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Song Structure: How to Write and Entire Song

How to finish a song and write a complete song from beginning to end. Where to put your verses, chorus, pre-chorus and bridge so you can finish your songs.
Song Structure - Writing an Entire Song

Table of Contents

I’ve written the Verses, Pre-Chorus, Chorus and Bridge… now how do I put them together to finish my song?

To Understand Song Structure…

You need to know:

  • What are the sections of a popular song?
  • How do I write each section?
  • What order do I put them in?

You’ll learn the answers to all of these questions and more in the video. In the following article there are detailed notes about everything covered in the video and links to more songwriting resources to help you write and finish your songs…

Write Your Song Sections:

Write the Chorus

The Chorus in the sing-along part of your song. Keep it simple and use the title in the chorus one or more times.

The Verse is where you tell the story of your song. It’s usually wordier than the chorus. Use descriptions and metaphors to tell the story and draw in your audience so they can see, hear, smell, taste and feel the world that you create in your song. Continue the story in the second verse.

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Write the Pre-Chorus

The Pre-Chorus connects the end of the Verse to the beginning of the Chorus, both in the meaning of the lyrics and musically. If your song verse is about eternal love but the chorus is about love gone wrong, use the pre-chorus to explain how the love went wrong. The pre-chorus is optional, but is used in most contemporary popular songs.

Writing a Bridge

The Bridge is used to break the patterns of the other song sections. I often use the bridge to end the story because it’s rare to have another verse after the bridge. Many songwriters believe writing a bridge is difficult because you have to balance similarity with the rest of the song (so it belongs in the same song) with contrast or difference (so it sounds different from the rest of the song and creates a change for the audience).  A bridge is optional, but used in most contemporary popular songs.

Bonus Content… How Long Should Each Section Be?

If you’re asking this question, stick to 4 lines of lyrics in each section as a starting point. In most cases this works out to 8 bars of music in each section. Occasionally, a pre-chorus or a bridge is only 2 lines of lyrics and 4 bars longs. The four line “standard” for each song section is a good starting point until you’re more confident in your songwriting. The introduction is often 4 or 8 bars, depending on the genre or artist, keep it short. Write your song sections so they sound great to you.

The best way to answer questions about “what should I do?” or “how should I write X in a song?” is to study songs you love… use these songs as:

Now back to the video…

3 Song Structure Units

There are three song units:

Verse & Chorus

The simplest popular structure is alternating the verse with the chorus… story to sing-along to story to sing-along.

Verse to Pre-Chorus to Chorus

The pre-chorus connects the Verse & Chorus pair, 

Verse Pre-Chorus Chorus

Chorus to Bridge to Chorus

The bridge provides contrast and the end of the story. Often changing how we hear and understand the ideas in the chorus. If you end with a pre-chorus and the chorus, or two choruses, build up the arrangement to keep it exciting…

C B C

C B C C

C B PC C

Popular Song Structures

Put all the sections in order, repeat V C or V PC C until you’ve used all your verses, add the bridge unit last. So:

The most common structure using all song sections, V PC C B is:

V PC C V PC C B C C

Or

V PC C V PC C B PC C

Sometimes the first verse is longer. Some analyse it as V1 V2. I usually analyse a “double verse” as Verse 1, because it sounds like a single verse until you hear a shorter verse later in the song. Use whichever shorthand makes sense to you…

V V PC C V PC C B C C

With Verse, Chorus and Bridge (no Pre-Chorus):

V C V C B C 

Or 

V C V C V C B V C

Add an introduction using the music from the verse or chorus.

Find a satisfying way to end the song, suddenly or fading from the last chorus.

Song written… Start practicing so you can demo your new song!

Additional Songwriting Resources

Leave a comment to help other songwriters…

Which song section is hardest for you to write?

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff has taught, played and written music professionally for the last 25+ years.
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If you can play songs,

you can learn to write songs…

Learn:

How to Write a Song Chorus:

Lyrics, Melody and Chords…

If you can play songs,
you can learn to write songs…

Learn
How to Write a Song Chorus:
Lyrics, Melody & Chords...