All terms

What is a ballad?

A ballad is a narrative poem that tells a story.

Writing Ballads: It's Story Time!

A ballad is a form of narrative poetry that tells a story through distinctive features such as rhyme, meter, and repetition. Traditionally, ballads were often sung as a means of storytelling, with musicians accompanying the lyrics on instruments such as the guitar or banjo. Today, while the ballad form has evolved to include contemporary topics and styles, its defining characteristic -- the ability to transport listeners to another time or place with its vivid storytelling -- remains unchanged.

Ballads often focus on a central quest, adventure, or tragic love story, featuring characters who possess strong emotions and desires. Because of the constraints of its form, ballads often rely on certain conventions to establish a quick pace and strong rhythm, such as the use of four-line stanzas with specific rhyme schemes.

Whether you're writing a ballad for a class assignment or simply for your own pleasure, remember that the story should come first and the form should follow. Take the time to craft a compelling, emotionally resonant narrative, then have fun experimenting with different rhyme schemes, repetition patterns, and meter to bring your story to life.

Ballad: A Tale in Verse

If you’re looking for evidence of the enduring appeal of ballads, you need only look to literature, where countless poets and songwriters have employed the form to create stories of anguish, triumph, and all the moments in between.

'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Considered one of the greatest examples of the ballad form, Coleridge's 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' tells the story of a sailor who shoots an albatross and is then forced to endure a series of supernatural trials as a result.

'Annabel Lee' by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe's haunting ballad 'Annabel Lee' tells the story of a young woman who dies too soon and becomes the victim of a jealous rival's envy.