From intro to outro, learn the parts of a song and their purpose.
By Nick Stoubis
We have all sung along with our favorite songs, so whether we know if or not, we probably possess a great deal of knowledge about the parts of a song already. Let’s put some labels for these sections and define the common things that occur in each section:
Knowing the typical song layout will help songwriters create their own masterpieces. Basic song structure consists of an intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus and bridge (many times, this is all tied together in an outro, too). Below, consider this breakdown of song building blocks.
This is an easy one – it is found at the beginning and sets up the song, establishing many of the song's important elements, such as the key, tempo, rhythmic feel and even its energy and attitude. You will find that the intro is often the same music without singing over it as the verse or even the chorus. Sometimes, however, a song's intro will not have any material found later in the song. In this scenario, the goal is to create interest for the listener and encourage them to keep playing it. Either way, an intro typically last up to four bars.
This is where we get down to business and find out what the story is about. It’s the “Once upon a time …” section. Generally, there are multiple verses in a song, and they usually have different lyrics even though the melody will likely be the same. We get more information about the story with each additional verse. Considering that most commercial songs are between 3 and 4 minutes long, many people ask how many lines should be in the verse of the song. A good rule of thumb is to keep the song verses under 1 minute, or just a few lines.
The pre-chorus is not a necessary component and is often shorter than a verse or chorus. For the listener, it usually creates a feeling of wanting to be thrusted towards the chorus.
The chorus is the big payoff and climax of the song. It's also where the verse and pre-chorus have been reduced to a simple repeated sentiment. For example, in the song “Let it Be” by the Beatles, it is the part where the words “let it be” are repeated over and over. The chorus is often the title of the song and is usually very similar each time it occurs.
The bridge is a section that provides relief from the repetitive nature of many songs. Not only does it have different lyrics from the verse and chorus, but the music is a little different as well. It usually will start on a different chord from what the verse and chorus start with.
Use the time you already spend listening to music as an opportunity to develop a heightened understanding of these common parts of the song. Every song you hear is a chance to learn about how musicians use these different components to tell their stories.
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