Song structure (popular music)

The structures or musical forms of songs in popular music are typically sectional, repeating forms, such as strophic form. Other common forms include thirty-two-bar form, verse-chorus form, and the twelve bar blues. Popular music songs are rarely composed using different music for each stanza of the lyrics (songs composed in this fashion are said to be "through-composed"). This form can be used in any structural difference in melodies. A common format would be as listed: Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Verse, Chorus, Middle Eight

The foundation of popular music is the "verse" and "chorus". Both are essential elements with the verse usually played first. Exceptions abound with "She Loves You" by The Beatles being an early example in the rock music genre. Each verse usually employs the same melody (possibly with some slight modifications), while the lyrics usually change for each verse. The chorus (or "refrain") usually consists of a melodic and lyrical phrase which is repeated. Pop songs may have an introduction and coda ("tag"), but these elements are not essential to the identity of most songs. Pop songs often connect the verse and chorus via a bridge, which as its name suggests, is a section which connects the verse and chorus at one or more points in the song.

The verse and chorus are usually repeated throughout a song though the bridge, intro, and coda (also called an "outro") are usually only used once. Some pop songs may have a solo section, particularly in rock or blues influenced pop. During the solo section one or more instruments play a melodic line which may be the melody used by the singer, or, in blues or jazz influenced pop, the solo may be improvised based on the chord progression.

Elements

Introduction

Main article: Introduction (music)

The introduction is a unique section that comes at the beginning of the piece. It usually builds up suspense for the listener so when the downbeat drops in, it creates a release or surprise. In some songs, the intro is one or more bars of the tonic chord (the "home" key of the song). Alternatively, the intro may be based around the chords used in the verse, chorus, or bridge, or a stock "turnaround" progression may be played, such as the I /vi / ii/ V progression (particularly in jazz influenced pop songs). In some cases, an introduction contains only drums or percussion parts which set the rhythm and "groove" for the song, or the introduction may consist of a solo melody sung by the lead singer (or a group of backup singers), or played by an instrumentalist

Verse

The Verse is the main part of a song. In popular music a verse roughly corresponds with a poetic stanza. When two or more sections of the song have basically identical music and different lyrics, each section is considered one verse. It is not to be confused with a pre-verse, which is an interlude between the introduction of a song and its opening verse. Although less common now, the pre-verse technique was popular with the surf music of the 1960s.

Pre-chorus

An optional section that may occur after the verse is the "pre-chorus." Also referred to as a "build", "channel," or "transitional bridge," the pre-chorus functions to connect the verse to the chorus with intermediary material, typically using subdominant or similar transitional harmonies. Often when the verse and chorus involve the same harmonic structure, the pre-chorus will introduce a new harmonic pattern in order to make the harmony reappearance of the verse harmonies in the chorus seem fresh.

Chorus

Main article: Refrain

The element of the song that repeats at least once both musically and lyrically. It is almost always of greater musical and emotional intensity than the verse. In terms of narrative, the chorus conveys the main message or theme of the song. Normally the most memorable element of the song for listeners, the chorus usually contains the hook. In popular music, the chorus normally follows the verse, but there are notable exceptions including The Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love", Foster the People's "Call It What You Want" and Pink's "Get the Party Started".

"Many popular songs, particularly from early in this century, are in a verse and a chorus (refrain) form. Most popular songs from the middle of the century consist only of a chorus."[1]

Bridge

A bridge is an optional transitional period nearing the end of a song. Unlike typical verses, pre-choruses, and choruses, the bridge usually will only occur once in any given song. A bridge is musically and lyrically different from the rest of the song. A bridge prepares for the return of the original material section. For example, C in: ABABCAB.

Middle eight

In music theory, middle 8 refers to the section of a song which has a significantly different melody from the rest of the song,[citation needed] usually after the second chorus in a song. Typically, a song consists of first verse, bridge, chorus, second verse, bridge, chorus, middle eight, chorus). Such sections often consist of new chords, but also frequently just alternate between two chords. It is called a middle 8 because it happens in the middle of the song and the length is generally 8 bars.

A typical song structure employing a middle 8 is:

Intro-{Verse-Chorus}{Verse-Chorus}-Middle 8-{Chorus}-{Chorus}-(Outro}

Middle 8s are often quieter than the main song, which contrasts with Solos, which are generally more energetic. In slower songs, however, a middle 8 can be used to generate energy. By adding a powerful upbeat middle 8, musicians can add a great hook for an end chorus and finale.

Collision

A collision is a section of music where different parts overlap one another, usually for a short period. It is mostly used in fast-paced music, and it is designed to create tension and drama. For example, during a chorus later in the song, the composer may interject musical elements from the bridge.

Instrumental solo

Main article: Solo (music)

A solo is a section designed to showcase an instrumentalist (e.g., a guitarist or a harmonica player) or less commonly, more than one instrumentalist (e.g., a trumpeter and a sax player). The solo section may take place over the chords from the verse, chorus, or bridge, or over a standard solo backing progression, such as the 12-bar blues progression. In some pop songs, the solo performer plays the same melodies that were performed by the lead singer, often with flourishes and embellishments, such as riffs, scale runs, and arpeggios. In blues- or jazz-influenced pop songs, the solo performers may improvise a solo.