The Basic Components of Songs

Songs are made of components. Almost all songs have verses and choruses, and many have bridges. Some have pre-choruses. Occasionally there are intros and outros.

All songwriters should be familiar with these building blocks of songs.

Introduction: This is usually a short passage that logically introduces the song to the listener. Often it’s a passage that’s influenced by the verse or the chorus.

Verse: Verses are the building blocks of songs. You can have a song with out any of the other components but not without verses. If there’s a story to be told you’ll find it in the verses. The chords and melody is often the same for every verse. The lyrics tend to and should move forward throughout the song adding new information. The length and rhyming scheme of each verse should be consistent. If the first verse is 4 lines every subsequent verse should be four lines. If the the rhyming scheme in the first verse is ABAB then that should be the rhyming scheme for each verse.

Pre-Chorus: The purpose of the pre-chorus is to ‘set up’ the listener for the chorus. The melodic tension should be increased in the pre-chorus so that there’s a sense of relief when the chorus is sung. It should never outshine the chorus. It is often 8 bars in length but once again, there are no hard and fast rules. It is only included in a song if it is needed. Although not rare, most songs don’t have pre-choruses. It should directly precede the chorus. Lyrics can differ in the pre-choruses but the melody should remain the same. It’s sometimes called ‘The Climb’.

Chorus: This is the part of the song that could be considered the pay off to the listener. It should be the most memorable part of the song. This where the hook is usually to be found (a hook is a catchy passage in a song that ‘hooks’ the listener). Melodically and lyrically it’s often identical every time and it’s often sung using repetition as a device to imbed its hook in the listener. There may be a slight variation but usually not much. It’s also often where the title of the song is sung. It focuses the meaning of the song usually in a more succinct and simpler way than the verses. The overall message of the song should be found here. In comparison to the verses, the chorus is usually either half as long, twice as long or the same in length.

Bridge: The bridge is usually to be found after the second chorus has been sung or around 2/3 of the way through the song. It goes by many names including the ‘middle 8’ because it’s often 8 bars in length. The purpose of the bridge is to give the listener a sense of release from the repeated verses and choruses. It rarely contains the hook or the title. Melodically it should lead into a verse or a chorus. Usually there’s only one bridge in a song. Bridges should add a additional component both lyrically and melodically to the song. It’s an optional component of a song and, like the Pre-Chorus, should only be included if necessary.

Outro: The dramatic ending of a song intended to leave a lasting impression with the listener. Outros are also called ‘codas’, and are not all that common.

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