Behind every great song is a strong song structure. The song structure is the way in which the different sections of a song have been arranged, normally with repetition, to create the total work. The different elements of a song structure are:
- Intro – This appears at the beginning of the song and is often similar to another main part of the song, but slightly different – it may lack some of the instrumentation that’s built into the chorus and/or verses, or it may be at a different (usually lower) volume than the rest of the song.
- Verse – This is the part of a song that is used to tell most of the story in the song. Each verse usually has the same melody, but different lyrics. It leads into and builds toward the chorus. It normally has a straight forward structure and is usually 4 to 8 chords long.
- Chorus – This is the part of a song that normally contains the title and the hook, and is repeated severally throughout the song. It normally has a straight forward structure and is normally 4 to 8 chords long just like the verses but there is usually a change in its dynamics to make it stand out. These include timbre, volume and intensity.
- Bridge – This is often literally a bridge between the chorus and the verse or the verse and the chorus. It is especially useful when you have a key change or the transition from chorus to verse or vice versa is not particularly smooth. It may only be 2 or 4 bars long.
- Middle 8 – This part is used to break up the song so that it is not just a sequence of Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus and it normally has different dynamics. It’s usually in the middle of a song and tends to be 8 bars long. It’s synonymous to the bridge.
- Hook – This is the strongest line of lyric of a song that is sung over the strongest line of melody. It’s nearly always the title and is usually used in the chorus. It is the most memorable part of the song.
- Outro – This is similar to the intro but it usually appears at the end of the song. It can simply be a repeat of the chorus or verse chords structure, but it can also be totally different.
Creating Different Song Structures
When crafting a song, songwriters take into consideration the genre they’re writing for and the song structure that best fits it. A suitable song structure will create an enjoyable and memorable musical experience for the listener. Some of the most popular song structures are:
- Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Bridge / Chorus
This is also known as an ABABCB structure, where A is the verse, B is the chorus and C is the bridge. An extra chorus may also be added at the end that usually fades out over around 7 seconds. This structure does not allow the verse to become tiresome. However, it gives the chorus maximum exposure and balances this by the use of a non-recurring bridge to freshen the ears of the listener before the final blitz.
- Verse / Pre-Chorus / Chorus / Verse / Pre-Chorus / Chorus / Bridge / Chorus
This is a slight variation of the ABABCB structure that has been described above, the only difference is the addition of a pre-chorus. A pre-chorus is a 2 or 4 line section that rarely exceeds four bars musically and immediately precedes the chorus. It’s crafted to propel the listener, both lyrically and melodically into the chorus. It’s an effective way to link the verses with the chorus. It gives variation and breaks the repetition factor in a song.
- Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus
This is also known as the ABAB song structure. It is a simplified version of the ABABCB song structure, without the bridge. The choruses can be different from each other, as long as they share the same internal structure. The bridge is normally used to change the song’s direction.
- Verse / Verse / Verse
This is also known as the AAA song structure. It is the oldest type of song structure. There is no limit to the number of verses that can be used in this structure, but it does not have any chorus. Each verse in the AAA song structure is complete on its own without the need of adding a chorus. This song structure is excellent for “story” type songs, and was very popular with the folk songs of the Sixties.
- Verse / Verse / Bridge / Verse
This is also known as the AABA structure. This type of structure does not have a chorus. Instead, each verse usually begins or ends with a refrain. A refrain is a line or lines that are repeated throughout the song. The words of the refrain usually do not change, while the rest of the lyrics used in the verse change. This song structure normally has a lot of variation in the verse melody to prevent the song from becoming boring as a result of continuous repetition of verses.
By studying the different types of song structure you will become a better songwriter and also learn how to best express your ideas in your songs. You may even end up creating a completely unique song structure.