Structure: Noun: The arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex.
Any song that has been written has a song structure. What this means, simply, is that it can be broken down into its main components. We do this to better understand how songs are written and we use that knowledge to write our songs. There are three basic parts: Verse, Chorus and Bridge but can also include an Introduction, Collision, Solo and Outro. Some songs have all of these elements and some have just one, just remember, that the only rule is that it sounds good!
The introduction is a unique section that comes at the beginning of the piece. It sets the mood for the song. The intro can serve different purposes. It can introduce the chorus, verse or bridge melodies exactly or in a slightly modified way or it can build suspense and so that when the song move to the next section a release or surprise can be used. The groove is established here along with the “feel” or texture of the song.
The verse is the main part of a song. It tells the story like a poetic stanza. When two or more sections of the song have basically identical music and different lyrics, each section is considered one verse. Verses will usually give details about the song topic and remain in a consistent melody with other verses. Like a poetic stanza, these verses will often rhyme in some form or another. Keeping verses flowing to the melody and making the rhymes not seem artificial is actually a great challenge!
In popular music, the chorus normally follows the verse, but there are notable exceptions including The Beatles‘ “Can’t Buy Me Love“, The Black Eyed Peas‘ “Imma Be“, P!nk‘s “Get the Party Started” and Linkin Park‘s Crawlin’.
Sometimes called “the middle 8”, the bridge is the third melody and the one that, in most song structures, appears only once. It is better if the listener gets a “tiny” surprise in the bridge; that can be a change in the chord structure accompanied by a smooth shift to another scale. However, the bridge melody almost always will end by returning to the original mood and repeating the chorus all over again.
Sometimes the bridge section and the solo section are one in the same. An instrumental solo with no lyrics at all. Pink Floyd used this idea to a great degree of success.
A collision is a section of music where different parts overlap one another, usually for a short period. It is mostly used in fast-paced music, and it is designed to create tension and drama. For example, during a chorus later in the song, the composer may interject musical elements from the bridge.
Be careful not to overdo the solos in your recordings. Music publishers and the execs they court are not interested in your technical prowess.
Essentially, the outro serves the same purpose as the intro. Remember the old adage from speech class?
Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.
What to do with Song Structure
All of these pieces of song structure are the building blocks of songs. We can put them together and create song forms. These can be as simple as a verse, verse, verse song such as Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. We would write the song form of White Christmas as A A A.
Much like children playing with blocks we can play with the block of song forms. There are some standards, of course, but we needn’t be confined by them. As stated before, the only rule is that the song sounds good.
Read the post about Song Forms if you would like to learn more about the standards of song forms.