good for? In your essay, you can compare the success of advertisements with and without music.
  • What causes music trends to change? It’s easy to define various eras of music . Naturally, the invention of new instruments has influenced this development. What other factors played a role in these transformations?
  • Why is 4/4 a universal beat?
  • Examine the origins of The Star-Spangled Banner .
  • The effects of dissonance on the human mind .
  • How do staccato, legato, and other forms of articulation influence the perception of a musical piece ?
  • Discuss the significance of music in video games .
  • Music drives people’s motivation.
  • Explain the calming effects of nature sounds .
  • How does music influence literature ?
  • Celtic music is known to have an extraordinary impact on the psyche. How does it work?
  • How does music impact the discharge of hormones such as dopamine?
  • Music therapy is suitable for those who have bipolar disorder .
  • What made Falco such a unique artist?
  • How does the perception of a silent film differ from that of a movie with sound?
  • A rock concert by Kansas: How the relevance of live concerts changed over time .
  • Is being able to read music important for a composer ?
  • How did Beethoven write music after losing his hearing?
  • Should all songs have proper rhythm and structure?
  • Why do so many indie artists become commercial?
  • Is it essential for song lyrics to rhyme?

History of Music: Essay Topics

If you’re interested in the evolution of music, you’ve come to the right section. Historical research reveals the significance of music throughout time. Unsurprisingly, songs and melodies have been part of human culture for centuries. Dive deeper into this exciting subject with one of the following ideas:

  • How did the Catholic Church influence music development in Europe? During the Middle Ages , religious movements had a significant impact on music. Consequently, composers used to create more sacred music. It became a way of personal expression since it often contained religious texts. 
  • The cultural meaning of Renaissance music and its influence on other styles . During the time of the Renaissance , sacred and secular music heavily impacted each other. As a result, more variety emerged. The chanson and madrigal, for example, became popular around Europe.
  • Research archaeological findings of early musicality. The search for the oldest musical instrument delivers thrilling insights. Archaeologists have excavated a flute made of ivory and bird bones, dating approximately 43,000 years ago. They found it in a cave in Germany where Neanderthals lived.
  • History of early music and appearance of musical instruments. The beginning of the human culture was the turning point of musical instruments’ appearance. They were primarily used for spiritual rites; typically, they were horns or drums for ceremonies.
  • Louis Armstrong’s contributions to the jazz world. Jazz originated in New Orleans and was a favorite among African Americans. Louis Armstrong’s improvisations forever changed the genre, making the soloist-improviser the center of the performance.
  • The phenomenon of pop music and its origins. Popular music dates back to the second half of the last century. It comes from the US and the UK. Its main peculiarity lies in the variety of tunes and lyrics .
  • Native American music before the discovery of the New World . Incas and Aztecs had particular styles of music. Findings show that these ancient civilizations used instruments for ceremonies. Researchers also discovered that various American cultures mingled, thus creating new techniques.
  • The use of string instruments in classical Greek songwriting.
  • Famous composers of 18th century Italy and their influence.
  • Mozart vs. Beethoven: comparison of techniques.
  • Deliver a thoughtful analysis of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony .
  • What role do acoustic instruments play in jazz compositions ?
  • Explore the history of the Ocarina.
  • Due to what circumstances did Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart become one of the greatest musical geniuses in history?
  • Influence of the Romantic period on modern music .
  • How and why were the swing era and jazz connected?
  • Rock and roll as an international language in the 20th century.
  • Explore the rise of techno music.
  • Is there a historical connection between music and math ?
  • How did music become a staple subject in many schools?
  • The greatest musicians of World War I .
  • Industrialization and its effect on music development.
  • How did female producers such as Kate Bush impact the music industry ?
  • Analyze Frédéric Chopin’s contribution to classical music .
  • Music evolution in ancient Greece vs. the Roman Empire .
  • How does archeology help to uncover musical traditions ?
  • Tupac’s influence on modern rap music .

Classification Essay about Music: Topic Ideas

In a classification essay, you explain how a whole relates to parts or vice versa. To do it, you need to divide one broad category into several subcategories. Each classification paragraph focuses on one subcategory, so you need to find a key feature that will be your basis of division. For example, you can divide music by genre, volume, musical instruments, etc.

Here is our list of musical topics for this essay type:

  • The most popular types of alternative music among teenagers. Naturally, teens like different kinds of rock and experimental music . Try to dig deeper and ask some teenagers about their preferences to get a clear picture.
  • Types of modern dance music . Describe the tendencies and popular genres. You can also focus on a specific country.
  • The most popular types of jazz music in Europe . Although jazz emerged in the United States, this genre became recognizable all over the world. You can analyze the most popular streamed songs, or the concerts and other mass events.
  • Rock music in the ’70s. You can describe the genres, styles, or types of performers. The concerts, clothes, and lifestyles are also suitable for this topic.
  • Blues musicians of different time periods. Analyze the lyrics, the musical instruments they used, and how long their careers lasted.
  • Classification of music for children . Some of it can be for dancing, development, or just listening. Research the purposes of different kinds of music for children.
  • Types of music used in films. The soundtrack is one of the main things we remember after watching a movie. There can be popular songs or tracks composed specifically for a film .
  • Rock bands that represent different subgenres.
  • Rap subgenres in the United States.
  • Periods of classical music .
  • What motivates people to start a musical career?
  • Different kinds of music for relaxation.
  • The industries where composers work .
  • Types of opera singers and instrumental music .
  • Different professions in the music industry .
  • Unpopular genres of independent music.
  • Different types of music listeners .

College Essay about Music: Topics

When you apply to your dream college, you need to write an impressive essay. Admissions officers pay attention not only to your grades and achievements but also to your personality. Your writing can indicate your motivation, academic interests, and how well you fit into the college. Writing an essay about “music in my life” is a great way to demonstrate your passion and creativity.

Choose one of these topics related to music for your college essay:

  • The role of music in your life . Describe what music means to you, how often you listen to it, and how it helps you in life. For example, you can write about inspiration, motivation, or the sense of freedom that it gives you.
  • What are the essential aspects of music for you? Try to write down everything you like about music. It might be melodies, lyrics, vocals, or mood. You can choose several aspects if you feel that you can’t decide.
  • The time when music changed your life. In this essay, you can pick one occurrence or describe how music changed your life gradually. It’s important to indicate where you started from and where it led you.
  • How do you see the future of the music industry? Demonstrate to the admissions officer how well you know the art and the business.
  • Your role model in the music industry. You may write about the qualities of the person you admire and why you want to develop them in yourself. Remember that admission officers want to read about you, not your idol.
  • How did your musical taste change over the last ten years? Describe the evolution of your preferences. Explain why you have changed some of your past choices. Do you think your musical taste has improved?
  • Your favorite musical genre .
  • Does listening to music help to heal body and spirit?
  • What is the best music performance you have ever seen?
  • Why do people become fans of particular musicians?
  • Your favorite song lyrics .
  • Can people be judged by their musical taste?
  • Why is music an essential part of human culture?
  • Quote about music that appeals to you the most.
  • How can music education help you in the future?
  • Do you prefer listening to music or performing it?
  • How can music change your mood?
  • Why you want to become a musician.
  • Which culture has the most beautiful ethnical music ?
  • Is music more of an art or business?
  • What are the essential parts of musical education ?

