Updated: October 7, 2020 by Richard Cole
Writing music is an extremely rewarding experience, but it’s also one which requires some previously established knowledge.
In order to write a good song, you first need to know what an average song is made of. Song structure is a subject that has numerous schools of thought.
There is no single right way to do things, but some types of song structure are known to yield better results than others.
For the sake of this article, we will assume that you are trying to arrange a typical pop/rock song. We’ll take a look at what are considered to be the most basic elements of the arrangement, and how you can expand them to achieve a more natural sounding transitions.
Basic elements of the arrangement
There are essentially three most elements of every song. Chorus, verse and a bridge. Each of these elements is crucial for the song to capture the listener, and keep them interested until the end. Let’s take a look at each individual element, and talk about what makes them so unique.
Chorus is the most important part of the song. It contains the catchiest melody in the song, and is responsible for hooking the listener to stay for the duration of the song.
Chorus is usually repeated in its entirety several times throughout the song without introducing changes to its structure. If you try to think of any of your favorite songs, chances are that Chorus is the fist thing that will pop into your head. Writing a good chorus is essential, and takes some creativity.
If Chorus is the melody that should hook the listener, Verse is the melody that should keep them listening until another Chorus comes. Point of the verse is not to have an overly exaggerated melodic progression.
Instead, you should try to keep it simple enough and let the lyrics take the spotlight. Trying to write a verse that properly interacts with the lyrics is a challenging task since the singer is usually singing the lyrics in a melody of its own. Achieving an organic fusion of these two melodies is what verse is all about.
Unlike Verse and Chorus, Bridge is a very unique melody that usually appears only once for the whole duration of the song. Bridge can be anything – a short scale, or a different chord progression. The point of the Bridge is to break up the character of the song for a brief moment while accentuating the point of the song.
Now that we know what the most basic elements of the song are, we need to figure how to arrange them. After decades of trial and error, song writers have concluded that an average listener best reacts to two different song structures. First one is a string of alternating Verses and Chords as follows:
Verse – Chord – Verse – Chord – Verse – Chord
Second one is the same thing with the addition of the Bridge:
Verse – Chord – Verse -Chord – Bridge – Chord
If you listen close enough, you will find these two patterns in 90% of popular songs made in past several decades. Of course, most of those songs will have more than just these three elements within their structure.
Additional elements of a song
Expanding on the basic song structures mentioned above can be done in numerous different ways which depend on the tone of the song, and your personal style. However there are some standard elements that you will most likely want to include.
Intro is an element which is used to ease the listener into the song, and establish the general feel of the whole composition before the first verse hits. Most often than not, an intro is just a verse that is stripped to its core and simplified.
Outros on the other hand can be just about anything. You can use a the verse as a outro by simplifying it and shifting the focus on the lyrics, or just do the regular verse and fade it out slowly. Either way outro is supposed to conclude the song in a deliberate fashion.
Pre-chorus is a small unique element which creates a buildup to the chorus itself, causing anticipation in the listener’s mind for the most energetic part of the song. Pre-chorus is optional, but if you decide to use it, you’ll have to include it before every chorus in the song.
As you can see, the most basic song structure is quite standardized and defined. Following these several rules, you can learn how to structure a song in a way which yields best results.
There’s many more elements that we didn’t mention, which you can use to give your song more complexity. Hopefully this article cleared up any questions you had about basics of song arrangement.