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Songwriting Guides
Writing a song

The structure of a song is the skeleton that holds the component parts of the music together. It gives the song shape and order and each genre of music tends to follow a given structure or musical convention. For example, most pop songs these days are structured on simple variations of a verse followed by a chorus, followed by another verse, followed by another chorus and so on.

A typical pop song is structured like this:

Verse 1
Chorus 1
Verse 2
Chorus 2
Middle 8
Verse 3
Chorus 3
Chorus 4

One of the useful things about this song structure is that you get a natural sense of light and shade between verses and choruses. Verses tend to be quieter than choruses, which are often quite musically intense. Listen to almost any song by Nirvana and you can hear examples of this contrast.

Ideally your chorus should appear before 60 seconds into your song.
Steve Hillier

Some very famous (and successful) songs have no choruses or verses at all. For example, 'Yesterday' by the Beatles follows a quite different structure, consisting of two musically distinct sections:

A section:
Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday

B section:
Why she had to go I don't know she wouldn't say
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday

Sue VerranSue Verran
"Look at hits played again and again on the radio"
Listen to Sue Verran, songwriter Audio help
An unstructured song will be messy, difficult to listen to and impossible to remember, so here are some ideas to help you avoid song structure problems:

  • If your song is following a simple verse/chorus form, try varying the length of the verses so that the reappearance of your chorus isn't totally predictable.
  • Ideally your chorus should appear before 60 seconds into your song. Why not start with a chorus?
  • Song feeling a little tired and repetitive? Don't forget to include a middle 8.
  • Try listening to one of your favourite songs, mapping out its structure and using it as the skeleton for a new song of your own.
Send us your views or read other peoples'
Send us your comments on: Structure

Bob David Bell- Edinburgh
It's said that if you have a strong melody, it covers bad structure. Agree?

Jean-Francois, London
Take a Chance on Me (ABBA) is an example of a song that starts with the chorus.

Ben Franklin, St Austel , England
Re Jody Garner, Jody you say the chorus should be the same length as the verse, I say you are wrong, songs need variation, and there is no reason for keeping the two the same length, most new songs feature a pre chorus, so your chorus can be very short 'Without you " the chorus is half the length, as just one example, and there are so many more, a chorus should be short and memorable, of course there are examples where they are the same length, but you should not go for such rigid structure as you are reccomending. Sincerely Ben Franklinu

Oliver , Carlisle
You should only learn the rules so that you can break them. Every genre requires different structures anyway. If every song adhered to strict rules there would never be innovation or originality.

Bill (Hook)
Claire Essex It is valid to have any length as long as it works. trust your ears and music muscle. Thanks Bill

Iain Mackenzie Newcastle upon Tyne
Hi. I agree that listening to your favorite songs can give you ideas for structre etc. But I also find that listening to some songs on the radio that I am disappointed with will often help to inspire me; I find myself thinking "Hey; if they can get that played on the radio; there's still hope for me..." [eg 'Advertising space' Mr RW : He has done so much better than this and its value is all in the production quality...] Thanks for the site. Iain

Jody Garner - Tyler, TX USA
The chorus should be the same length as the verses. Just look at the second hand on your watch and time the length of the verses. The chorus should be exactly the same.

Claire Essex
I have recently started writing songs and i am lucky enough to have found someone i get on really well with who has some great equipment and ideas. I have written a couple of songs that have got a fairly short but directed chorus. I am happy with leaving this as it is but my co-writer wants to add more lyrics or slightly different melody. Sometimes he is right but sometimes i don't think he is, is it acceptable to have a fairly short chorus e.g four short lines?

Songwriting Guides Writing a Song Genre Structure Verse Chorus Melody Tempo / Rhythm Harmony Lyrics Beginnings Endings Ideas Rhyme Middle 8 Hooks Performing Working with Other Writers In the Studio Publishers Record Companies Management Staying on Track
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