Other Music Essay Topics

  • Why do supermarkets play music? Think of the reasons why marketers use music in advertising and how it impacts customer behavior.
  • An analysis of Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music . Evaluate how the director uses music to tell a story.
  • The impact of music on the human brain . Examine the latest research in the mental health field and how music therapy affects depression treatments.
  • The workings of the music industry . Assess how contemporary audio technology and touring lifestyle affect musicians.
  • The role of music in different cultures. Choose and compare two countries to analyze their perspectives on the music industry.
  • Music on television . Evaluate how the music of TV shows and movies impacts the audience’s feelings and behavior.
  • Oliver Sacks’ contribution to music psychology. Explore the theories he discusses in Musicophilia and describe its influence on music psychology.
  • Should all music be available for free download? Think about the ethical and legal aspects of this issue.
  • How did music psychology help the development of music education ? Try to find a correlation between these two fields.
  • Britney Spears and the adverse effects of teen popularity. Writing about this topic, you might want to focus on how her early fame affected her life. What happened after her famous breakdown in 2007?
  • The half-life of one-hit-wonders. Focus your paper on quantitative research. How long do one-hit-wonders stay famous on average? Why do they fail to maintain their success?
  • Journalism and the music industry. Examine the effects positive or negative press had on a musician of your choice.
  • Festivals and sponsorship. Discuss the benefits that corporate sponsors and the creators of music festivals gain from working together.
  • Rock songs and pessimistic lyrics. Why do most popular rock songs have such sad and angry lyrics?
  • Discuss the development of your music taste. Write about what pushed you to change and how it influenced your life.
  • The psychology of music. Examine what someone’s favorite music genre can tell about their personality.
  • Is ASMR music? ASMR artists make quiet sounds to soothe their audience. But can we really consider it music?
  • A historical analysis of jazz. Explore how African Americans influenced the flourishing culture of jazz that has spread worldwide.
  • The effect of classical music on children’s cognitive abilities. Supposedly, classical music is great for kids. Study this theory and make your conclusions.
  • Discuss the characteristics of modern Latin American music . Dive into its diversity and describe the reasons for its popularity.
  • How do Chinese artists make traditional music? Write about its complex creation process. Analyze the importance of articulation for composers.
  • The history of music . With this essay, explore the six periods of music history. To top it off, you can predict what music will be like in the future.
  • The music industry goes online. Discuss the importance of the internet for the industry and the challenges associated with it.
  • The magic of instrumental music. Pick your favorite orchestra pieces and find unique features in each of them.
  • Musical education: the sound of success? Does everyone need a musical background?
  • Explore the latest techniques in songwriting . Look into the song creation process of contemporary musicians. How do they get the audience to enjoy their art?
  • Compare and contrast e-pianos and keyboards . In doing so, consider their structure, sound, and features.
  • The Woodstock festival as a game-changer. How has the Woodstock Music and Art Fair influenced the current state of the music industry? Additionally, investigate how current festivals hold up to the standards set by Woodstock.
  • Music therapy for stroke patients . Find out whether incorporating elements of music therapy can support the treatment of patients who suffered a stroke.
  • How do amplifiers work? If you’re a musician, you’ve likely used an amplifier before. Now it’s time to figure out what they are actually doing.
  • The Killers’ contributions to indie rock. How would you define their style of music? What makes them a key player in indie music?
  • Analyze the music in Grease . Pick some of the most popular songs from the musical and write about their influence on American culture.
  • What’s the best way to interpret songs? Describe methods to deconstruct songs and how the music style affects this process.
  • Teufel vs. Sennheiser: the ultimate comparison. German sound equipment manufacturers are known for their cutting-edge technologies . But which brand is the best?
  • What role does harmony play in music composition? Choose several pieces of music and describe how the artists used harmony.
  • How necessary are double bass drums? Do musicians place them on stage just to impress people, or do they have actual use?
  • Compare regular festivals and free ones. Why spend hundreds of dollars on Coachella if you can go to Woodstock for free? In your essay, focus on the differences such as size, participating artists, and general entertainment .
  • A historical analysis of choral music. Singing in groups is a practice common across various cultures . You might choose one or two to work on.
  • How did The Rolling Stones influence British culture? The Rolling Stones are one of the longest-standing rock bands of all time. Naturally, this left significant marks on their home country.
  • How important are regional accents for English-language singers ? When working on this theoretical topic, include some examples and your personal opinion.
  • The world of musical instruments: medieval music . This fun essay can focus on different types of medieval instruments and their evolution.
  • Does the creative process differ for electronic and acoustic music? Look at how artists usually write songs. Do they start with the melody, the rhythm, or the lyrics? Does it depend on the medium?
  • The correlation between poems and medieval songs. Find out how composers were reinventing poetry to create songs.
  • Hip-hop and gender equality . What is the role of women in the development of this music style? Don’t forget to give examples.
  • When politics interferes with art: Eurovision. Analyze the role of the political situation in this song contest. Is there anything left of its original idea?
  • How did Vladimir Vysotsky become a beloved musical figure outside of Soviet Russia? It’s unusual for Russian-language musicians to gain fame outside of their home country. Research how Vysotsky managed to mingle in the USA and have some of his work posthumously released in Europe.
  • K-pop conquers the world . You may narrow the topic down to a specific artist. Focus on the influence of Korean music in other cultures.
  • Music school students vs. amateurs. Discuss the different experiences and outcomes of music school students and those who learn to play instruments at home.
  • Do music choices shape one’s identity , or is it the other way around? It’s an exciting question that lets you dig deep into the psychology of music.
  • The music of dissents. Energizing songs play an essential part in rebellions and revolutions. For example, analyze how protesters used music during the Arab Spring .
  • The development and popularity of electronic music . Starting from the early experiments, analyze the development of this style and its increasing influence
  • How do artists use social media to promote their music? You might want to choose one or two examples to illustrate the tools they use.
  • Organum as one of the oldest written types of music . Study the development of this music style throughout various cultures.
  • The appeal of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters. Many people consider the song one of their favorites. Examine its structure , melody, and lyrics. What makes it unique?
  • Africa’s hidden musical gems. African music is as diverse as its people. Pick two countries and compare their style. How do they differ from Western art ?
  • Did people’s music tastes improve compared to previous decades? Here, you have the chance to express your views on the evolution of people’s music preferences.
  • Is the life of pop stars as easy as people think? Share your thoughts on whether famous musicians and singers have a leisurely lifestyle.
  • Physiological reactions to different types of music . Study how your body reacts to various beats and tones.
  • Why do people tend to listen to specific songs on certain occasions? In your essay, ponder the effects of love songs or powerful anthems on one’s mood .
  • What does someone’s ringtone say about their personality ? Think about how it affects your perception of a person.
  • The impact of music on the individual’s productivity . Studies suggest a positive effect on people’s performance when they listen to something pleasant while working. But all the noise can get overstimulating. That’s why finding the balance is central.
  • Music is natural. In the depth of nature, there is music. Rain, a bird’s song, or the tapping of a squirrel’s feet melt together to create a beautiful composition . Music is everywhere—one only needs to listen carefully.

If you haven’t found what you’re looking for, you’re welcome to use our topic generator .

✍️ Music Essay: How to Write

So, you have chosen your essay title. Now it’s time to start writing! But before you begin, read the sections below and learn how to organize your work.

How to Describe Music in Writing

You might think that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Well, it is not an easy task, but we know how to cope with it.

Follow these tips while writing:

  • Make a comparison.  Explain which characteristics of a piece remind you or are identical to those of another one. It’s better to avoid comparing music from different composers in this case. Instead, evaluate and analyze two musical pieces from the same composer.
  • Describe the melody and dynamics.  You may want to use musical terms to show your knowledge and proficiency. Define the genre and what kind of instruments and tones are used.
  • Explain how it makes you feel.  You can use basic human emotions to describe the feelings of a listener. For example, it can be anger, tenderness, irritation, excitement, or nostalgia.
  • Use metaphorical language.  You may try using your imagination to create analogies. Be careful not to make your metaphors overcomplicated, as it may confuse the readers.

Essays about Music: Descriptive Words

Do you want your essay on music to be interesting and expressive? Then you may want to use descriptive vocabulary. Here are some of the terms that you can use in your essay to make it sound more professional:

  • Tempo is the “speed” of music. There are fixed expressions to define tempo—for example, largo, moderate, or presto. You can also describe how fast the music feels.
  • Timbre is the term that evaluates the “color” of music. Even if two instruments play the same note of the same volume, the sound is still different. This is how you can notice the color of the tone. For example, gentle, clear, heavy, or warm can be the adjectives to describe timbre.
  • Dynamics define the volume levels of music. The volume can be the same all the time, for example loud or soft. If the volume of music changes, you can use such expressions as “gradually gets louder” “or suddenly becomes soft.”
  • Harmony characterizes how all the notes and chords sound together. The sequence of chords—chord progression—defines how satisfying the melody is for the listener. For example, if the transitions are smooth, you can use such words as “relaxed” or “warm.”

Music Essay Outline

Like any other assignment, writing about music requires a proper essay outline that will guide you through the writing. The following sections will help you with that.

Before you start, here are some tips that will help you prepare for writing:

  • Do some prior research. Try to learn as much as possible about the piece you will be writing about. It’s also helpful to listen to the music several times with headphones to notice more details.
  • Don’t be afraid of asking questions. Consult your instructor if you’re unsure about your topic or the piece you have chosen.
  • Choose the topic that you like. If you’re passionate about a subject, it is always easier to write about it. Who said that homework could not be interesting?
  • Follow the recommendations that your instructor gives. It includes word limit, formatting style, deadline, and essay type.

Music Essay Introduction

The introduction is the section where you come up with a brief explanation of the topic. You may start it with a quotation, definition, or short statement that catches your reader’s attention and leads them to the essay subject.

A thesis statement is usually the last sentence of the introduction that defines the content of body paragraphs. It needs to be specific and not longer than two sentences. If you decide to shift the focus of your essay while writing, it’s crucial to change your thesis too.

Different types of essays require different thesis statements. Let’s take a closer look:

Music Essay Body

Your essay’s body is the most significant part of your writing. Here, you provide evidence and explanations of your claims.

The typical body paragraph structure includes:

  • A topic sentence explaining the argument for a particular paragraph.
  • An introduction to the evidence you gathered to support an argument.
  • Quotes and facts (don’t forget about proper citation!) and their explanation.
  • A connection between the evidence and the essay topic.
  • Paragraph transitions  leading your reader to the next section.

Topic Sentence about Music

Topic sentences can be used as a roadmap to writing your essay. Each body paragraph begins with a topic sentence that defines what the paragraph is about. It introduces the argument or main thought that will be explained. It’s also connected with the thesis statement.

It’s essential to make your thesis easy to understand, so it’s better not to overcomplicate it. For example, here’s an unsuccessful topic sentence with unnecessary words:

As stated above, the guitar is an essential musical instrument in rock music that defines how it sounds.

Instead, you can formulate it like this:

The guitar is the most iconic musical instrument in rock music that defines how it sounds.

Music Essay Conclusion

When writing a conclusion for your essay on music, you can use the following structure:

  • Summarize the text in a few sentences.
  • Review the key points of your paper.
  • Paraphrase the thesis.

To make your essay conclusion more effective, avoid the following:

📑 What Music Means to Me: Essay Example

Now you know all about writing an essay on music! To make it even easier for you, we’ve prepared an essay sample that you can use for inspiration. Check it out:

Now all you need is to turn the music on and get down to writing! We hope you liked this guide. If you did, don’t hesitate to share it with your friends.

Further reading:

  • How to Write a Good Critique Paper: Killer Tips + Examples
  • How to Write an Art Critique Essay: Guidelines and Examples
  • How to Write a Movie Critique Paper: Top Tips + Example
  • Modern Fairy Tale Essay: How to Write, Topics and Ideas
  • 200 Creative Topics for Opinion Essays
  • 182 Free Ideas for Argumentative or Persuasive Essay Topics
  • 180 Excellent Evaluation Essay Topics

✏️ Music Essay FAQ

Music is a vast topic. An essay might deal with anything ranging from trends in the 1950s to the best guitarists of all time. Writing an introduction to certain music styles or bands is also possible. In any case, the paper should be well-structured, logical, and cohesive.

Writing about music doesn’t necessarily require any specific skills. If you’re not familiar with the theory of music and can’t play musical instruments, you can just write about the music you like. Here are some topic ideas: favorite music band, style, or how you perceive music.

