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Creating A Winning Song Structure
What you should get from this
After this section you should
have a basic
understanding of the key elements of a song structure, and how to
create a song structure using the basic elements.
Creating a song
be as easy
or as complicated as you like. For the purposes of this course, the
idea is to get you to learn basic composition skills, so we’ll keep it
The good news is, that
popular genres normally only utilise between 3 and 6 different sections
or parts. This makes your job a lot easier as you won’t have to try and
create 10 different sections for each song you write, and it can be a
relatively quick process. I think the quickest I ever wrote a song was
in about 4 minutes (not the lyrics).
So let’s look at the different
a song structure, and then we’ll take a look at three well know songs,
break them down, and examine them as well.
Intro : This
often the same chords/dynamics as the verse or chorus, mainly the
verse. (“When You Were Young” by the Killers is an example of the
chorus being used as an intro).
Normally a pretty
straightforward structure, containing four to 8 chords.
pretty straight forward, and consisting of four to eight chords. There
is normally a change in the dynamics of a chorus to make it stand out.
These include volume, intensity, catchyness (is that a real word?), and
Bridge : This
literally a bridge-between the verse and the chorus, or the chorus and
the verse. This is especially useful when you have a key change from
one to the other, or the transition from verse to chorus or vice versa
isn’t particularly smooth.
Middle 8: This
used to break up the song so it isn’t just a sequence of
Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus. Can change the whole feel of the song, and
if used properly can make or break it. Again, the dynamics are normally
different to add variety.
Finally, like the
intro, this can often simply be a repeat of the verse or chorus
chords/structure, but can also be totally different. Remember, there
are no rules.
Building intensity during a song!
As mentioned earlier, MOST
choruses have a
more intense feel about them, with more dynamicness (another new word),
going on! There are many ways to achieve this, using various different
methods and different instruments, so let’s take a look at some of them
simply musical terms
increase or decrease in volume. Building the overall volume will
obviously increase the intensity (though be careful to make sure you
don’t just use volume for volume’s sake and lose the feel, and nuances
of the music). Decreasing the volume will lower the intensity of the
music, and is a technique often employed when leaving a chorus and
returning to a verse. (Listen to CREEP by Radiohead). You can obviously
reverse this effect if you want a more chilled out chorus.
The Drums play a
the intensity of your music, and they have many different ways of doing
so. Here are a few examples:
fills on the toms, snare, kick drum,
leading into, or out of a chorus/bridges. This lets the listener know
that something is coming and they’d better be ready!
beats on the high hat from quarter
notes to half or eighth notes. This gives the impression of increased
beat altogether. This works wonders as
it completely changes the feel of the piece.
halving speed, etc. Again, this lets
the listener know that something is changing.
Change from a
closed high hat to an open high hat
for a louder, more open sound.
Move from the
closed high hat to the ride for a
the guitars can play a
in changing the dynamics of a piece of music, and helping to travel
from a verse into a chorus or vice versa. Here are just a few of the
things you can do with it to change the way the music carries.
Move from simple
picking to full chords. Again, will
boost the volume, and increase the intensity. Likewise, changing back
to simple picking will have the opposite effect. (Coldplay’s Politik is
an excellent example of this).
effects such as distortion, chorus, flange,
delay, reverb, will alter the sound and can be used to increased or
decrease the intensity. (Radiohead’s Creep is a perfect example)
Moving from one octave to either a
higher register, or lower register will change the feel of what you’re
doing, and can be employed to good effect.
notes. By playing more of the same
thing per bar, it’s going to sound “busier” so will add intensity. The
opposite is also true.
bass notes to your melodies/chords will also
boost the sound and add intensity.
keyboards, like guitar
totally change the effect and intensity when used correctly. Here are
Moving from playing single notes or harmonies to
full, rich chords will boost the sound and add intensity and depth.
bass notes will do the same.
For example, doubling the amount
of notes you play per bar will give the impression of acceleration. If
using a keyboard, adding effects will do the same
thing as adding guitar effects. (Listen to Keane for examples of this).
going to go through
instrument, as I’m sure you get the idea. Try experimenting and see
what works for your particular style, and your particular sound. Ok, so
now we have the basic
let’s take a look at three well-known songs, break them down, and
examine the structure. You’ll see just how easy it is to write a song
after this section. I strongly suggest listening to
songs so you get an understanding of how they’ve applied what they have
to them, and get a better understanding of the ideas behind them. You
should be able to find the chord progressions online somewhere. Google
them and I’m sure you’ll find them.
Song Number One:
Forget Me by The
This song is a PERFECT example
simple it can be to write a song. It only consists of four chords, and
always played in the same order But this song is a MASTERCLASS
dynamics to create an effect. Listen to how each instrument changes the
way it’s played during each section to increase or decrease intensity.
If we look at it in a little
then, this is the structure of the song:
Intro – Verse – Bridge – Verse
– Chorus –
Bridge – Verse – Chorus – Solo – Verse
And the chords throughout the
are: Am F C G
Song Number Two:
In To Me by
example of simple
writing, simple structure, and a great use of dynamics. Again, just a
few chords used here, but very effective. The chords used are as
follows: Intro and verse: Em – C D Chorus: Em – C D Bridge: (From verse
chorus) B5 – A5 –
B5 – D5 (Chords with just the
5 th. No 3
rd) Middle 8: Am – G – Em
– Em – Am
– G – F –
B So as you can see,
told you composing
Song Number Three:
Going back a bit
here. A lot of
probably won’t remember this song, but it’s definitely worth checking
out. We get a little bit more complicated here, and start going out of
key, and throwing chords in that SHOULDN’T fit if we followed the
rules, but we’re not always going to do that remember.
The chords in this
song are as
Intro: C – Em – C –
Em – Am –
Am7/G (G on
the bass) – D7
Verse: C – Em – C –
Em – Am –
Am7/G (G on
the bass) – D7
Chorus: C – E7 – F –
Fm – C – F
– Fm – C –
Bridge: FM7 – Em7 –
FM7 – Em7 –
BbM7 – Am
– G – F
Middle 8 : C – F – G
– A – A –
C – F – G –
A – A – FM7 – Em7 – A – C – D – E
This song goes out of
using Fm chords, and Bb Major chords, but it works, and remember that
the only rule you really want to follow, is whether or not is sounds
So what have we
covered in this
The basic elements of a structure
How to use your instruments to build or decrease
How simple it can be to create a structure
How to use a few simple chords to create a song
Using just a few chords, create a VERY BASIC song
Once you’ve successfully completed exercise 1,
create a verse, chorus, and bridge/middle 8 using chords from the same
key, and put them all together to form a new song.
Now using technique number 4, break the verses down
to create a more varied set of dynamics for your song
Experiment with using chords that aren’t within the
key, to make an even more varied chord progression for your song.
Decide on the type of dynamics you want to employ
within your song to give it colour, variety, and depth.
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