Most songs are made up of of three different sections: Verse, Chorus, and Bridge. Many hit songs have the form: Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus/Bridge/Chorus.
Here’s how the sections work together:
CHORUS: The chorus has the same melody AND the same lyric each time we hear it. The lyrics sums up the emotional heart of the song. It’s the section that listeners will remember and want to hear again and again. Be sure to include your title in your chorus so listeners know what to call your song. The title is often in the first or last line, sometimes both.
VERSE: The verses all have the same melody but different lyrics. A verse takes us deeper into the feelings or situation that created the feelings in the chorus. Because the chorus is repeated three or more times, you can keep it interesting by giving listeners more information in each verse – something that reveals more about the chorus and deepens our feelings or understanding of it.
BRIDGE: The bridge has a different melody and lyric from any other section. It often provides a peak moment or a turning point in the song. You can use the bridge to reveal something hidden or add a twist or just come right out and say what you feel instead of expressing it in images.
PRE-CHORUS: Sometimes there’s a short section at the end of the verse which creates anticipation going into the chorus.
HOOK: The “hook” is the most memorable line in the song. It’s in the chorus and it’s often the line with the title in it – the first or last line of the chorus.
It’s a good idea to use a proven song structure like this one. You don’t have to, but listeners have expressed a strong preference for it. A song structure like this one provides enough variation and new information to keep listeners interested, and enough repetition to make them feel anchored in the song.
You can define your verses and choruses not just with lyrics but also with melody and chords. Try moving the chorus to a higher note range than the verse or change the pace of the notes/words or change the melodic rhythm patterns. Let the listener know which section they’re in without having to work it out. You want them paying attention to the emotion in your song, not trying to figure out where they are.
Listen to songs you like and see if you can identify the chorus and verse, then notice how they’re put together to form a structure. Notice how the chorus sums up the heart and soul of the song while the verses give information and explanations. Then look at how the melody defines each section so you know where you are. Try writing a song that uses a similar structure. It’s one of the best songwriting exercises you’ll ever do!
by Robin Frederick
This post is based on my songwriting books: Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting, Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV, Study the Hits, and The 30-Minute Songwriter. Find out more about all of my print and eBooks on my Author page at Amazon. In each book you’ll find dozens of useful, real-world shortcuts that will show you how to craft songs that work for today’s music market, plus dozens of hands-on exercises to get your creative ideas flowing.