You can interpret music as a topic in various ways. If you are getting a degree in this field, you might want to write something more specific and technical. If your essay aims to merely inform and entertain, write about your favorite music style or band.

If you are writing an essay for school, a good choice would be an expository essay. It doesn’t require any specific knowledge of the music industry. Title suggestions might be: “My perception of music,” “My favorite band,” “How music can change the world.”

  • What is the Music Industry? Definition and Facts: Study.com
  • What Music Do You Write To?: Writers & Artists
  • A Music Review: British Council
  • Music: UNC Writing Center: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Sound and Sense: Writing about Music: Colorado State University
  • Music analysis Research Papers: Academia.edu
  • The Power of Music Therapy: Belmont University
  • Musicology: Northwestern Bienen School of Music
  • Musicology: Areas of Study: Indiana State University
  • Music Facts: Facts.net
  • Music History from Primary Sources: Library of Congress
  • Music: Encyclopedia Britannica
  • A History of Classical Music: Part 1: The List
  • What Is Jazz: Smithsonian Institution
  • The 50 Greatest Composers of All Time: Classical Music
  • Musical Terms and Concepts: SUNY Potsdam
  • Ethnomusicology: University of Oxford
  • Music Research Process: Syracuse University
  • Journal of Popular Music Studies: University of California Press
  • The History of Pop Music in 5 Defining Decades: The Culture Trip
  • Music of the 20 th Century: Lumen Learning
  • Explainer: Indie Music: The Conversation
  • Your Brain on Music: University of Central Florida
  • Music and Health: Harvard University
  • The Psychological Function of Music Listening: NIH
  • Essays that Worked: Hamilton
  • Writing in Music: Writing Thesis Statements: The City University of New York
  • Academic Writing about Music: University of Denver
  • How to Write Song Lyrics: Berklee
  • Essay Introduction: University of Maryland
  • Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements: Purdue University
  • Writing Body Paragraphs: Monash University
  • Some Tips for Writing Efficient, Effective Body Paragraphs: University of California, Berkeley
  • Writing a Paper: Conclusions: Walden University
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Piecing for Cover

By Ayelet Waldman

An illustration of a hand made out of a quilt. The hand is holding a threaded needle.

Mark Darrell’s life began to unravel on a Tuesday morning in September, 2004, in Anbar Province. A marine staff sergeant, a steady, seventeen-year veteran with only a week to go in his Iraq rotation, Darrell left a staff meeting at a headquarters building in a Fallujah combat outpost, chuckling about the ribbing he had given his friend Major Kevin Shea. Shea hated the Yankees; Darrell was a diehard fan. Then Darrell felt a blast of searing heat and a concussive thump at his back, and he was thrown to the ground. Ears ringing, he scrambled to his feet, turned, and saw a heap of rubble where headquarters had stood only moments before. An enemy rocket had landed a direct hit. Darrell ran toward the bomb site, arriving just in time to see Shea’s body pulled from the wreckage. “I was just frozen,” he told me. “I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t cry.”

Darrell rotated home, got through the final three years of his service commitment, and retired. He took a job in law enforcement at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta. Working security felt like a natural next step after the military, but he found dealing with civilian life—“dealing with civilians, period”—to be challenging. At work, he struggled to hold back swells of aggression. At home with his wife and children, he contained those moods by drinking. Night after night, he would pace the house, drink until he blacked out, hide in a closet, and howl. He drank to “numb the pain, numb the guilt, numb some of the nightmares,” but flashbacks to that morning in Anbar Province continued, along with waves of survivor’s guilt. The harder he tried to suppress them, the worse they got.

Finally, his wife issued an ultimatum: no more drinking. Darrell didn’t wait to hear the “or else.” He quit cold turkey and entered therapy at the V.A. But the nightmares and the all but unbearable distress continued.

Then, in 2016, as Darrell and his wife were expecting their first grandson, he was seized by a desire to make something for the baby, something that would come not from a store but from his life, his hands. “I don’t know why it was,” he told me. “I thought about a quilt.”

Darrell had never sewn, knew no one who quilted. But, he said, “I ran to Walmart, and I grabbed fabric. I grabbed sewing needles. I brought it all home, and I set it all out on the table, and I was, like, ‘Oh, yeah, I need a machine.’ I go to a pawnshop, and I just grabbed one. I remember that machine. It was just a little Singer, baby-blue and white.”

That night, hunched over his kid’s sewing machine, Darrell’s focus narrowed and, for the first time since he left Fallujah, the pain eased. He recalled, “I wasn’t thinking about the war. I wasn’t thinking about what the marines were doing. I was just thinking about, How do I make this thing square? I had never used drugs, but I could imagine someone’s first experience with drugs, with everything just firing at the same time. That’s what quilting did to me.”

I know that feeling. I recognize the way time folds and warps, lost in the crisp snick of the rotary cutter slicing through fabric, the buzz of the sewing machine, the hiss of the steam iron. It began for me on October 7th, when Hamas attacked Israel . I spent that day refreshing my news feed, my distress growing ever more intense. My late father was a founder of Kibbutz Kissufim, one of the kibbutzim invaded and destroyed by Hamas militants; my older siblings were born there. I’ve been involved for years in the fight for Palestinian rights and in the Israeli peace movement, many of whose members lived or grew up in the Gaza envelope. In the course of that day, I heard of more and more people whose loved ones had been killed or taken hostage. My Israeli friends and family were anguished, reeling. My Palestinian friends were terrified of the vengeance they knew was coming.

For two days, I did nothing but sit on the couch and stare at my laptop, growing increasingly distraught at the atrocities committed by Hamas and at the prospect of an Israeli invasion . Then, on October 9th, I noticed a sewing machine and a roll of fabric on my dining table. We were spending the winter in Maine, and I’d bought the machine, the cheapest for sale online, thinking that my daughter and I might find some cozy indoor project to do together. I closed a video of mutilated bodies strewn across the site of the Nova music festival , found my way to a YouTube video featuring a cheerful middle-aged lady named Jenny Doan, and did my best to follow her instructions on how to make a split-bars quilt.

Like Darrell, I was a novice at quilting. My only experience with a sewing machine was a week in seventh grade doing battle with a swath of ugly plaid fabric, trying to wrestle it into a shape that in the end almost passed—if I squinted and used enough safety pins—for a wraparound skirt. But, from the moment I picked up a rotary cutter, quilting took over my life. As Israel’s siege of Gaza intensified, I quilted from morning, when I’d carry my cup of tea over to the sewing machine, until night, when I’d grudgingly switch it off and go to bed. I would stop for dinner only because my husband pleaded with me to, but while we ate I would glance again and again toward the sewing machine until he would finally say, with bemusement, “Just go.”

When I stitched, my brain stopped whirring. My urge to scroll through videos of the attack ebbed. It wasn’t that quilting distracted me from the massacre or from the ongoing catastrophe in Gaza . I still watched news reports. I listened to audio coverage. I wept. But my rage and despair came at intervals, not unremittingly. I was able to tolerate and to a certain degree control the surges of horror, outrage, and fear—not to suppress them but, rather, to ride them like a surfer rides a swell.

Like so many women before me, I took over my son’s bedroom and turned it into a sewing room, complete with a better-quality sewing machine, a cutting table, an ironing station, and bins of fabric and notions, the delightful word for small sewing essentials and tools. I quilt every day, generally for at least four hours and often as long as eight, using it as a reward for finishing work and chores and as succor when I feel a wave of anxiety or distress. Walking into my sewing room brings me an immediate sense of ease, like slipping between the sheets of a freshly made bed.

Darrell and I are not alone in having turned to quilting in times of crisis. Quilters I’ve spoken to have come to the craft in the wake of the deaths of children, spouses, and parents; painful divorces from abusive husbands; childhood sexual abuse; psychotic breaks; brain-tumor diagnoses; and, like me, in response to the intolerable state of the world. Attempting to explain it, they all tend to say versions of the same thing: “I just had to sew,” or “I was going to start screaming out loud if I didn’t pick up a needle and thread.”

I reached out to Jenny Doan, the chipper online quilting instructor who started me on my own “quilting journey,” not understanding that to most quilters having a one-on-one Zoom call with Doan is like getting your nails done with Oprah. She is revered by legions of devoted fans, who inundate her with mail and mob her at events, testifying about having found her videos in moments of despair. “And here I thought I was teaching people how to sew,” she told me, laughing.

Doan herself began her professional quilting career at a time of crisis. Her husband, a hardworking machinist, earned enough to support their family of nine and save for retirement. But then came the 2008 financial crisis . His 401(k) was wiped out. They were, Doan laughed again (she is always laughing, except when she’s moved to tears), looking to avoid moving into their adult son’s basement. Her children pitched in and bought her a long-arm quilting machine, a huge, computerized unit that would allow her to finish other quilters’ projects for a fee, and—her kids hoped—keep a roof over their heads. Within a few years, Doan’s business, the Missouri Star Quilt Company, was the largest quilting-supply outfit in the U.S., worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Missouri Star owns seventeen buildings on the main street of Hamilton, Missouri, and employs three hundred of the seventeen hundred people who live there. She has done for a dying small town what she has done for so many of us: stitched it back together.

There is a person whose story stands out amid the many who credit Doan with saving them. One day she received a letter from a woman in Iran, asking for advice about how to teach the women in her village how to quilt. Doan recounts, “She ended her letter to me by saying, ‘You have filled my war-torn life with color.’ ” By now, Doan and I are both in tears.

Darrell says, of quilting, “Welcome to trauma treatment. Because it’s such a great tool for self-healing.” Why is this so? The answer, I’ve learned, is in large part neurological. Though we tend to describe the experiences of fear, anxiety, anger, and sadness as exclusively of the mind, they are intricately connected to the body, even in someone like me, who is so focussed on my thoughts and feelings that I might as well be a head floating in space. In the nineteen-thirties, Hans Selye, an Austrian-Canadian physician, identified the biological mechanism by which our bodies respond to stress. When we perceive danger, our hypothalamus triggers our adrenal glands to release stress hormones—a process that incites a cascade of physical reactions. Our hearts, for example, beat faster in anticipation of the blood flow we might need to respond to a physical threat. This is crucial if you’re about to be eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger, but, when you’re having a nightmare about your buddy’s death or sitting on your couch watching videos of bombs dropping five thousand miles away, it harms rather than helps.

