(Excerpt from Paul Rodericks’ book, “Creative Songwriting” – a guide to writing lyrics and composing music.
“The soul never thinks without a mental picture.” – Aristotle
Basic Form or Structure of Song
Understanding the framework of a song is essential if we are to write excellent lyrics and music and even sing or perform better, particularly so to acquiring the ability to improvise spontaneously. It is the familiarity with the song structure that the listener is comfortable with when listening to new a song - its lyrics and music. The standard structures of songs like pop, rock, country, blues, Latin and the others, which the people have been listening for decades and are easily able to relate to. Maybe one of the reasons why jazz and classical music are difficult for most people to enjoy is owing to unfamiliarity with the structure of such music. Main Song Components Following are the main components of a song: 1 2 3 4 5 Title or the Hook Verse Chorus, also called the Bridge in earlier music terminology Bridge (optional) Tag (optional)
Song Structure Terms The short forms, generally made use of in songwriting to indicate a song structure, are: 1 2 3 4 ‘A’ for the Verse ‘B’ for the Chorus ‘C’ for the Bridge ‘Tag’ for a brief ending
. B (Chorus): She's a Zombie From her reflections within A wall around her senses A creature by necessity She's a Zombie. Example: Song Title: "She is a Zombie".Popular Forms of Lyrics For depicting the popular forms of song lyrics of today. we have: 1 AABA . AA (2nd Verse): No colours to her dreams No depth to her mind No patriotic hymns Nor love of any kind A creature by necessity She's a Zombie. This form or variation of it is sometimes favoured by the blues and rock artists. or as AAB-AAB .meaning the 1st Verse A is followed by the 2nd Verse A and the latter by the Chorus B. Lyrics Copyright 2002.where the first combination of AAB would be followed by another one of AAB and may or may not end with a Tag consisting of two or more lines taken (and repeated) from the verse or chorus or just the Title as it is popularly known. Paul Rodericks A (1st Verse): No colours to her dawn No depth to her sleep No fears to succumb Nor rules of ethics A creature by necessity She's a Zombie. you normally have 3 to 4 verses and the same Chorus is repeated twice. In this form.
country. R&B and others. when she walks. 2. Only to love then jilt 'em . Chorus (B): Man. Example of BABABAB Form : Song Title: "Man.Then generally follows the other combination of AAB . This is really a matter of choice for the songwriter and finally of the performers. The variation may depend on the duration of the song and generally the particular genre or style it is meant for. Many popular songs actually do so. pop. When She Walks" Copyright 2002 Paul Rodericks. * Any song that has a Chorus may or may not start with the Chorus before the 1st Verse. believe me Her come-along look leaves ya guessing Is she inviting ya or merely teasing Man. viz. ABABAB . Sometimes. wishing ya could Be her dude for just one evening. oh can she swing Heads turn. rock.oh. really? Just don't care even to be her plaything Man. the Bridge takes the place of the Chorus-Repeat after the 2nd Verse (ABAC). oh can she swing! Chorus (B): Repeat Verse 2 (A): She's known to have had men aplenty. heartbeats swaying She cuts the mood. for a specific effect. oh can she swing! Chorus (B): Repeat
. when she walks. when she walks. Verse 1 (A): She's a goddess on a swing.wherein you have the 1st Verse-Chorus-2nd VerseChorus Repeat-3rd verse-Chorus Repeat or the most popular form which is: ABABCB .3rd & 4th Verse and the Chorus Repeat. though.a bridge [of 4 to 8 bars] after the 2nd Chorus-Repeat.
2006 Ester Sterling . Chorus (B): Repeat Verse 3 (A) Is she the images I cast The reflections of my past The life I don't know and so can't regret A solitary silhouette
.The above is followed by a 3rd Verse (A). Chorus (B) A solitary silhouette Wrapped in grey Puffing clouds of smoke at midnight As un-caring. Example here of ABABCB Form: A Solitary Silhouette.Paul Rodericks Verse 1 (A) Grey is all that she what she wore Debonair as the moonlit glow Amidst flaring embers of her cigarettes A solitary silhouette . she can't at all Her feelings dry as a desert A solitary silhouette. the Chorus (B) is repeated. she can't re-call. as her cigarettes She has a tale. Verse 2 (A) For a moment in her time Enters a shred of peace of mind And the stirrings of forgotten desires and yet A solitary silhouette. And sleep.
the trade-mark of the Blues song form. AAA. only mine..Bridge (C): My life drifts on an outline Past or new. Song Title: “True Confession” Copyright 2002 Paul Rodericks. then followed by the 3rd verse. The following example is of the AACA song format which gives you a general idea of the other formats as well. where every verse follows the other and normally lasts for 12-bars. Chorus (B): Repeat 3. Verse 1: True Confession The song as you sing Your heart pleads silently with mine For the love you once abandoned True confession I mustn’t feel this way This feeling of past obsession No.. . 4. not on my wedding day. Some Blues songs last for 16-bars and modern blues songs can extend beyond 24 bars. To create and design. Can't find my baby And I can't be satisfied Verse 2 and 3 follow in the same above format. it's three o'clock in the morning And I can't even close my eyes. have yet to find But it is mine.
