Many creative individuals believe that the creative process is meant to be chaotic. From that chaos, beauty arises, they say. They believe that rules constrain and limit creativity. Though, there are others who debate that rules of creative arts are, in essence, the art itself.
Singing is one of the most ancient arts created by humans. Through the ages, certain songs were better received than others. It’s through this selection process that the rules for effective songwriting were discovered, rather than made.
Different parts of a song deliver different messages. Knowing the name and function of each part will help you channel your creativity effectively. Song parts and structures vary by genre and by the artist. Let’s take a look at various parts of a song and the messages they convey.
Main Parts of a Song
The main parts of a song are the intro, verse, chorus, and outro. These are the parts that the majority of songs incorporate.
An intro to a song is like the first chapter of a novel. It makes or breaks the whole work. An intro has to be catchy, but not overwhelming. It should also ease the listener into the song without being pushy.
It usually sets the tempo and rhythm of the whole song, but not always. Sometimes, intros have no relation to the rest of the song. In that case, they only act as a musical hook to grab and keep the attention of the audience.
The verse is where the story develops and comes to life. The intro gets the audience interested, but the verses are what keep them listening. Just as chapters in a novel expand the story, so do verses. Each verse builds on top of the previous until the story is complete.
As a songwriter, you should aim to write two to three verses per song. With most commercial songs being three to five minutes long, this should fit nicely within the time frame of the song. A verse, typically, should be less than one minute long.
The chorus is the pinnacle of the song. It’s the ultimate message that the song wants to deliver. It can be a condensed summary of the story, or it can shed light upon a specifically important part. Sometimes the songwriter can create a conversation of verses and the chorus.
The chorus is repeated in between the verses, and it always contains the same words and has the same melody. A chorus stresses the delivery of a message through repetition.
Usually, the chorus is the part that people remember the most about the song. Many songwriters use the song’s name in the lyrics of the chorus.
An outro can be as simple as a few words being repeated while the sound gets quieter and quieter until it fades away. In other cases, it can be just a melody without any lyrics. Either way, the outro serves as a closure to the story.
It’s the final scene in a movie or the last chapter in a novel. It can be used to assert the message of the song and leave a final impression on the audience.
Complimentary Parts of a Song
These parts aren’t always included in a song, but they can be interesting to use.
A refrain is a word or a few words that get repeated either at the start or the end of each verse. It can play the same role as the chorus.
Songwriters who incorporate refrains in their verses usually do not implement a chorus to stress the key message of the song.
The repeated words of the refrain in most cases consist of the song’s name and a few other words.
A pre-chorus is a short buildup that gets the audience eager to reach the climax of the chorus. In many cases, it consists of just a melody. It can be similar to a refrain when lyrics are added. Pre-chorus lyrics are short and serve to build anticipation for the chorus.
A bridge is incorporated near the end of the song. It contains unique lyrics that can serve a variety of purposes. The bridge can add a final scene to the story. It presents a unique perspective that was not shown before.
It can serve to clarify the meaning of the story by revealing a key aspect that was hidden so far. Or, it can be a shocking surprise that changes the whole meaning of the story. Bridges are always interesting and add flavor to the song.
Now that we have learned about the parts of a song, let’s take a look at some song structures and see how the parts can fit together.
The common structure takes advantage of the most significant parts of a song. It contains two verses and a chorus. The most common song structure goes like this:
Intro – verse – chorus – verse – chorus – outro.
To spice things up, you can add a bridge to the song to deliver that extra kick.
The bridged structure goes like this:
Intro – verse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge – chorus – outro.
Not using a chorus means that verses will contain refrains to deliver the climax. Excluding the chorus can be a gamble. It either pays off handsomely or crashes the song.
The no-chorus structure goes like this:
Intro – verse – verse – verse – outro.
Bridged No-Chorus Structure
The bridged no-chorus structure goes like this:
Intro – verse – verse – bridge – verse – outro.
The simple structure ignores the use of many parts of the song. It depends on long verses, and can include refrains, but not always.
The simple structure goes like this:
Intro – verse – verse – verse.
It’s said that in order to break the rules, you must first learn them. Songs come in all shapes and sizes, and for you to create your own style and song structure, you first need to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Learning the rules might seem daunting, or even a waste of time. But as you go through the learning curve, you’ll get to enjoy the process. You’ll find that learning the basics opens up your creative mind and allows you to explore the world of songwriting with confidence.