In order to feel better, we must somehow get ourselves into a less reactive state. We try to do this in a myriad of ways, some more effective than others. Some, like Darrell, try to numb their pain with alcohol. Others tune out the world and play video games for hours. Others run until they pass out from exhaustion. And many of us, it turns out, quilt.

Quilting is a craft that requires the use of the brain and the body, that involves the senses of sight, touch, sound, and smell, that requires mathematical calculation, forward planning, and rapt attention. It begins with a pattern, or, in the case of what’s known as improv quilting, an idea, an emotion, or even just a whim. (“Today, I’m in the mood to make circles!”) Then there’s the fabric. You choose it not only by color but also by how it feels in your hand. For this pattern or idea should the fabric be slick, or should it be nubbly? Do I want to see and feel the warp and weft or am I going for a sleeker effect? Even the smell of the fabric comes into play: it has a mellow, warm aroma, especially under a hot iron.

Cutting up the fabric demands concentration. Measurements must be precise, and cuts clean. Each scrap of fabric—and there are usually hundreds of them—must then be ironed, matched, and pinned. Only then does a quilter sit down at the sewing machine. You sew two pieces together in a small block, and then small blocks together in larger blocks, each time returning to the iron to smooth the block and to the cutting table to trim it—piece after piece, block after block, for hour after hour, in an immersive and repetitive flow.

I was curious if something about these specific activities and sensory experiences might be particularly effective at soothing intense emotion. Absolutely, a number of experts in neuroscientists told me. Susan Magsamen, the founder and executive director of the International Arts + Mind Lab ( IAM Lab), Center for Applied Neuroaesthetics, at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, explained that handwork has a stabilizing effect on the mind, which begins with the extraordinarily high density of nerve endings in our fingertips. Using our hands stimulates these neurons, triggering an immediate response in the brain—bathing it in oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, the hormones associated with pleasure.

Furthermore, each of our hands is controlled by the opposite brain hemisphere. Using both hands stimulates both hemispheres at once, and can also stimulate them alternately, as you shift from left to right. This kind of alternating bilateral stimulation is thought to be the basis for eye-movement-desensitization therapy, one of the more effective treatments for P.T.S.D. According to Daniel Levitin, a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist and the author of the best-selling “ This Is Your Brain on Music ,” such activity also “strengthens connections between the hemispheres, facilitating creativity and the transfer of information over the long term, and helps to build up cognitive reserve.”

Quilting involves bilateral activity in other ways, as well. The parts of quilting that require intense focus, like cutting and matching seams, are controlled by something known as the central executive network, which is distributed in both hemispheres. I like to imagine it as a little gray-suited office drone, organizing all the cognitive tasks that require my close attention. Then, when I sit down at the sewing machine and start repetitively, all but robotically, piecing together cuts of fabric, he takes his coffee break. That’s when the default-mode network takes over. The default-mode network, which is also bilateral, is a brain system that is active when we are in a state of “wakeful rest”—when our minds wander. This state is profoundly restorative. Levitin told me that the default-mode network “effectively presses the Reset button in your brain.”

David J. Linden, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University, described other ways in which handwork like quilting might help with mood. Self-directed creative activities that involve planning give a deep sense of agency and reward, which reduces anxiety and is correlated with well-being. And activities in which we can track our progress make us feel even better as we pursue them than ones in which all the rewards are deferred into the future. Linden compares the satisfaction of incremental progress to smoking cigarettes—the reward is instantaneous. And completing future-focussed activities, Linden said, is like doing heroin. The rewards are palpable, and they continue beyond the moment. When I joke that I have developed a “quilting addiction,” I might not be far off the mark.

All these neurological systems may explain why so many of us responded to the fear and constraints of the pandemic by becoming experts in sourdough fermentation, woodworking, or knitting. For a short while, I took up embroidery, which I enjoyed and found a certain comfort in, though I did not slip into the single-minded obsession that I have with quilting. We thought that we were all becoming hobbyists because we were stuck in our houses, climbing the walls. While this is true, it’s also likely that, faced with severe disruptions and fears of death, we were reaching instinctively for activities that made use of our hands, provided an achievable sense of mastery and control, and resulted in immediate rewards.

Quilting gives me a further source of delight: the pleasure of being part of a community, both virtually and in real life. Within half an hour of my house there are three quilting stores, all of them staffed by kindly women eager to provide advice, support, and praise. Such stores often have open quilting days, when people bring their sewing machines, rotary cutters, and irons and sit together sewing and gossiping, like women have done from time immemorial. I joined the renowned East Bay Heritage Quilters, one of at least four hundred quilting guilds in the U.S., which hosts virtual events, classes, and bimonthly open quilting gatherings at a local church. I have participated in online sewing circles, sitting with a group of people (mostly older women) hand-stitching a binding onto a quilt, and exclaiming over someone’s work in progress.

Piecing together a quilt for a practical use—for warmth rather than display—is called piecing for cover. It is an eloquent metaphor for the solace that quilting gives. There is no end of this wretched war in sight, and there is an election looming . If things go badly in November, I’ll probably want to quilt a shroud large enough to wrap half the country. I recently finished a quilt for a Palestinian peace activist whose resiliency and eloquence have allowed me hope amid all this turmoil and despair. I don’t delude myself that this gift will comfort her, but I comfort myself by imagining that I am piecing us together, wrapping and warming us both. ♦

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Essays, Personal Statements, and Résumés for Music Students

Essays, personal statements and résumés for music students can be daunting. While the audition is a key component in the acceptance process, admission reps want you to keep in mind that the paperwork side of the application is also important.

by Caitlin Peterkin

“We have a small interview component to our audition process and we review recommendation letters and a student’s music history (typically via the résumé),” says Megan Grady, music recruitment coordinator and assistant director of Admission at the University of Puget Sound School of Music. “We also like to see what else students do and if we think they’ll fit in well with our liberal arts university, not just the School of Music.”

Applying to music school is a highly-competitive process. Brittany Jimenez, associate director of Undergraduate Admission at USC Thornton School of Music , encourages students to be genuine and to put their best foot forward in all parts of the admission process.

“There are many parts of the application and admission process you cannot control, like who else is applying,” she says, “so carefully managing the parts you can control (like the writing supplements and portfolio submissions) will be very important.”

Catch the attention you want

An essay, often referred to as your personal statement, is required by many music schools. Each school posts its own guidelines for these. If you’re uncertain about what they’re asking for, contact the admissions office.

The Common App streamlines the process of applying to several schools, although not all schools use it. You’ll find out whether colleges and universities that use the Common App require a personal essay once you create your Dashboard on the Common App website. The Common App provides a list of “prompts” or ideas to write about and you are given the option to edit your essay after you submit your first application. Even if schools don’t require a personal essay, you’ll have the option to submit one.  

Music schools within universities as well as some colleges require you to apply to the university or college as well as to the music school. A separate school of music essay may also be required. Schools will indicate the word count as well as prompts or a specific theme they want you to write about. This may be referred to as a “supplemental essay.”

You can also choose to apply directly to schools instead of using the Common App. A request for supplemental materials including writing requirements is built in to these applications.

Note that these requirements may be different for transfer students.

So how do you make sure your essay and personal statement stand out from the crowd?

Here are suggestions from recruiters and admission representatives for creating essays they’ll they’ll be eager to read:

1. Do your research.

“It is beneficial to research the school and program and speak to the specific aspects and opportunities you find most relevant to you and your interests,” says Jimenez. “Getting to know the specific programs and faculty is important because every school is going to be unique in the type of experience they offer.”

Patrick Zylka, assistant dean for Admission, Financial Aid and Graduate Services at Northwestern University Bienen School of Music , agrees. “We want to know an applicant has done the research on our institution, not just that it’s a top ten ranking, or that their best friend goes here, but that they’ve really dug a little bit deeper and understand what the institution offers….and whether we’re actually a good fit for them.”

But he adds the caveat to not just regurgitate what’s on a school’s website: “Don’t tell us we’re a beautiful campus next to Lake Michigan—we already know!”

2. Don’t copy and paste.

Faculty and staff recognize that you’re probably applying to multiple institutions. Make sure to write a unique statement for each one, tailoring each essay to the specific program you’re applying to. Schools do not want to see a generic, cookie-cutter answer as to why you’re choosing their particular program.

“Essays that are clearly ‘cut and paste’ versions of an essay you’ve sent to a dozen schools…are not very persuasive,” says Christina Crispin, assistant director of Admissions at Eastman School of Music .

3. Show your personality!

As faculty and admissions reps review hundreds of applications each year, they want to read thoughtful statements from prospective students to get a better sense of each individual’s personality.

According to Zylka, admission reps view the essay as an applicant’s only opportunity to really show who they are as an individual, more than what any transcript or test score can reveal. “Speak from the heart,” he says. “If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re serious, be serious.”

Grady agrees: “We are looking for students to tell us more about themselves. We like to see creative essays that tell us something we may not be able to learn from the rest of their application.”

4. Proofread—multiple times.

Not only are essays a good way to show your personality, but they’re also a chance to demonstrate that you can write in a clear and coherent way.

“The essays that we are least impressed by are those that have typos, grammatical or punctuation errors—anything that screams, ‘I didn’t proofread this,’” says Crispin.

Some other no-nos: run-on sentences and “writing one big paragraph instead of a thought-out essay,” according to Grady.

Your résumé – the right way

Nearly all applications for music schools require a résumé.  

“The résumé is the place for applicants to highlight their musical accomplishments and experiences,” says Crispin. “If they want us to know about other extracurricular activities, leadership, volunteer work, etc., the résumé is a good place to capture that information.”

