Courtship plays a major role in the sexual isolation of species, yet the genetics underlying courtship behaviour are poorly understood. Here we analyse quantitative trait loci (QTL) for a major component of courtship song in recombinant inbred lines derived from two laboratory strains of Drosophila melanogaster. The total variance among lines exceeds that between parental strains, and is broadly similar to that seen among geographic strains of the Cosmopolitan form of this species. Previous studies of the quantitative genetics of fly song have implied a polygenic additive inheritance with numerous genes spread throughout the genome. We find evidence for only three significant QTLs explaining 54% of the genetic variance in total. Thus there is evidence for a few large effect genes contributing to the genetic variance among lines. Interestingly, almost all of the candidate song genes previously described for D. melanogaster do not coincide with our QTLs.