Song Structure Terms:
The Basic Elements of a Pop or Rock Style Song
The intro of a song sets the stage for the rest of the song. The goal of the intro is to attract attention and introduce the listener to the song.
There are many different types of song intros but they'll usually contain less elements and energy than the chorus and in most cases the other parts of the song too.
A few types of intros you might come across:
- One example is a song that starts with the main chord progression without any drums or percussion.
- Another example is a song that does the opposite and starts with a drum loop or percussive intro.
- Yet another example may be a song that does neither and starts with something completely different to the rest of the song.
- There are songs that start with the chorus, often stripped down to allow for later contrast with the actual choruses.
There are no hard and fast rules for intros. It can be short or long. It can be a melody or a chord progression. It can be a drum part or a vocal. As long as it captures attention and introduces what's coming in the rest of the song it's all fair game.
The verse, in terms of lyrics, is where the journey begins. It's also where the story gets told and the tiny details, scenes and imagery is introduced to the listener.
Verses usually change every time they're repeated in a song. This change happens of course in the lyrical content but often also in the instrumentation with the addition or removal of certain instruments.
The verse will often stand both lyrically and musically in opposition to the chorus. It's at the same time what leads the listener to and prepares the them for the chorus. This relationship to the chorus is very important because the verse has to be different enough to the chorus to maintain interest while at the same time maintaining a musical relationship to the chorus.
The contrast between verse and chorus can be created by note choice. You could keep the verse on one note and introduce note intervals in the chorus. Or, vice versa, you could keep the chorus on one note and use scales or intervals more in your verse.
You could also use different timings in the verse and chorus. An example of this would be a song where the lyrics does straight-time in the verse and then double-time in the chorus.
The pre-chorus, often nowadays called the lift, as the name suggests, sets the listener up for the chorus. It's used to create anticipation and give the chorus more impact when it does finally hit.
It creates a separation between verse and chorus and uses musical devices to prepare the listener for chorus.
Common practices include a change in the chord progression, the use of hooks and the stripping of all instruments except for one. This is often also a section in production where volume automation can be used to bring the level down by a small amount to accentuate the drop or chorus that follows.
The chorus has to give your listener the main message or theme of the song. This part of the song will be repeated at least once and often doesn't vary too much from one instance to the next, as is the case with verses.
The chorus is the part of the song where people will tend to join in and sing along. It's often also the part that people remember after they've listened to the track.
The chorus, as mentioned above, stands in opposition to the verses. This doesn't mean that a chorus always has to be completely different to the verses, it still has to relate to them musically. Choruses often however need to give the listener the release to the tension created with the verses and pre-chorus.
It's not unusual for the songwriting process to start with a chorus as this is one of the most important aspects of the song.
The bridge has the job of getting you from one section to another section of the song. Hence the name!
The bridge of a song is a musical or sonic variation that creates a contrast to the rest of the song. This contrast helps keep the listener engaged because there's something new to hook onto after they've gotten accustomed to the repeated verses and choruses. In popular music this is also sometimes known as the mid-eight section of a song.
The bridge is often right before the final chorus so it also has the function of preparing the visitor for the climax of the song.
The outro is where the song concludes. This may be similar to the intro in that elements could be stripped down to only a few. This part could be a definite musical conclusion or a repeat and fade-out type of outro.
In dance music styles the outro is often used to give DJs a chance to mix in the next track, so it may only be a simple kick with no melodic elements.
It can also be helpful in certain cases to think of the outro as the opposite of the intro. So if you're build up tension in the intro then the outro will be more about release.