“It’s important to tell us about any honors, awards, summer festivals, private lessons,” adds Zylka. “Things that show us you didn’t just go to high school from a certain time in the morning to the afternoon.”  

• Make it clean and organized.

There is no one right way to format a résumé unless specified by the schools you’re applying to. They should be easy to read. Include your contact information plus music-specific information and experience.

“Present your résumé in an organized way so it is easy to review what you have done and when,” says Jimenez. “The résumé is typically 1-2 pages in length and mostly focuses on accomplishments and activities during high school.”

“Clean résumés are best—for musicians, that involves what you’ve performed, competitions you’ve won, ensembles you’ve performed along with chair placement (if applicable),” says Grady.  

“Keep your activities limited to your high school achievements,” she adds “unless there’s something particularly outstanding (like a performance at Carnegie Hall) that took place before high school. Show that you play multiple instruments and for how long, who you’ve studied with, ensemble directors, etc.”

• Proofread.

Edit your résumé multiple times, and have a trusted friend, family member, or teacher look it over. “We never want to see typos, misspelled words, or grammatical errors,” says Jimenez.

Final thoughts

Crispin advises all students to start their application early. “We often hear from applicants that they were surprised how much time it took to fill out their applications, and you don’t want to be rushing and risking errors right before the deadline,” she says. This also includes reaching out to teachers for recommendations well before applications are due.

Just like no two music programs are the same, no two application processes are the same. Do the research on what exactly is needed for each program you’re applying to, and make a checklist with deadlines for each one.

Finally, utilize all the resources available online and in admission offices. “Our website should be your best friend throughout the process,” says Jimenez. “Your other best friends will be the people in the office of admission. Applicants are always encouraged to ask questions anytime! We want our applicants to be successful throughout the admission process and are here to help however we can.”

Caitlin Peterkin is a writer/editor and arts enthusiast currently based in Portland, OR. She has worked as program manager for Earshot Jazz (Seattle) and has written for BestNewBands.com , Chronicle of Higher Education , and Paste Magazine . She graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in Music.  

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80 Best Magazines & Websites That Publish Personal Essays

Author: Rafal Reyzer

Wouldn’t it be great to find a whole list of magazines that publish personal essays, and even pay you for the privilege?

Well, you’re in luck because you’ve just found a list of magazines that accept essay submissions around pop culture, personal finance, personal stories, and many other topics. If you’re passionate about crafting personal essays and your work typically falls within a range of 600 to 10,000 words, consider submitting your essays to the organizations listed below. They generally offer compensation of $50-$250 for each accepted essay. After this guide, you may also want to check my list of the best essays of all time .

Here are the top magazines and publications that publish thought-provoking essays:

1. the new york times – modern love.

“Modern Love” accepts essay submissions via email at [email protected] with the essay subject or potential title as the email subject line. Submissions should be original, true stories between 1,500 and 1,700 words, sent both as an attached Microsoft Word-compatible document and pasted into the body of the email. The team collaborates with writers on editing, and authors are compensated for published work. Submission info .

2. The New York Times – Opinion Essays

To submit an essay to this publication, fill out the provided submission form with the essay and a brief explanation of your professional or personal connection to its argument or idea. The essay should include sources for key assertions (either as hyperlinks or parenthetical citations). Although all submissions are reviewed, the publication may not be able to respond individually due to the high volume of entries. If there’s no response within three business days, authors are free to submit their work elsewhere. Submission info .

3. Dame Magazine

DAME is a women’s magazine that prioritizes accessible and intersectional journalism that dives into context rather than breaking news. Their stories are unexpected, emotional, straightforward, illuminating, and focused on people rather than policy. They aim to reveal new or surprising information, provoke action or empathy, simplify complex issues, introduce fresh ideas, and foreground the people most affected by discussed topics. Submission info .

4. The New Yorker

The New Yorker welcomes letters to the editor sent to [email protected] and includes your postal address and phone number. For fiction submissions, send your work as a PDF to [email protected] or mail it to their New York address. They review all submissions within ninety days and will only contact you if they decide to publish your work. Submission info .

5. The Atlantic

The Atlantic is keen on high-quality nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Familiarity with their past publications can guide your submission. All manuscripts should be submitted as a Word document or PDF. They only respond if they’re interested in discussing your submission further. Separate submission channels exist for fiction and poetry. Submission info .

6. The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail welcomes your original experiences, viewpoints, and unique perspectives for your daily first-person essay. A good essay should have an original voice, an unexpected view, humor, vivid details, and anecdotes that illuminate a wider theme. While a successful essay could be funny, surprising, touching, or enlightening, it should always be personal and truthful, rather than political or fictional. Submission info .

7. The Guardian

To contribute to this publication, you should identify the most relevant section and contact the commissioning editor with a brief outline of your idea. You may be invited to submit your work speculatively, meaning payment will only be provided if your contribution is published. It’s important to note that your contribution should be sent electronically and will be published under standard copyright terms with payment at normal rates unless agreed otherwise before publication. Submission info .

8. Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times is open to opinion articles on any subject, with most published pieces being about 750 words long. Submissions must be exclusive to them and not published elsewhere, including personal blogs or social media. Full drafts of articles are required for consideration and should include the author’s name, the topic, the full text, a short author biography, and contact information. Submission info .

9. The Sun Magazine

The Sun publishes personal essays, short stories, and poems from both established and emerging writers globally, particularly encouraging submissions from underrepresented perspectives. Their contributors’ work often garners recognition in prestigious anthologies and prizes. The Sun seeks personal essays that are deeply reflective, celebrating hard-won victories or exploring big mistakes, aiming to make newsworthy events feel intimate and wrestle with complex questions. Submission info .

Slate invites pitches that are fresh, and original, and propose strong arguments. They appreciate ideas that challenge conventional wisdom and encourage you to clearly articulate the insights your reporting can uncover. A concise pitch is preferred, even if a full draft is already written. You should include a short bio and any relevant published work. They advise waiting a week before pitching to other publications, and if an editor passes, refrain from sending it to another editor at Slate. Submission info .

VICE is primarily interested in mid-length original reports, reported essays, narrative features, and service journalism related to contemporary living and interpersonal relationships. They welcome stories informed by personal experiences and insight but advise writers to consider what makes their story unique, why they’re the right person to tell it, and why it should be on VICE. While all stories don’t need to be tied to current events, a timely element can distinguish a pitch. They also accept quick-turnaround blogs and longer features. Submission info .

12. Vox Culture

Vox Culture seeks to provide readers with context and analysis for understanding current entertainment trends. They are interested in pitches that answer significant questions about major movies, TV shows, music artists, internet culture, fame, and women’s issues in the entertainment business. Notably, they are not interested in personal essays or celebrity interviews. Past successful stories have ranged from exploring Disney’s move away from traditional villains to analyzing historical inaccuracies in popular shows. They accept story pitches ranging between 1,000 and 2,500 words. Submission info .

Aeon, a unique digital magazine since 2012, is known for publishing profound and provocative ideas addressing big questions. Their signature format is the Essay, a deep dive into a topic, usually between 2,500-5,000 words, approached from a unique angle and written with clarity to engage curious and intelligent general readers. Aeon’s contributors are primarily academic experts, but they also welcome those with significant professional or practical expertise in various fields. Submission info .

14. BuzzFeed Reader

This platform welcomes freelance pitches on cultural criticism, focusing on current or timeless topics in various categories like books, technology, sports, etc. Essays should offer a unique perspective on how these subjects reflect our society. The content must be relevant, advance ongoing dialogues, and add value to the existing discourse. Submission info .

15. The Boston Globe

Boston Globe Ideas welcomes a variety of content including op-eds, reported stories, book excerpts, first-person essays, and Q&A features. Submissions should be sent directly, not as pitches. Please include your submission in the body of the email, not as an attachment. Briefly explain why you’re uniquely qualified to write this piece. Ensure your submission hasn’t been published or under review elsewhere. Submissions page .

16. The Bold Italic

This platform is actively seeking submissions in the genre of personal narrative essays. These pieces can encompass a broad range of experiences from the hilariously light-hearted to deeply poignant, encapsulating the vibrant and diverse experiences of living in your community. Submission info .

Before pitching to a Medium Publication, thoroughly understand its unique style by reviewing published content and submission guidelines. This ensures your work aligns with their preferences. With numerous Medium Publications available, persist in your submissions until you find a fitting outlet. Submission info .

18. Refinery29

Refinery29 Australia is committed to empowering women and underrepresented groups, with a particular focus on Australian women and trans and gender-diverse individuals, primarily Gen-Z and millennials. We publish a diverse array of content, from timely personal essays to reports on race, reproductive rights, and pop culture, all with a distinctly local perspective. They aim to shed light on the world around us, and highly value pieces that capture the unique Australian experience, be it in subject matter or authorial voice. Submission info .

ELLE’s annual talent competition is back for, seeking out the next superstar in writing. The winner will have their 500-word piece, inspired by the hashtag #RelationshipGoals and focusing on a significant relationship in their life. Submission info .

20. Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan is looking for first-person features that cover all aspects of beauty. This can include writing personal essays or narratives about your struggles with adult acne, your journey to an all-natural beauty routine, or other unique beauty experiences. We are also open to opinion pieces about beauty trends or movements that resonate with you. Submission info .

Bustle encourages freelance pitches across different verticals such as Lifestyle, Books, News and politics, Fashion and beauty, and Entertainment. We value pitches that are brief yet comprehensive, including a sample headline, a 2-3 sentence description of the piece, your plan for photos, sources you have access to, your clips if you haven’t written for us before, and your standard rate. Make sure to understand what we’re looking for and convey your story idea clearly and professionally. Submission info .

22. The Walrus

The Walrus seeks short essays (up to 1,200 words) that are timely, focused, and sourced from Canada and globally. These can be reported narratives, memoirs, or mini-features on specific topics. Each essay should exhibit a distinct argument, a strong writing voice, and present an original and significant viewpoint. Writers new to The Walrus or those without long-form journalism experience are particularly encouraged to contribute to this section. Submission info .

