Panic! At the Disco - I Write Sins Not Tragedies

"I Write Sins Not Tragedies" is a song from the Panic! at the Disco debut album "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out," released in 2005.


Story behind the song

The title of the song refers to Douglas Coupland's novel "Shampoo Planet." Its main character, Tyler Johnson, says: "I am writing a list of tragic character flaws on my dollar bills with a felt pen. I am thinking of the people in my universe and distilling for each of these people the one flaw in their character that will be their downfall — the flaw that will be their undoing. What I write are not sins; I write tragedies." [1]

Lead vocalist Brendon Urie revealed how he joined the band, wrote the song and how Panic! At the Disco formed their famous outfit:

"I wrote this song six months after I had joined the band, as the guitar player ... temporarily. They needed me to play a couple of shows and I said 'of course,' not thinking it would go anywhere. [2]

"Then we played a show at my church. We played two songs. We had to dress up. I told them, 'Listen, there is a dress code and a curfew. So we only get to play two songs and you have to wear a nice shirt, slacks, tie.' After that, we were like, 'Hey, we should dress up like this all the time.'" [2]

"The lyrics are about infidelity, the sins that I felt were being committed by my friends. A sin is something you commit and a tragedy is a person who has a sin committed against them. You can be powerless until you make your voice heard. [2]

"At that time betrayal was huge. I had this friend, Eric — we were really good friends and he knew I was really into this girl and she and I had been talking for a while. I was smitten over this girl. And I was slow at making a move because I was just so nervous. Next thing I heard: they were f..king. And that just broke my heart." [2]

When asked about the inspiration for the line "Haven't you people ever heard of closing the goddamn door?!", Urie said:

"When we wrote that [lyric], Ryan [Ross] wrote most of the lyrics on the first album. And that was about that time when his Dad walked in on him and his girlfriend and he said that to Ryan, like verbatim. He said, 'Haven't you ever heard of closing the goddamn door?' Then he shut it, and yeah that was where that came from." [2]

Brendon often jokes that he hates this song now when playing it live. But he doesn't. In 2016, Urie told Billboard:

"I actually don't hate 'I Write Sins Not Tragedies,' it was just one of those things where you act a character and you play this fool and then it becomes something crazier. Obviously, my humor doesn't hit. I love playing the new songs, at the same time, playing old stuff for me, when you play it live, it changes the meaning of the songs for me. So when I'm playing it back and I hear new fans and old fans singing old songs back to me, the songs just continue to grow." [2]

Music videos

Official music video

"I Write Sins Not Tragedies" is the band's first song to have a music video. The music video was made by director Shane Drake, who also worked with Avril Lavigne, Trivium, Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Angels & Airwaves, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and many others. The video was shot in December 2005.

According to Brendon Urie, he and Ryan Ross had the flu while filming.

The video for the song takes place at an odd circus-themed wedding. It features artists of Lucent Dossier Vaudeville Cirque and actors Jessie Preston and Daniel Isaac McGuffey, playing the bride and the groom respectively.

This video won the award for Video of the Year during the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, beating Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Shakira and Red Hot Chili Peppers. This was the first occasion since 1989, that the winner of Video of the Year didn't win anything else.

In September 2011, "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" won MTV's Best Music Video for the 2000s as well as Best Music Video Of All Time, based on online voting.

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Live version

This song is one of the band's most popular songs, so it's a staple of their live shows and acoustic performances.

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Live in Denver in 2006.

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Live acoustic performance at X1039's Sanderson Ford Studio X in 2011.

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Live performance in the Live Lounge at BBC Radio 1 in 2016.

Notable covers

The Vitamin String Quartet made a cover of the song in 2006.

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Vinyl Theatre covered the song in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the album "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out."

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Gear and settings


Ryan Ross

Ryan Ross is known to use Gretsch G6118T, most notably 2004 model for live shows.

Brent Wilson

Brent Wilson used both a Fireglo and Blue Boy Rickenbacker bass during his time in Panic! At The Disco.

Rickenbacker 4001 Fireglo bass.

Amps and effects

Ryan Ross

There's no any reliable information on a matter of used amps during the recording sessions, but for live performances, Ryan Ross usually used Marshall JCM2000 amp head with Orange PPC412 Guitar Speaker Cabinet.

Brent Wilson

Brent Wilson used Ampeg SVT-Classic amp head with Ampeg SVT cab.

Amp settings

  • Gain - 4
  • Treble - 7
  • Mids - 6
  • Bass - 5


Guitars: drop D tuning (D A D G B E).

Bass: drop D tuning (D A D G).

Song key

The song is written in the key of A minor.


The main riff of the song is played on pizzicato cello by session musician Heather Stebbins.

Electric guitar is played in choruses, bridges, and its short outro. There Ryan Ross plays power chords. Though, the main riff can be played on electric or acoustic guitar with the use of palm-muted arpeggios.

During the short interlude between the second verse and the second chorus, power chords can be played as the substitution for the cello part.

Song breakdown

The song has the following structure:

Intro - Verse 1 - Chorus 1 - Verse 2 - Interlude - Chorus 2 - Bridge 1 - Chorus 3 - Bridge 2 - Outro

Note, that the second bridge of the song can be observed as a part of the outro.

Acoustic tutorial with tabs

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Electric guitar lesson with tabs

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Bass cover with tabs

This cover is made on the basis of BandFuse. Note, that the player uses 5-string bass, though the 5th string isn't involved.

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Electric guitar and bass cover

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  1. "'I Write Sins Not Tragedies' by Panic! At the Disco"
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "'I Write Sins Not Tragedies' by Panic! At the Disco"