This section is very important for establishing the flow of the overall song. There are several things to consider.
- How many times do you want to play the chorus?
- How long are the verses?
- What kind of intro will you have?
- Should there be an extended buildup in the middle?
- Which elements will be introduced and when?
Think about these and the many other questions that come to mind. There is no rush. Plan out these steps and have a vision for your song.
Sections of a song
Let’s stop for a moment and discuss sections in a song. Here are some of the more common sections of a song and their basic descriptions.
Intro – The introduction to your song can be immediate and sudden or it can be a slow buildup lasting minutes. The purpose of the intro is to grab the listener’s attention and make them want to hear more. Too many times you will hear a song with a drawn out intro that turns people off after the first minute. Think of this as the preview, a chance to show what is to come while taking a moment to introduce some of your elements, at least a few that are worthy of a good first impression.
Verse (aka. Drop) – Just about every song has a verse. This is the main music portion when the beat is going, the leads are roaring, and the melodies are chiming away. These come in so many different styles, but most have a few variations to them. They might progress, have counter-melodies and include all sorts of sonic arrangements. Most importantly, they serve the purpose of being a part to dance to or sit back and zone out to. These sections are also extremely important in songs with vocals. This is where most of the story is told.
Chorus (aka. Hook) – The chorus is very common in modern music. It is the element that tends to be the most recognizable and unforgettable. When a song comes on the radio, you may not recognize it until the chorus plays. Then you have the “ah-ha” moment and recall your previous experience hearing the song. Because of this effect, many producers intentionally use repetition to drill the chorus into your brain, called earworms. They come in the form of interesting instrument choices, easy to sing lyrics and simple yet easy to recall melodies. This makes the chorus or hook extremely important.
Bridge – Sometimes a song benefits from having a bridge between the chorus and the next verse. Unlike a buildup, the bridge is typically very different from the verse and chorus and also has a strong vibe and groove. It is like an alternate verse in the sense that it can contain its own melody and beat. Some forms of bridges are very percussion heavy or have the lead or other instrument that plays what we tend to refer to as a solo. Used well, this can keep a song very refreshing after the original verse and chorus.
Buildup (aka. Breakdown) – The breakdown follows the ending of a verse or chorus and regains energy and focus as a buildup for the next section to come. These are popular in electronic music because they give the dancefloor a chance to relax for a moment. They tend to start with a flurry of elements tailing off from the verse or chorus and lead into a segment of energy discharge. Then they take the form of energy reassignment. The drums might start to come back in with a very simple rhythm, or a lead may begin the next chain in the melodic progression or a series of swooshes and risers might begin to ramp up in intensity. Either way, this typically continues to build up into a frenzy of excitement… and then boom!
Outro – When all the other segments have run their course, the song must come to an end. Sometimes the outro is non-existent and other times, it is a journey all on its own. Depending on the style of song you are after, the outro can be simple or sophisticated. This is largely genre dependent as well. Typically, if you have a long intro, you will also have a long outro. Another common theme is the outro will reuse many elements from the intro and sometimes themes from buildups. In any case, the outro’s main purpose is closure. It brings the song to an end and releases the listener from its grip.
Basic Song Structure
Now that we have a pretty clear understanding of song sections, let’s take a look at some basic song structures. These are just examples, but they might help give you a general idea of what direction to take for your song to get the most impact for your audience.
Also, remember that intros and outros can come in all sizes. Even if it is just a sound effect before the verse, I tend to consider them a section.
Intro –> Verse #1 –> Chorus –> Buildup –> Verse #2 –> Chorus –> Outro
Intro –> Verse #1 –> Buildup –> Verse #2 –> Outro
Intro –> Chorus –> Verse #1 –> Bridge –> Chorus –> Outro
As you can see, there are many varieties even when looking at it from a basic viewpoint. Keep this in mind when you are structuring your song. Think of where the pieces will fall and what elements are going to be used in each part.
Important to note is energy flow and section length. This is the rise and fall (similar to our example with melodies earlier). You don’t want to have a super heavy dance part that lasts for 5 minutes (at least not usually). You will exhaust the audience and they will get tired of the same section. Same goes for intros, buildups, and outros. The chorus is usually shorter than the verse(s) too. Keep the listener engaged and excited, but give them small doses. Make them want more, never let them feel like they have had enough. This is a never ending challenge to strike the right balance, but extremely important at all levels.
Next, let’s piece together some sections, leaving gaps as needed for the parts still to come. This will let you check your song’s length and can help determine how long you might want to make the other elements. These benchmarks will come in handy for our next part.
SAVE YOUR WORK!