23. Autostraddle

Autostraddle welcomes pitches, works in progress, and completed submissions. Any issues with the submission form should be emailed to Laneia Jones with the subject line “SUBMISSION ERROR”. Questions about the submission process can be directed to Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya with “SUBMISSION PROCESS” in the subject line. Please note that pitches or submissions sent via email will not be accepted. Submission info .

24. Narratively

Narratively focuses on original and untold human stories, welcoming pitches and completed submissions from diverse voices. They use Submittable for managing submissions. To better understand what they’re looking for in new writers, contributors can review their guidelines, and the best pitches they’ve received, and ask questions to their editors about how to pitch. Submission info .

25. Catapult

Catapult offers a regularly updated list of submission and freelancing opportunities. Some current options include Black Fox Literary Magazine, open for fiction submissions; Carina Press, seeking romance manuscripts; Elegant Literature, welcoming submissions for its contest; Inkspell Publishing, looking for romance manuscripts; Interlude Press, seeking original novels featuring diverse casts; and Intrepid Times, accepting stories about romance while traveling. Submission info .

26. Jezebel

At Jezebel, the high volume of daily emails (over 500), including tips and questions from readers, makes it impossible to respond to all of them, even though they are all read and appreciated. Their primary job involves posting 60+ items a day, and due to workload constraints, they may not always be able to reply to your email. Submission info .

27. Bitch Media

Bitch Media seeks pitches offering feminist analysis of culture, covering a wide array of topics including social trends, politics, science, health, life aspects, and popular culture phenomena. They publish critical essays, reported features, interviews, reviews, and analyses. First-person essays should balance personal perspectives with larger themes. Both finished work and query letters are welcome. However, due to the volume of submissions, they cannot guarantee a response or that every pitch will be read. Submission info .

28. Broadview

Broadview magazine prefers pitches from professional writers for unique, audience-focused stories. While unsolicited articles may be accepted, the initial idea pitch is recommended. Responses to each pitch are not guaranteed due to high submission volumes. Submission info .

29. Briarpatch Magazine

Briarpatch Magazine accepts pitches on a variety of political and social issues, valuing stories from diverse voices. They seek well-researched, fact-backed pieces aimed at a non-specialist, progressive audience. They recommend writers to first pitch their ideas, including contact info, estimated word count, recent publications, and a short writing sample. The magazine aims to respond within one to two weeks after the pitch deadline for each issue. Submission info .

30. Maisonneuve

Maisonneuve Magazine welcomes non-fiction writing submissions in various forms (reporting, essays, memoirs, humor, reviews) and visual art (illustration, photography, comics). They do not accept fiction, poetry, or previously published work. They prefer well-developed, well-researched pitches, but also accept polished drafts if the writer is open to edits. To understand what the magazine is looking for, it’s recommended to read some recent issues or check their website. Submission info .

31. Room Magazine

Room Magazine seeks original fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and art from individuals of marginalized genders, including women (cisgender and transgender), transgender men, Two-Spirit, and nonbinary people. Simultaneous submissions are welcome, and submissions can be made through Submittable. Submission info .

32. Hazlitt

Hazlitt is currently not accepting submissions but it might reopen soon. They seek original journalism, investigative features, international reporting, profiles, essays, and humor pieces, but they are not considering unsolicited fiction. Pitches with proposed word counts are preferred, and they have a section called “Hazlitt Firsts” for reviews of experiencing mundane things for the first time as adults. Submission info .

33. This Magazine

This Magazine seeks pitches for their annual Culture Issue with a DIY theme, open to various topics related to DIY spirit. They publish Canadian residents only and prefer queries over already completed essays or manuscripts. They look for unique stories with a social justice angle, and pitches should include reasons for telling the story, relevant sources, and potential takeaways for readers. Submission info .

34. Geist Magazine

Geist magazine seeks submissions with a literary focus, including short non-fiction for the Notes & Dispatches section (around 800-1200 words) with a sense of place, historical narrative, humor, and personal essays on art, music, and culture. They encourage submissions from diverse writers and will pay writers $300-500 for accepted pieces. Submission info .

35. Discover Magazine

Discover magazine seeks pitches from freelance writers for science-related stories that enlighten and excite readers, with a conversational tone and high reader interest. Pitch one idea per email, mentioning the newness of the science and specific studies and researchers to be cited. Include your science-writing credentials and best clips in the pitch and send them to [email protected]. Payment starts at $1/word for print and typically $300/story for web, with rights purchased for both. Submission info .

36. Eater Voices

Eater Voices accepts personal essays from chefs, restaurateurs, writers, and industry insiders about the food world. To pitch, email a brief explanation of the topic and why you are the right person to write about it to [email protected]. Submission info .

37. The Temper

The Temper is an online publication focused on sobriety, addiction, and recovery, challenging drinking culture. They seek diverse and intersectional stories written through the lens of addiction, covering various topics like sex, food, relationships, and more. Submissions are currently closed, but they are especially interested in amplifying voices from marginalized and underrepresented groups. Submission info .

38. Chatelaine

Chatelaine is a prominent Canadian women’s magazine covering health, current events, food, social issues, decor, fashion, and beauty. To pitch, read the magazine first, and submit a one-page query letter explaining the idea’s fit for the magazine, section, and format. They prefer email submissions with at least two previously published writing samples, and response time may take six to eight weeks. Submission info .

39. Conde Nast Traveler

Condé Nast Traveler seeks pitches for reported and personal travel stories with inclusive coverage, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled communities. Focus on stories and angles rather than destinations, check for previous coverage, and offer a fresh perspective. If pitching a personality, indicate exclusivity and access. Consider your expertise in telling stories, especially about marginalized communities, and disclose any sponsorships. Keep pitches brief, including a suggested headline, angle, sources, and why it’s timely. Responsible travel stories are prioritized during the pandemic. Submission info .

40. Boston Globe Ideas

Globe Ideas is dedicating an entire issue to young people’s voices and stories. Teens are invited to share their aspirations, concerns, and experiences about mental health, school, social media, and more, up to 700 words or through short notes, videos, or illustrations. This is a chance for teens to set the record straight and tell the world what matters most to them. Submission info .

41. Babbel Magazine

Babel welcomes submissions from all linguists, focusing on accessible and stimulating articles about language. Writers can submit feature articles or propose ideas for regular features, and guidelines for contributions are available for download. For those with ideas but not interested in writing, they can also suggest topics for articles through email. Submission info .

42. HuffPost Personal

HuffPost seeks to amplify voices from underrepresented communities, including BIPOC, LGBTQ, and people with disabilities. They accept freelance pitches on a wide range of topics, providing clear guidelines for submissions. They also encourage visual creatives to submit their work, and all published contributors are paid for their work. Please note that due to the volume of submissions, individual responses may not be possible. Submission info .

43. Adelaide Literary Magazine

Adelaide magazine accepts submissions in various categories, including fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, translations, book reviews, interviews, and art/photography. Fiction and nonfiction submissions have a size limit of 5,000 words, while book reviews have a limit of 2,000 words. They do not accept previously published work or simultaneous submissions. Artists retain all rights to their work, and upon publication, rights revert to the author/artist. Submission info .

44. bioStories

BioStories welcomes nonfiction prose submissions of 500 to 7500 words, with the typical piece being around 2500 words. Submit via email to [email protected], pasting the submission in the email body with the subject line “biostories submission” and your last name. Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but immediate notification is required if accepted elsewhere. Multiple submissions are allowed at a one-month interval, and the work must be previously unpublished in print and online. Noncompliant submissions will not receive a response. Submission info .

45. Quarter After Eight

Quarter After Eight welcomes innovative writing submissions in any genre from both new and established writers. To withdraw work, use the “withdraw” option on Submittable for the entire submission or the “note” function to specify which pieces to withdraw; do not email about withdrawals. Submission info .

46. The Rappahannock Review

The Rappahannock Review accepts original and innovative writing in various genres, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and audio pieces. They encourage experimentation and creativity, seeking enthralling voices and compelling narratives. Additionally, the magazine showcases a variety of visual artists and welcomes submissions for consideration in each new issue. Submission info .

Allure is seeking writers to contribute pieces that explore beauty, style, self-expression, and liberation. They are looking for writers with relevant credentials and experience in the field, and they offer compensation of $350 for reported stories and $300 for personal essays. Submission info .

48. MLA Style Center

The Modern Language Association is inviting students to submit research papers written in MLA style for consideration in their online collection “Writing with MLA Style.” Essays should be 2,000 to 3,000 words in length and must be written in English. Works-cited-list entries do not count toward the word limit. Submission info .

49. Marie Claire

Marie Claire magazine is dedicated to highlighting the diversity and depth of women’s experiences. They offer award-winning features, essays, and op-eds, as well as coverage of sustainable fashion, celebrity news, fashion trends, and beauty recommendations. Submission info .

SELF magazine is actively seeking new writers, particularly from marginalized communities, to contribute to their health and wellness content. They are interested in pitches that offer helpful insights on topics related to health, fitness, food, beauty, love, and lifestyle. The focus should be on improving personal or public health clearly and straightforwardly. Submission info .

51. Her Story

HerStry is a platform that focuses on the experiences of women-identifying persons, including cisgender women, transgender women, non-binary persons, and more. They accept personal essays that are true stories about the author, with a length between 500 to 3,000 words. They pay $10 for each published personal essay here, but there is a $3 submission fee (with limited free submission periods). Stories are read blind, and explicit or offensive content is not accepted. Submission info .

52. Griffith Review

Griffith Review accepts submissions based on specific themes for each edition. They welcome new and creative ideas, allowing writers to express their voices in essays, creative and narrative nonfiction-fiction, and analytical pieces. Submissions should generally range from 2,000 to 5,000 words, with up to four poems allowed on theme. Submission info .

