In this article, we look at some of the basic song structures which you can use to build your songs around.

Song forms are many and varied, but over time some have been proven to be more popular than others.

In particular, in the world of modern pop music, the “Rule of Three” is used extensively to ensure that listeners have time to identify and learn a hook in just one listen of the song.

The most common song structure in today’s charts will look something like the following:

Verse
Chorus

Verse
Chorus

Bridge
Chorus

Here you can neatly see how the song splits into three sections, each featuring a verse or bridge, and a chorus. As a result, the chorus appears three times.

In an ideal world, with this song structure, the chorus will keep a constant rhyme scheme and rhythm (in fact, it will most likely be almost identical each time). The verses will also match each other, but be different to the chorus. And finally the bridge should be unique in arrangement, melody and rhythm to really help it stand out from the other sections.

A slight but common variation on the above introduces a pre-chorus section, which acts as a transition between the verse and the chorus:

Verse
Pre-Chorus
Chorus

Verse
Pre-Chorus
Chorus

Bridge
(Pre-Chorus)
Chorus

The pre-chorus will have it’s own melody, rhyme scheme and meter (rhythm) which stays consistent wherever it appears. It’s possible that the lyrics may be the same each time to, if that works for the song. There may or may not be a pre-chorus between the bridge and the final chorus, depending on whether this works musically and lyrically, hence the brackets.

A slightly older song structure which was very popular in the 40s, 50s and 60s was the AABA song structure, also known as the “American Popular Song Form”:

Verse

Verse

Bridge

Verse

A good example of this is “Yesterday” by The Beatles.

Other, less popular song forms include AAAA:

Verse

Verse

Verse

Verse

Yep, just bouncing from verse to verse, occasionally with a one line refrain at the end of each section to tie the song together. This is most frequently used in narrative story telling, such as folk music.

Another less popular but still viable format is ABAB:

Verse
Chorus

Verse
Chorus

This form features verses and choruses only, no bridge. Listen to Britney Spears’ Oops I Did It Again for a modern example of this. (Admittedly Max Martin uses an instrumental interlude in place of a bridge to give the song a bit of breathing space before the final chorus.)

Variations

Within these basic forms there are seemingly infinite variations. Some songs have two verses at the start, some have two choruses at the end. Some even have two bridge sections! Intro’s and outro’s can set the scene and wind down a song respectively (or do something less traditional) and if you want to throw all caution to the wind, one of the most popular football anthems of all time follows the form ABCD, where each subsequent section is different from the ones preceding it!

If this is too much info and you’re not sure where to start, stick with the tried and tested approach and use one of the first two song forms described in this article. A million songwriters can’t be wrong…

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