Songwriting Basics: Structure

Last week, I started a series on songwriting with the topic of Theme (read about it here). As I said previously, there are many different ways to go about songwriting. This particular order of posts is a good starting place, but feel free to write your song in an entirely different order.

Much like selecting a theme at the beginning, choosing a structure for your song is like drawing plans for a house. Having a structure helps to organize the information and makes sure nothing is left out. The structure is a guide during the creative process.

Let’s look at some of the most common parts of a song’s structure:

  • Chorus – If your song is a house, the chorus is the main room or living space. It summarizes the theme perfectly and is repeated over and over. The simplest songs have only one part, and for that reason, are called choruses. A good chorus will have a catchy melody and be easy to remember.
  • Verse – With the chorus as the main room of our song-house, verses are like bedrooms. Each verse contains specific information that relates to the theme, but is different from the other verses. If our song is telling a story, each verse describes a different event as it unfolds. Verses are not typically repeated like the chorus and they usually share a melody and chord progression that are different from the chorus. Hymns are a good example of songs with only verses.
  • Bridge – We could consider the bridge to be the deck or patio of our song-house. It continues the theme by restating it with different words, melody and chord progression. Typically the melody is higher and bigger than the chorus. The bridge is usually the climactic point of the song.

Other elements of structure include music before, between and after the Verse, Chorus or Bridge.

  • Intro – The chord progression and melody used to start a song are called the Intro. It’s like the porch and front door of a house.
  • Interlude/Instrumental – This is like the hallways of a house, they help us get from one room to another, but there are no lyrics.
  • Ending/Outro – Similar to the Intro only at the end. Sometimes the intro and outro are identical. Other times, they are very different.

A great way to learn structure is to listen to your favorite worship songs and analyze their form. Using an existing song as a template is perfect for getting started. Mimicking successful songwriters speeds up the learning process.

Who are your favorite songwriters? Why do you like their songs?

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About Stephen James Carter

I have loved God ever since I can remember. Leading others in worship has always been the natural overflow of my heart for Him. Training others to lead is one of my gifts.

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