It is essential for every songwriter to know that for many years, traditionalists have used the following system to notate the different song sections to write songs: verse = “A”, chorus = “B”, and bridge = “B” or “C” (depending on the song form).
To write great songs, it’s essential to know that the ” hook” is the catchy line or musical part that repeats throughout the song catching the listener’s attention and making the song memorable. Any song can have more than one “hooky” part (sometimes called “motifs”) but almost always have a main hook in the chorus that sets itself apart from the others as the BIG ONE.
I. Before moving on to song forms, familiarize yourself with or review the following modern basic song sections that make up a song:
1. Verse – The verse explains the main idea of the song and keeps the story moving forward, coloring the chorus differently every time to keep the listener interested.
2. Chorus – The chorus is the most dynamic part of a song which creates contrast by changing any or all of the following three: melody, rhythm, and harmony. The chorus usually contains the song title and main hook, and many of the most memorable songs use the song title in the first or last line of this section. The structure of the chorus usually stays the same throughout the song but songwriters have been known to change a line or two, subtly, every now and then for effect.
3. Bridge – The bridge adds a different dimension to a song by varying the melody, rhythm, and harmony before leading into the final chorus. After the bridge, the final chorus becomes more exciting and usually repeats itself at least once before the song ends.
4. Pre-Chorus – Also known as “the climb”, when it’s used it is placed between the verse and the chorus to build more excitement leading into the chorus. It’s usually 2-4 lines long and differs by changing the phrasing both lyrically, melodically, and by inserting more chords/changes per measure.
5. Rap, Spoken Word, and Instrumental parts – These are all parts inserted in different sections of songs in appropriate genres for added variation and interest, usually in Pop, R&B, Country, and Rock songs.
II. Now let’s talk about song forms:
Traditionally, basic song forms have been written as AAA form (verse-verse-verse), AABA (verse-verse-bridge-verse), ABAB (verse-chorus-verse-chorus), ABABCB (verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus), and variations of all four.
Let’s forget about AAA, A’s and B’s, and C’s and B’s for now! Yep, you heard right. Stick with me, this is gonna’ get interesting! Ready?
Take a day or so to study a few songs you like and respect, take them apart like a science project, and figure out what song form makes them tick. Don’t think of sections as A, B, etc., think of them as verse, chorus, bridge, pre-chorus, etc.
You need to learn to recognize different parts, sections, and overall structures of songs so that choosing a song form when you write songs it becomes “automatic” and “second-nature” to you. Then and only then, can you consistently choose the best song forms when you write songs.