What Is An Outro?

Man singing on stage

This post helps you get your song started, but that’s only the beginning. My free ebook will take you step-by-step through the rest of the songwriting process–the same process I’ve used to write my Grammy Award winning hits.

The ending of a song can be the most memorable part.

It’s the chance for a final word, an epic climax, or a beautiful, quiet goodbye.

It’s the chance to make a lasting impression.

But writing an outro is easier said than done.

As many musicians (me included) will attest, you can go into a song with an idea in your mind and then the final product comes out completely different.

Now, for many (me included), discovering the song through the process is the fun of songwriting.

However, it can make the whole songwriting process a bit frustrating, especially when it comes to outros.

After all, a good ending can often make a movie or book. Why shouldn’t it be the same with songs?

Well, while there’s no guaranteed way to make a song outro iconic, there are some tried and true ways I’ve found to make a strong outro if you’re banging your head against the wall.


What Is A Song Outro?

The outro of a song can be a difficult thing to define, simply because there are so many different ways to go about ending a song.

However, to keep things simple, the exact definition of an outro would be just that: the way in which a song ends.

While that might wrap up our topic in a neat little bow, as we’ll see, going about the process of crafting an outro is often more difficult than imagined.

Before we get into what an outro should ideally be doing for a song, it might be helpful to have a few examples in your head of popular outros.

“Hey Jude” by The Beatles

One popular example of an outro done well (and one of my personal favorites) is the ending of “Hey Jude” by The Beatles.

While the “na na na’s” are a simple, repeating section of the song that helps to close out the song musically, it’s also an interesting outro because of how much of the song it occupies.

Not to mention, it’s the part of the song that’s easiest to pick up and sing along with even though it isn’t repeated anywhere else in the song.

If The Beatles can have a long outro, so can you! 

It might be useful to realize you have a lot more liberty creatively speaking in how you end your song than just strumming the last chord and calling it good.

“California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & The Papas

This is an excellent example of an outro taking a preexisting section of the song and building on it.

In contrast to “Hey Jude,” “California Dreamin’” extends its refrain for an additional two lines for the song’s outro. This gives the listener a chance to digest that phrase itself a bit more before the song ends.

It’s effective and it gives the song some more power, ending on a strong note as opposed to fading out.


The Role Of The Outro In A Song

Okay, so we know what an outro is, and we’ve seen how outros can be used effectively in pop music, but what is an outro really supposed to do?

Well, it certainly depends on what message you’re trying to communicate with your song; but, ideally, an outro is present to be the final driving point of your song.

An outro can reinforce the existing message of your chorus, or it can serve as a twist to give the audience a moment to pause and reflect on what you just sang about.

Now, there’s also no need to get overly creative with your outro.

Yes, there are many songs out there that use the outro as the climactic point of their song, but that doesn’t mean you need to.

As we talked about earlier, an outro is just the way your song ends.

So, if you want your song to slowly fade out while you repeat the chorus or verse of your song, or if you want to suddenly stop on the last chord of the song, those are still great ways to end your song.

However, it’s helpful to take a look at your outro (whether it’s your chorus or it’s a new section that ushers out the tune) and think about your message.

What’s the last thing you say in your song? Is it the last thing you want to say?

How do you want your audience to feel at the end of the song? 


Pumped up?

The outro of a song can define its impact.

Keeping these things in mind can be helpful when you’re in the beginning phases of constructing your next piece.

Man playing acoustic guitar

How To Create An Effective Outro

Crafting an effective outro often depends on a few different factors, but really it boils down to your personal preferences as an artist.

Truth be told, an effective outro is hard to quantify, but you can generally create an outro that speaks to your audience well if you consciously put effort into your song’s ending.

Most often, a song’s ending will fall flat if you phone it in. Simply fading a song out or ending with the last piano note because it’s easy won’t do it.

Chances are, if you took the easiest way out, your audience will be able to tell.

Now, once again, fade-outs or the last chord or note being played as the outro isn’t necessarily bad, but it needs to feel natural.

If the song leaves you wanting more, then it can be helpful to rethink your outro.

So, to go back to what we talked about earlier, what are you trying to say in your outro?

It’s the most important question when it comes to writing your song.

What are you trying to communicate lyrically? How would you like the song to feel musically?

The examples I listed above both had moments that created excellent outros because of their emphasis on lyrical content and a musical climax.

What is the most important part you want to emphasize? Do you want to end on the refrain or the chorus?

Or do you want the outro to be a repeat of your intro, bringing the song back to where you started?

Fadeouts can seem like a lazy ending, but they’re a chance to leave your song feeling open-ended.

And in contrast, one last note can feel like a satisfying final crescendo.

If you’re struggling to come up with an outro that feels right, start looking at that last section of your song as the pinnacle of your piece.

Just like the end of a book or movie, the ending of the song is the payoff. Whether it’s good or not depends on how well it fits with the rest and how well it communicates your message.

After all, a good payoff requires a good build-up.

A song is made up of many pieces, the outro just being one section.

If you need help with a full overview of the many different parts of a song, check out my article on the subject!

It can be helpful to know all the different moving parts that make up a tune when working on your next piece of music.