Write and Perform a Punk Song

flickr photo shared by Thomas Hawk under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license


You might associate punk music with loud guitars and pointy haircuts, but this is only one aspect since punk's first appearance long time ago. At that point in time, these were musical features that set this new genre apart from the mainstream industry that had a disproportionate focus on smooth looks and sounds (think The Beatles etc). It was not even that punks detested this superficiality, it was mostly the hypocrisy and glorification of ‘genius’ pop stars that they protested against. Even Punk cannot escape the claws of hypocrisy always - however when it stays true to its original inspiration, it is always: 1) simple, clear and honest 2) energetic 3) for everybody by everybody.

Punk's attempt at cutting through cultural dogma can be seen as very rough-edged, it can often be perceived to use insults and lyrical aggression to convey its message. However, it does not do this just for the sake of it. The playing field of cultural oppression that it has been trying to break down and level is so severe that this is seen to be the only way to create the initial shock needed, so as to have any chance at succeeding.

In this sense, Punk is more of an attitude than a music genre. This is important to remember. As time has passed, many people have tried to encapsulate and use many of the musical features described above, both in the mainstream and other ‘sub-cultures’ (to varying degrees of success). Sometimes it has even been used by those that Punk stands against, being turned into perverted hybrids. Have you ever heard of racist-punk? What an oxymoron, you’d think - using punk, which initially fought against cultural dogma, as a way to fight for cultural dogma! Because of this, some have claimed that punk is dead. This is not true!

So to grasp what punk really is, and what it can get across, we will write and perform a punk song. The good news is that you do not have to be musically talented or be able to write great lyrics. Hell, you do not have to perceive yourself as being musically talented at all! You do not have to play the music you create. But you have to DO it!

Activity Type

Individual or group of 3 maximum / Experiential


1 hour to write. All should perform, length depending on how many there are in the overall group, but a good punk song lasts no more than 3 minutes.

Learning Outcomes

  • To understand how low the threshold of artistic expression actually is and overstep it

  • To become empowered on stage

  • To understand how artistic expression can create a response from the audience and society


Required Materials and Tools:

  • Pen and paper, but only one sheet of A4 paper, you’re not going to write a novel.

  • Musical instruments, in any state. Do not fix them, they are fine as they sound. Or no instruments at all.


Punk rock bands can consist of any number and any kind of (non)musicians, but for the classical punk rock sense here follows a description how to build your own acoustic power trio, cheap and quick.

  • Get a hold of a guitar. This should be easy. Every uncle has one dusting away in the attic. Or loot a flea market. Six strings is nice, but you really only need three.

  • Get a bucket, a stick, a rope and an empty toilet roll to build your bass.

  • Then you need a drum kit. Unfortunately these can be very expensive, even if you buy them second-hand. Unless you find one you can borrow, it is suggested you only buy the sticks, which are much cheaper, you can catch them for free at the end of concerts! Then collect anything that makes a sound when you hit it (please no younger siblings), a saucepan, bucket etc. Put in the effort to find something and don’t just resort to using a computer generated Drum-Machine, this defeats the point of what you are trying to do!

  • Start writing! The song should be so that it just drags you along in its energy. If it does not, rewrite it.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Write your lyrics. Punk lyrics usually flow from an anecdote, this is the verse, to some kind of creed, the chorus. This creed should sound like an anthem for either a frustration or some crazy glorious thing you would like to do to that would make your neighbourhood a better place to live. Or they’re just plain nonsense. Write one chorus and two verses. Keep it short and simple. Rhyme makes it easier to remember, but screw that if you know something better. Use as many alternative spellings as you can think of.

  2. Decide if you want music at all. You can just take to the stage and be your own band, a punk poet. Perhaps it sounds like hip hop, who cares? The Beastie boys might sue you, whooo.


  1. Make your power chord scheme. Use power chords, not to lose time on that major/minor bullshit. Not more than 4 chords, preferably 3. You can change their order between verse and chorus, but you can also just play louder in the chorus. Also, if you’re more than one, try to sing the chorus… in chorus.

  2. Compose a melody for your lyrics… no, skip that one! Just make it up as you go along.


  1. Think of a band name. Also when you’re alone.

  2. Get on stage, say who you are and which song you are performing, then start. Nothing will work out as you planned, but make sure the audience hears you anyway.

  3. After the second chorus, play a solo including only two different notes. Sing the chorus again. End the freaking song.

  4. Get off the stage before the applause ends.


Bands (selection)


  • Did it take a lot of time to write the song?

  • Were you pleased with the song when it was finished?

  • What was the cause you chose or the message you were trying to get across?

  • How did it feel to be on stage?

  • Were you pleased with the song after you performed it?

  • How often does the youth engage in public cultural expressions? If little, is there a way of improving this?

Instructions for Submission

Submit the written lyrics of your song. Optional: upload an audio recording of the song to YouTube (or some other video-sharing website and submit the link in Moodle. Instructions on how to upload photos and how to submit things in Moodle can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading

Instructions for Assessment

Provide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback

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