Songwriting Tips, News & More

Songwriting: Elements Of Song Structure

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Nov 11, 2019 @11:21 AM

by Alex Bruce & Karen Randle

WhatItTakesToWriteAHitSong

Structure is of course one of the central elements of songwriting. And although it’s fair to say that structure has been used (or abandoned) very creatively by many artists over the years, there are still far fewer variables and options than there are in song content i.e. Chord pattern choices, instrumentation etc.

Song structure is also similar to music theory, in the sense that it’s better to know the rules and then consciously break them, than to break all the rules by simply being unaware.

So, as for precisely how to structure your song, unless you’re writing a highly-commercialized pop song it’s very hard to give you direct instruction.

Instead, you’ll see that below, each common ‘element’ of song structure is described and explained. How many of each to use, when, in what order, and so on, are all the calls the writer must make.

Here is a typical song structure includes a verse, chorus, and bridge in the following arrangement: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, outro. This is known as an ABABCB structure, where A is the verse, B is the chorus and C is the bridge.

Remember, you don’t have to use every single one of these elements in every song. Think of this list as more of a palette of ingredients to select from.


Intro
Fairly self-explanatory here. Short for introduction, the ‘intro’ is the first thing a listener hears. It may be a riff, or establishing a theme that will then play out in full in the verse or chorus, but fundamentally it’s about setting the scene. One of its functional purposes is to establish the key for the vocalist too. Listen to various songs and critically question the intro’s purpose. Compare and contrast songs spanning different genres too.


Verse
Very often the first sung section you’ll hear (though not always as plenty of highly commercial songs start with a chorus), the verse is essentially the second-most-main section behind the chorus. It establishes the song’s theme, tone, lyrical style and content and ultimately sets up the chorus and continuation of the song. A great number of rock and pop songs begin Intro > Verse > Chorus, so study some and observe the role of the verse, expanding upon the intro, but not yet the chorus.


Pre-Chorus
Not always present, as some songs jump straight from a verse into a chorus. But when it is present, the pre-chorus acts like a pathway from the verse to the chorus. These sections can be at times maligned as gap-filling things designed to patch together a verse and a chorus that otherwise don’t really work together. However, when deliberately and consciously implemented in their own right they can provide fantastic build and tension and heighten the effect of the chorus. You’ll know if a song has a pre-chorus simply because there seems to be an additional section after the verse (and different to it) but before the chorus comes.


Chorus
The pay-off moment, and most-repeated section, of most songs. A song’s chorus is usually distinctive by being some combination of the following factors:
The most memorable section (or the ‘hook’)
The section that lyrically contains the song’s title
The main melodic theme of the song
A place where additional voices/instruments are added
The simplest lyrical section

The chorus is usually the section most people know and remember, and in commercial pop music is the section on which a song is almost entirely judged. It either pays for itself or it doesn’t. Even down to various pop producers and record labels having rules about the maximum number of seconds into a song that a chorus may happen!


Post-Chorus / Break / Tag
This is one of the less common elements of song structure. This shows in its 3 (and maybe more) different names, in that it is not so defined or established as verse or chorus for example.

This section is something that comes on the end of or after a chorus (but isn’t the chorus), but equally is not yet the next verse, or simply a repeat of the intro section.

Much as the pre-chorus can be a build-up to the chorus. The post-chorus can act like a warm-down or wind-down afterwards.


Bridge
The bridge is usually a songwriter’s chance to insert something totally different. It isn’t like a verse, or a chorus, or in fact any other of the sections above/below, most of which serve as a build-up or warm-down to the verse/chorus, or relate to it in some way.

The bridge is usually something quite different. Sometimes there’s a key change, a change in instrumentation, it may be acapella (voices only), or it may be a complete about turn in tone, mood and emphasis.

In pop/rock, the bridge is very often followed by a final chorus or final double chorus before the song ends. So for that reason, the art of writing a good bridge section is writing something that, when the section begins, feels totally different, but by its end point, flows naturally back into the chorus section.


Solo
Often the solo section is interchangeable with the bridge - it’s unusual to get both unless the song is very long and/or experimental.

Essentially an instrumental section, often played by instruments we might consider expressive, ‘lead’ instruments, such as electric guitar, saxophone and so on, this is a moment of instrumental expression, something different, a break for the vocalist(s) and a thrill for the instrumentalist(s).

Solos have been famously used across the decades from the very minimal, thematic, reserved iterations, to the full-blown, 3 minute long shredding guitar solos.