53. Literary Review of Canada

The Literary Review of Canada welcomes prospective writers, photographers, and illustrators to submit specific review proposals, essay pitches, or general queries. They prefer to receive unsolicited review topics and essay ideas rather than completed work and do not accept simultaneous submissions. Submission info .

54. Harper’s Magazine

For Harper’s Magazine, nonfiction writers should send queries accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Ideas for the Readings section can be sent to [email protected], but individual acknowledgment is not guaranteed due to volume. All submissions and queries must be sent by mail to their New York address. Submission info .

55. Virginia Quarterly Review

VQR only considers unpublished work, submitted online via Submittable. One prose piece and four poems are allowed per reading period, but multiple submissions in the same genre will be declined unread. Simultaneous submissions are permitted, but if accepted elsewhere, notify them immediately via Submittable. Submission info .

56. The New England Review

New England Review is open for submissions in all genres during specific periods. They accept fiction, poetry, nonfiction, dramatic writing, and translations. The magazine only considers previously unpublished work, and simultaneous submissions are allowed. They welcome submissions from writers of all backgrounds and encourage diverse perspectives. Submission info .

57. One Story

One Story seeks literary fiction between 3,000 and 8,000 words, any style, and subject. They pay $500 and provide 25 contributor copies for First Serial North American rights. Only unpublished material is accepted, except for stories published in print outside North America. Simultaneous submissions allowed; prompt withdrawals upon acceptance elsewhere. Accepts DOC, DOCX, PDF, and RTF files via Submittable. No comments on individual stories. No revisions of previously rejected work. Translations are accepted with proper attribution. No emailed or paper submissions, except for incarcerated individuals. Submission info .

58. The Threepenny Review

The Threepenny Review accepts submissions for fiction, poetry, travel essays, and Table Talk pieces. They pay $400 per story/article and $200 per poem, granting first serial rights and copyright reversion to the author. Mailed manuscripts require a self-addressed stamped envelope, while online submissions should be in Word format with a single document for prose or poetry. Submission info .

59. Zoetrope: All-Story

Zoetrope: All-Story is currently not accepting general submissions. They will announce when submissions reopen and update the guidelines accordingly. Submission info .

60. American Short Fiction

American Short Fiction accepts regular submissions of short fiction from September to December. The magazine publishes both established and new authors , and submissions must be original and previously unpublished. Manuscripts should be typed, double-spaced, and accompanied by the author’s contact information. Simultaneous submissions are allowed, but authors must withdraw their work if accepted elsewhere. Payment is competitive and upon publication, with all rights reverting to the author. American Short Fiction does not accept poetry, plays, nonfiction, or reviews. Submission info .

61. The Southern Review

The Southern Review accepts work during its submission period. They only consider unpublished pieces in English and accept simultaneous submissions. If your work is accepted elsewhere, promptly notify them via email with the subject line “withdrawal.” Do not submit work via email, as it will be discarded. They do not consider submissions from anyone currently or recently affiliated with Louisiana State University within the past four years. It is recommended to familiarize yourself with the journal’s aesthetic by subscribing before submitting your work. Submission info .

62. Boulevard Magazine

Boulevard seeks to publish exceptional fiction, poetry, and non-fiction from both experienced and emerging writers. They accept works of up to 8,000 words for prose and up to five poems of up to 200 lines. They do not consider genres like science fiction, erotica, horror, romance, or children’s stories. Payment for prose ranges from $100 to $300, while payment for poetry ranges from $50 to $250. Natural Bridge Online publication offers a flat rate of $50. Submission info .

63. The Cincinnati Review

The Cincinnati Review accepts submissions for its print journal during specific periods: September, December, and May. miCRo submissions are open almost year-round, except during the Robert and Adele Schiff Awards and backlogs. They welcome submissions from writers at any stage, except current/former University of Cincinnati affiliates. Simultaneous submissions are allowed, and response time is around six months. Payment is $25/page for prose, $30/page for poetry in print, and $25 for miCRo posts/features. Submission info .

64. The Antioch Review

The Antioch Review seeks nonfiction essays that appeal to educated citizens, covering various social science and humanities topics of current importance. They aim for interpretive essays that draw on scholarly materials and revive literary journalism. The best way to understand their preferences is to read previous issues and get a sense of their treatment, lengths, and subjects used in the publication. Submission info .

AGNI’s online Submission Manager is open from September 1st to midnight December 15th, and again from February 15th to midnight May 31st. Manuscripts can also be submitted by mail between September 1st and May 31st. AGNI considers prose in various genres, including personal essays, short stories, prose poems, and more. They do not publish academic essays or genre romance, horror, mystery, or science fiction. Simultaneous submissions are welcome, and sending through the online portal incurs a $3 fee, but regular mail submissions can be made to avoid the fee. Submission info .

66. Barrelhouse

Barrelhouse accepts unsolicited submissions for book reviews through their Submittable online submissions manager. They pay $50 to each contributor and accept simultaneous submissions. There is no maximum length, but most published pieces are shorter than 8,000 words. They only accept Word or rich-text (.rtf) files and prefer poetry to be submitted as a single document. Submissions for their print and online issues are currently closed, but book reviews are open. Response time is approximately six months. Submission info .

67. Tin House Online

Tin House is a good company that offers a two-day submission period three times a year for writers without a current agent and no previous book publication (chapbooks accepted). They accept fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry, both in English and in translation (with formal permission). Completed drafts are required. They are particularly interested in engaging with writers from historically underrepresented communities. Submission info .

68. One Teen Story

One Teen Story publishes 3 stories annually and welcomes submissions from teen writers aged 13-19. They seek original, unpublished fiction across genres, focusing on the teen experience. Great short stories with compelling teen characters, strong writing, and a well-structured narrative are encouraged for submission to their contest. Submission info .

69. Bennington Review

Bennington Review accepts unsolicited submissions through Submittable during their reading periods in fall, winter, and spring. They seek innovative and impactful fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, film writing, and cross-genre work. Response times vary, but they aim to respond within five to eight months. Accepted contributors will receive payment ranging from $25 per poem to $250 for prose over six typeset pages, along with two copies of the published issue and a copy of the subsequent issue. Submission info .

70. Epoch Literary

Epoch Literary accepts poetry submissions of up to five poems, short fiction or essay submissions as a single piece or a suite of smaller pieces, and visual art and comics for the cover. They do not publish literary criticism or writing for children and young adults. Electronic submissions are open in August and January, with a $3 fee, part of which supports the Cornell Prison Education Program. Submission info .

71. The Gettysburg Review

The Gettysburg Review accepts poetry, fiction, essays, and essay reviews from September 1 to May 31, with a focus on quality writing. Full-color graphics submissions are accepted year-round. It’s recommended to read previous issues before submitting, and sample copies are available for purchase. The journal stays open during the summer for mailed submissions or those using Submittable and purchasing a subscription or the current issue. Submission info .

72. Alaska Quarterly Review

The publication accepts submissions of fiction, poetry, drama, literary nonfiction, and photo essays in traditional and experimental styles. Fiction can be short stories, novellas, or novel excerpts up to 70 pages, and poetry submissions can include up to 6 poems. They aim to respond within 4 to 12 weeks, but authors can inquire about their manuscript status after 4 weeks if needed. Submission info .

73. Colorado Review

Colorado Review only accepts submissions through its Submittable portal and no longer accepts paper submissions. They encourage writers to be familiar with their publication before submitting and provide sample copies and examples of recently published work on their website. They look for engaging stories with original characters, crisp language , and a provocative central problem or issue. Submission info .

74. The Georgia Review

The Georgia Review accepts submissions both online and by post, but not via email. Submissions are free for current subscribers. They do not consider unsolicited manuscripts between May 15 and August 15 and aim to respond within eight months. Previously published work will not be considered, and simultaneous submissions are allowed if noted in the cover letter. They offer different prizes for poetry and prose and accept submissions in fiction, poetry, essays, and book reviews. Submission info .

75. New Letters

New Letters accepts submissions year-round through Submittable, with a small fee waived for current subscribers. They welcome up to six poems, one chapbook, one piece of nonfiction, one short story (graphic or traditional), or one novella per submission. Simultaneous submissions are allowed if notified, and response time is approximately six months. They publish short stories up to 5,000 words, novellas up to 30,000 words, graphic short stories up to ten pages in color or black and white, and chapbooks up to 30 pages. Submission info .

76. Shenandoah

Submissions for comics will reopen soon. The Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets will be open for a limited time. Poetry submissions are considered in November and spring. Prose submissions will open soon. Short stories, creative nonfiction, and flash fiction are welcome. Editor Beth Staples looks for writing that challenges and offers diverse perspectives. Submission info .

77. TriQuarterly

TriQuarterly, the literary journal of Northwestern University, welcomes submissions in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, video essays, short drama, and hybrid work from both established and emerging writers. They are especially interested in work that engages with global cultural and societal conversations. Submissions are accepted through Submittable, and they charge a small reading fee. Submission windows vary by genre. Submission info .

78. E-International Relations

E-International Relations invites current and former undergraduate and Master’s students to submit their highest-graded essays and dissertations for publication. They seek work that is of academic utility to other students and demonstrates engagement with the subject, using pertinent case studies/examples and engaging with complex literature and ideas. Submissions must meet specific entry criteria, including word count, language standards, and full bibliographic references. Submission info .

79. Longreads

Longreads publishes the best long-form nonfiction storytelling and accepts pitches for original work. They pay competitive rates and prefer pitches via email to [email protected]. Fiction is not accepted, and submissions using generative AI tools will be rejected. You can also nominate published stories by tweeting with the #longreads hashtag. Submission info .

80. Education Week

EdWeek welcomes submissions from various perspectives within the K-12 education community, including teachers, students, administrators, policymakers, and parents. Submissions should be concise, relevant to a national audience, and have a clear point of view backed by factual evidence. We value solution-oriented and practical pieces that offer best practices, policy recommendations, personal reflections and calls to action. Essays longer than 1,000 words or shorter than 600 words will not be considered. Please submit in Word format via email. Submission info .