. AACA format has a Bridge in place of the usual Chorus after the 1st and 2nd Verse. Three o'clock in the morning And I can't even close my eyes. Verse 1: Well now.
leading into the main chorus of the song. viz. I cannot be your partner Any more in love nor share your pain Our distant feelings of love will always remain As silent whispers of our hearts. 5. Verse 3: True Confession The man I marry today Is the one who will share my life No reasons for temptation True Confession Maybe you’ll know this someday When your heart whispers again To another on your wedding day. ABC format meaning A . and for a musical appeal a contrast by way of a short riff or chord-change. Lyrically you make an interesting point here before going into the chorus. B .the Verse.Verse 2: True Confession We have shared good times And today you're here as the best man We've no other obligation True Confession You will find someone to love Beyond the point of no return As long as she trusts you enough. which attracts the listener’s attention. the pre-chorus section is a shorter interesting version.
. In this form.the Pre-Chorus and C the main Chorus. Bridge: True Confession.
Generally.50/4. if any. there are songs which have more soloing. pop. country. blues. a mid-solo and the usual 2-bar ending. or after the Bridge. jazz. Popular styles of Western recorded songs don’t normally exceed the 3. instrumental riffs back-up and other vocal and instrumental embellishments. Of course.Song Title (probably) “If She’d Only Give Me A choice” Following the Verse comes the … Pre-Chorus or Bridge: I would never think of leaving her If she’d only give me a choice We would never be in this situation If she’d only give me a choice Chorus: If she’d only give me a choice I would not be in this situation With the kind of person she is Past caring and so selfish I’ve simply lost the will to rejoice If she’d only give me a choice. jazz and classical music styles
. Hence. All popular styles of songs such as rock. bluegrass.00 minutes accepted norm which is enough time to accommodate the ABABAB format including a 4-bar intro. it is best to study the song form/s including the lyrics of a few songs of the particular genre/styles you are aiming for. Latin or Reggae have their own distinct form structure. R&B. The song structure also regulates the duration of your song. ** * Musical Embellishments to Song Form Instrumental : (at times with vocal back-up) (a) As Intro before the 1st Verse or Chorus (b) Lead Ins and Exits of Choruses (c) Mid-Solo over the Chorus.
stressed & unstressed syllables. Paul Rodericks. Does your song form suit the story and the genre/style of song? Have you made the Title or Hook-line catchy enough and original? Does your song title convey meaningfully and strongly the essence of your theme or story-line? Does your title or hook line repeat at least once in the verse and twice or more in the chorus and the bridge. concept or twist. 8. 7. 6.e.by the singer/s and accompanying musicians in a spirit of team-work. the choice of emotive and graphic words. For the bridge. have you added a new look. 3.exceed this time-frame. the rhythmic value of short and long sentences and not in the least the composition of a reasonably good melody. Such as. the rhyme and the rhyming scheme. There is a variety of techniques that can be applied to make your lyrics outstanding besides the song structure. chorus. 5. attention grabbing? Is there a flow or continuity in the story narrative from verse to verse? Does the ending( substance) of each verse connect smoothly with the beginning of the Chorus – which would probably be the Title or Hook line? Is the summary of your chorus content consistent with the story-l line as developed in the verse sections. 4. 2. i. 7. and the instrumental and vocal backups. rather a different feature of the story narrative?
Copyright 2006.e. i. mid-soloing and endings all serve the purpose of creating an overall contract including that of tension and resolution of cause and effect brought about to a successful conclusion through the performance of lyrics.the verse. We will be covering these areas in the latter chapters of this book and including also the study of simple examples to acquire some level of expertise in composing simple melodies to transform your efforts into productive songwriting as quickly as possible. General Song Form Questionnaire 1. bridge and tag.
. in any kind of a song form . if any? Is the first line of your Verse A or Chorus B appealing enough. For an overview of this section remember that. melody and rhythm .