How the solo is executed is determined by the writer’s style, tastes, expression and intentions.

Outro
Another section that’s not always present, as many songs end after a final chorus, or in rock/blues after a guitar solo quite often too.

When an outro is present, it can vary from something quite short and simplistic, to an epilogue - a final, epic, concluding act.

It may be a continuation or adaptation of the section that has just come before it. Equally it may be a return to the theme of the intro, which provides a nice sense of symmetry.

Have a listen to 10 different songs and consider how they end, asking yourself - why is this song ending in this way? Does it refer back to another section of the song? What purpose does this outro serve? Is it a section in its own right? Do I like it? Why?

Alex Bruce is a writer for Guitartricks.com and 30Daysinger.com

 

For information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, songwrite, Song Intro, song structure, post-chorus, derivative, Genres, Pre-Chorus, Outro

11 Songwriting Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Sep 19, 2019 @05:22 PM

by Aimee Laurence

JeradFinck2

There are good songs out there and bad songs, and all songwriters can probably say that they’re written their own bad songs too. The problem is if you’re writing a lot more bad songs than good songs, you might be making some common mistakes without realizing. Without further ado, here are the top 11 mistakes to avoid in songwriting.

1. Writing extremely similar songs

Some artists have a very specific style or voice, like Ed Sheeran, and they run the risk that all their songs will sound the same, in other words - derivative. If that’s your case, you need to put a lot of extra work in choosing different keys, chords, tempos, time signatures, collaborations, instrumentation, and more so that each song sounds different than another one.

2. Writing a forced Chorus

This is a common problem when a songwriter finds a great intro and verse, but then has no ideas for a chorus and forces a boring or disjointed one. The reality is that your chorus has to be the catchiest part of the song or the whole thing will fall flat. This includes not only the melody and the music but also the lyrics.

3. Having a Melody unsuited to the Chords

Your mistake might be trying to change your chords to mix it up or have a different rhythm but failing to match the melody to the chords. To fix this problem successfully, work on aural (ear) training and music theory to understand how they can work better together.

4. Being too Repetitive

If you have a really great lyric, you don’t necessarily need to keep repeating it instead of writing more lyrics. One of the biggest problems is repeating the first verse as the second verse instead of writing more lyrics. It’s still possible to write a great song with over-repetition of lyrics, but it has to be done right with a powerful accompaniment.

5. Giving up on a bad song

As mentioned, it’s normal that you’ll write some bad songs. However, you can always take some good ideas from it for another song down the road. You’ll even feel good about finishing it even if you end up not using it again.

6. Not having a Climax

One of the biggest problems with songwriting is when a song doesn’t take you anywhere. The song isn’t multi-dimensional. Whether it’s melodic or lyrical, your song needs to have an arc. The listener should feel like the song is building up to something, and have a good finale.

7. Poor Rhyming

There is divided opinion on whether your song should have rhyming to avoid obvious cliché rhymes but to still follow in traditional lyrical patterns. Others think that rhyming is not important in songs at all because it’s impossible to come up with anything original and new. The important thing is not to try to make something rhyme and it shouldn’t, and pick words that won’t be accidentally thought of as rhymes.

8. No purpose in your Lyrics

Don’t start writing your song without knowing where it’s going to go or what it’s about. Know what your song is about before you sit down to write it, and find the most meaningful and purposeful way to say it.

9. Unnecessary song sections

If you’re adding a section to a song like a bridge because it’s habit, ask yourself if you really need it. Don’t just stick with what you know because you’re familiar with it. Instead, explore different options to reach bigger potential. Find out if you want a bridge and a guitar solo, or none, or just one of those two.

10. Trying too hard to be different

Learn what it means to be unique and different without rejecting any ideas that existed before. At the end of the day, you’ll be using the same notes, words, and chords that others have used, because patterns and structures exist. Instead of rejecting them, play with them instead.

11. Not listening to Different Genres

You’ll have a better chance of coming up with unique and original content if you’re listening to a lot of different styles. Instead of hating on any type of music that isn’t yours, listen to everything without judging, and listen outside of your comfort zone.

 

Aimee Laurence, a music journalist at Essay Writing Service, writes articles about music theory and new musical trends. She enjoys sharing her passion for this topic with her readers. In her free time, she offers singing and piano lessons.


For information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, songwrite, lyric writing, Rhyming, derivative, Repetitive, Climax, Songwriting Mistakes, Genres