For the purposes of this course, we gave decided to keep the video about song structures short, and provide more detail in the narrative below. This is because learning a song is all about having absolute familiarity of its structure and component parts, and not, necessarily, being able to define each part by its name. Having said that, it is useful to learn these component parts, so more detail is provided below:
The song structure of a song is, in basic terms, its layout broken down into component parts, some of which can be repeating.
So why do you need to understand this? I just want to play.
Well, this is simple really and, at the end of the day, it will help maintain your motivational levels and keenness to continue your journey without becoming too bored.
How? Well, we’re gonna tell you. If you have difficulty learning something there is always a temptation to put down your guitar because you are not progressing so these factors will assist you in not flushing your axe down the toilet.
Familiarity will help you learn the song more quickly and efficiently
You can break it down into its component part so, if you have trouble with one part, you can easily switch to another. Basically, flexibility
It is easier to join bits together at the end when you have learnt all the components thoroughly
It will also help you remember the song in the future as you will be able to recall the structured way in which you learnt it….piece by piece. This will prove useful when playing in front of people
Something else that can also help you understand and learn the structure is to research the song a little and find out some key facts. It may not be everyone’s taste, but we always like to know who wrote the song we are teaching, when it was released, what album it was on, whether it was a single and, if so, did it chart, and for how long, who else has covered the song (have a listen on YouTube) etc……plus anything else we can glean. These things tend to stick in your memory and help further to make the song a part of you. You can also boast about your knowledge to those with a lesser understanding than you. Lets’ call it a kind of covert one upmanship.
All songs vary, but a typical (relatively complex) song COULD look like this; Introduction, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Verse, Chorus, Middle Eight. Solo, Chorus, Outro
Or alternatively; Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Chorus.
Remember, all songs vary and will only use selected variances.
Although the verse and chorus are the foundation of pop and rock music, let’s have a brief look at the definitions of the component song parts. Definitions can vary, but as long as together, we can identify these for the songs we are going to learn, you will have a strong platform to build on.
A unique section that comes at the beginning of the song
Think of the opening guitar in Smoke on The Water by Deep Purple
The main part of a song.
Roughly corresponds with a poetic stanza.
Usually follows the introduction (if there is one) – but not always
Can be repeated
Think of the vocals of Sweet Child of Mine by Guns ‘n Roses that follows the great guitar intro
This is 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/title of the song
Think Ticket to Ride by The Beatles
The Middle 8
The section of a song which has a significantlydifferent melody from the rest of the songusually after the second chorus
Such sections often consist of new chords and major change in melody.
It is called a middle 8 because it happens in the middle of the song and the length is generally 8 bars. (Don’t worry about the theory of this yet)!!!
It can also be repeated
Again, think Ticket to Ride where the lyrics go “I don’t know why she’s feeling so high etc….” Ride
Guitar (or other) solo
A solo is a section designed to showcase an instrumentalist (in this case – you as a guitarist)
We all want to be able to accomplish one – so no more explanation required except that it may take place over the music or chords of a verse, chorus, any other part of the song or even something different
If it is a brief instrumental piece i.e. just a few notes, we will just label it “guitar”
I will just quote one of my favourites “Reeling in the Years by Steely Dan
• Occurs at the end of a song and takes many forms – it adds intensity and interest and
Can create new hooks
Can involve ad libbing
Could include another solo or more vocals
Could involve a change of melody – breaking away from the main melody
Could include variations on a theme from the song
May sometimes fade out
Think Hey Jude by The Beatles
It can occur within a verse (where the melody significantly changes) , or at the end of a verse
It is usually a two or four line section, rarely exceeding four bars musically, immediately preceding the chorus.
Crafted to propel the listener, both melodically and lyrically, into the chorus.
All pre-choruses in the same song tend to have the same melody.
It is acceptable for each verse’s pre-chorus to repeat the same lyric or to introduce a new lyric.
Different meanings in different countries
A departure or a release from the rest of the song similar to the middle 8
Think Don’t Look Back in Anger when Noel sings “so I start a revolution from my bed” and the following 6 lines!
The bridge’s job is to add a new dimension to the song, take it to the next level, and lead the listener back to the chorus, title and hook, from a new angle. If that’s not enough of a challenge, the bridge needs to accomplish all of this while still managing to sound consistent with the rest of the song.
It is similar to a pre-chorus but could appear anywhere in the song, and usually only once. Many people interchange pre-chorus and brisge.
These are only guidelines, but if you become familiar with them it will definitely help you when we move onto your first song. Bet you can’t wait!