If you want to get your essays published in a print magazine or an online publication, it’s time to approach the appropriate section editor or send your work via a submissions page. Even in a world where so much content is produced by AI, publications are still interested in receiving great writing written in a conversational tone. Just make sure to follow the guidelines (especially those around word count) and show off your flamboyant writing style in a prestigious online magazine. Next up, you might want to check a list of the top sites that will pay you to write,  or my extensive list of publishing companies .

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An interior view of the Crocus City Hall concert venue after a shooting attack and fire, outside Moscow

As a Captive, I Learned that Violence Is What Terrorists Use for Music

I was held prisoner in Syria for two years by a group that included both Al Qaeda and ISIS, though one of the things I learned in my captivity was that there's no real difference between them. Another thing I learned was the purpose of the violence the jihad inflicts on those who live within it. You’re supposed to withdraw yourself from earthly time right now. You’re supposed to live every moment of your life as if the ancient dream—the caliphate, the invulnerability, God’s ongoing, bloody revenge against the infidels—is coming true this instant. Will you sit idly by? If you have the courage and the physical capacity, you are meant to act.

In my view, the outside world must learn what this dream looks like and sounds like. Though the dreamers are all around us, their dreams are as uninterpretable as hieroglyphs. We glimpse them only after it’s too late —on the day after October 7 th , for instance, and now, as we wonder over the lifepaths of the Moscow attackers .

In the early days of the Syrian civil war, when ISIS and al Qaeda still belonged to one big quarrelsome family , there were times when several squads of investigators, to borrow the Syrian euphemism for torturers, would interrogate multiple prisoners in a single room. The din on these occasions was much too overwhelming for anything like an inquiry to occur. I know about everyday practices in those interrogation rooms because in October of 2012, the Syrian al Qaeda faction accused me of spying for the CIA, then locked me into a cell in the basement of what had once been, before the war, the Aleppo eye hospital. In fact, my purpose in coming to Syria had been to write essays about the war’s music, photographers, and artists—and thus to make myself into this conflict’s go-to cultural correspondent. But no matter how I pleaded—and I was desperate for my life—I couldn’t make a single member of this sprawling terrorist family believe a word I said.

One night, after a squad of fighters had inflicted one of their investigations on me, I found myself lying face down at the feet of the hospital’s chief investigator. It was some time in early winter of 2013. I wore a bloody pair of hospital pants. The cement floor was the temperature of a sidewalk, back home, in winter.  My hands were cuffed behind my back. Perhaps I had lost consciousness at some point during the proceedings? I’m not sure. Anyway, I remember that it occurred to me, quite suddenly, that a second victim was being interrogated only feet from me. Evidently, this person was hanging by his wrists from a pipe beneath the ceiling. It occurred to me that this person’s feet were bicycling through the air, and that instead of engaging his interrogators, who were shouting at him at the tops of their lungs, he screamed upward, into the ceiling. There is no God but Go, he called out, over and over. I remember that the power in this person’s voice struck me as unnatural.  He seemed to scream as if all that remained to him on earth was his voice, as if it were a rope by which he meant to lash himself to the world of the living. 

In the midst of this cacophony, the chief investigator knelt down, then pushed his face into mine. He grinned. “Do you hear what that man is saying?” he shouted to me in his idiotic way. “Do you know these words?”  Of course, I did know them. They were inscribed on every black flag. They were in the air, over and over, at every prayer. How could I not?

“Good,” said the interrogator, screaming at me though his face was practically touching mine. “This noise you are hearing. This is our music.”

Read More: Islamist Terrorism Is Not Done With Us, Warns Former al Qaeda Hostage Theo Padnos

Over the following days lying alone on the floor of my cell, I contemplated this remark. Having known the interrogator for about three months by this point, I felt I had a handle on his character. He was an impish, boastful brute. Also, a bit of a showman. He loved to swish about the interrogation room in his black velvet cape, to speechify, and to promise me that one day, when the spirit moved him, as it surely would, he himself would kill me. For him, the interrogations were quite obviously performances. He often invited little crowds of fellow fighters to observe from the shadows. Now he ordered his squad of underlings to inflict pain, now he ordered them to hold off. Often, he shrieked at them. All of these underlings were Aleppo teenagers. Every once in a while, he commanded, by means of a glance, a teenager to stir his beloved maté tea.

In those days, before I had any inkling of how a terrorist organization functions, I assumed that because this man only presided over a ring of teenagers, and because I remained alive despite his threats, he was a mere flunky in the al Qaeda hierarchy.  

Over time, however, I came to understand what real power in the jihad is. It is derived from the obvious sources, to be sure—cold bloodedness, access to ready cash, fluent command of the sacred literature. But it also comes from the ability to entrance audiences. The natural born leaders conjure fantasies to life in an instant, then hold people and places under their spell indefinitely. This particular commander , who called himself Kawa, after a mythical Kurdish warrior, was poor. He rode around on a humble Chinese motorcycle, as no actual authority in the jihad would do. Yet he certainly had a knack for summoning an Islamic fantasy to life—for him it was a caliphate—with a few softly uttered phrases. Over the minds of the many teenagers who hung around in the eye hospital basement, he certainly exercised sovereign control.

Down there, over time, I learned that music really does help the fantasy come to life. 

Allegedly, Muslims of the kind who make jihads despise music. It is thought to derange the senses and to distance the listener from God. But the Koran is music. The call to prayer is music, and praying itself is a musical experience since it involves collective recitation of an explicitly musical text, and then, at the end, when the imam conveys the community’s wishes to God, a few minutes of call and response and, well, singing. Of course, in a jihad, there are also hymns. They play in the background in every conveyance, office, and corridor. In the evenings in the eye hospital basement, the fighters often gathered in the prayer room to sing the al Qaeda hymns in full throated unison. Sample lyric: “bin Laden is our leader/ we destroyed the trade towers, with civil airplanes we did it/ reduced them to dust.”

I have no doubt if he is still alive, as I hope he is not, Kawa would say of the film the ISIS fighters made of their Crocus City Hall attack just what he said of his own violence: this is our music . How happy the fighters are, he would say, what unity of purpose they exhibit, and how boldly they make the ancient dream live. There is no difference between the dream the Moscow attackers inflicted on the Crocus City Hall and the one with which Kawa bludgeoned his hospital prisoners, almost all of whom were Syrian Muslims, by the way. The dream is of invulnerability before the enemies of Islam, of simple families living in harmony with the Koran, while every day, in some far flung corner of the globe, the soldiers of the caliphate bring another one of the infidel’s capitals to its knees.

In the Syrian jihad, the authorities made this dream live through singing, prayer, and hour after hour of recitation, as one would expect. Mostly, however, they made it live through violence. When the walls of an interrogation room rang with screams, or when a roomful of young men were watching some atrocity occur on a video screen, and, now and then, when twenty-five young men ran out into the hospital parking lot to fire their Kalashnikovs at the stars, the emotion of the occasion went straight to everyone’s brain stems. I knew roughly what was happening then because it was happening to me, too. 

When violence of this order is on every screen, lies behind every door, and hides, just beneath the surface, in the eyes of everyone you meet, you stop being yourself. That person dies. Under such circumstances, in my opinion, you’re grateful for the life you have, but because you expect to leave it soon, you do everything you can to relinquish your attachments to the here and now. You say goodbye. Over time, your thoughts are bound to turn to the future. I don’t see how they could not. Perhaps, you hope, life, of some kind, will somehow continue. Perhaps you will be surrounded by love at last? So the hymns tell you. The jihad is a loveless place, I’m sorry to say. Everyone dreams of being in love. So maybe it will come? Who can say that it will not? Certainly, new life—and with it, new power—will come to some. So the hymns say.

For whatever it’s worth, in Syria, I found that many of the younger terrorists I came to know were adept at slipping into the dream when they were inside the hospital, and adept at slipping out of it, in the evenings, when they went home to mom and dad. Outside, in the streets, as these young men often told me themselves, they looked and spoke like everyone else. Inside, they were  like zombies. They talked, automatically, of their longing for glorious death. Even when they were by themselves, they sang the hymns they were meant to sing. When the order came to torture, they threw themselves at their “work,” to borrow their word. Afterwards, I’m pretty sure, they had only the vaguest notion of why they did what they had done. 

The jihad needn’t be as impenetrable as all that. In fact, summonses to the dreams are audible in a thousand war hymns to be heard right now on YouTube. They’re visible in the many videos people who sympathize with the jihad produce. Often these videos seem innocuous enough because they consist mostly of a cappella singing and shots of young men thumbing through the Koran in a forest. To believers across the world, however, and to those who would like to believe, they give direct documentary evidence: the dream is real, the videos say. To make it live in London or Paris or wherever you happen to be, all you really have to do is to believe.

The organizers of the Paris Olympics are surely aware that as ISIS was planning out its 2015 attack on a Paris concert venue , it was also preparing to blow up the spectators at a soccer game in the Stade de France, just north of Paris. Is the outside world aware that the leaders of the international jihad feel about sporting events in the west roughly as they feel about rock concerts? These are soporifics, they believe, with which we drug ourselves by the millions. Meanwhile, every hour, somewhere on earth, our airplanes slaughter Muslim families. Are the authorities in Paris aware that their counterparts in the jihad mean to wake us from our stupor?

The news itself is a problem. When the violence in Gaza is spliced up, set to music, then sent out over the social networks, this material is powerful enough to do to a certain class of vulnerable young men—roughly what screaming in an underground room in Aleppo does. It entrances. It horrifies. It reveals the enemy for who he really is. It has a way of bringing all those who feel they’ll never have much hope into a dangerous kind of alignment. Are the Paris authorities aware of this? I hope so. The Olympic opening ceremony is set to occur along the banks of the Seine on what will surely be a balmy but tense Friday night this coming July.

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