Six Basic Elements of Song Structure

song structure

So, your mechanic is going to check the oil in your car. Does he grab the air-hose and head for the rear tire?

Or, your personal trainer is going to work on your abs today. Does she hand you a cheese Danish and say “nice work”?

Pretty silly huh?

 

We expect the professionals that we deal with to know the structure of the business they are working in. If they’ve never learned that structure, our desired results would be less than adequate. Agreed?

In the same way, the professional songwriter needs to have knowledge of song structure, the essential parts of a song and how they all pull together. There are six basic elements of song structure.

The Verse

In the verse, the lyrics tell the story. The lyrics normally change in each verse to help the listener understand the emotional theme.

The melody and chord progression remain the same in each verse with slight variations in the melody to fit changes in the lyric pattern.

Keeping the melody the same through each verse helps the listener to recognize the section each time it comes around.

The Chorus

The Chorus is the driving point of most songs in contemporary music. It occurs after the verse and might again after the bridge.

The melody in the chorus is what you want your audience to remember most about your song and perhaps the most important element in song structure.

In most popular music, the lyric line and the melody are the same in each chorus. Let the lyric line summarize and focus on the ‘big picture’ meaning of your song, which you carefully detailed in the verses. Small changes can be made, however, use caution. Your audience desires a recognizable, memorable, and repeated chorus line.

The Hook

The hook is the line your audience remembers most. The line that keeps them coming back.

It is often the title of the song and should grab your listener’s attention enough to keep them listening. If it’s a great one, they will be listening again.

The Refrain

Typically found in Verse/Verse/Bridge/Verse song structure, the refrain is another anchor for listeners and is repeated at the beginning or the end of each verse.

It is often the title or hook as well. Songs that include a refrain usually don’t have a chorus so the refrain is the ‘big take-away’ for your listener.  Make it memorable and meaningful.

The Bridge

The bridge normally occurs toward the end of a song in popular music and allows a listener a ‘break’ from the repeated sections within the song structure.

It is often called the ‘middle eight’ denoting eight measures (bars) in the middle.

The bridge provides brings variety and give your audience a little relief from the now familiar verse and chorus sections. This section usually does not contain the title or hook.

The melody and chord structure are crafted to take your listener to a new place, then bring them back to the familiar by usually repeating the chorus.

The Pre-Chorus

You’ll find the pre-chorus at the end of a verse. Its job is to build up to the chorus creating a sense of anticipation for your listener, providing a greater emotional release when we get to the almighty chorus.

 

The six basic elements of song structure, when used effectively, create an emotional event for your audience.

Use them in your writing to add impact and memorability to your tunes.

There is wiggle room. Not every smash hit has a pre-chorus. Not every gold record has a bridge. It’s important for every songwriting to know the elements to song structure, and how to use them appropriately.

Write, write and rewrite,

Jeff

About Jeff Lodge

I have been a songwriter pretty much all my life, since Grandpa Mac gave me his drum set (ya, you try writing a song on an old Slingerland 5 piece). I learned guitar, played around with piano, and fell head first into a fervent passion for creating music. I wrote a ton as a kid, with limited skills and knowledge. When I 'grew up', I studied the craft of songwriting and recording. I crave to learn more. It's my goal with SongWritersHQ to provide valuable content that will educate, entertain, or the songwriter community. I include myself in that community because if I don't learn something about this wonderful craft every day, I'm unfulfilled. I hope SongWritersHQ is as fulfilling for you as it is for me. Jeff

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