How To Structure A Song (Part 2)

Song Modifiers

We spoke about basic song structure last week. Now, you’re able to identify the sections the verse, chorus, and bridge. If you haven’t read How To Structure A Song (Part 1), you may be confused by a few of the terms I’m going to use. So, give part 1 a read first. As you’ve been listening to songs with basic structure in mind, I’m sure you’ve noticed structure deviations. As an artist or producer you should focus on creating interesting structures that make songs stand apart from each other. Well written and produced record have different styles, tempos, moods, feels, and STRUCTURES. So, how do you deviate from the basic song structure? Here are 4 song structure modifiers you can use.

1. Pre Chorus. The pre chorus separates the verse from the chorus. You’ll be able to identify a pre chorus by listening for a different chord progression or a different vocal motif after the verse and before the chorus. This part is used to set up the chorus so you’ll likely hear a mood change as well. You might hear a drop in dynamic in the pre chorus. This is a popular arrangement trick. Softening the dynamic allows for the chorus to have more impact.

2. Intro. There’s a lot of confusion about this song modifier. Every song has a beginning (or intro.) Not every song has the song modifier referred to as “intro.” In terms of structure, an intro is a different part of the song that does not happen again (Except in rare cases where it’s also used as an outro.) This also means that an intro can be a part of a song played without vocals for a few chord rotations. So, if the chorus is played at the beginning of a song, without vocals, it can be considered an intro. To help you better understand intros, I’m going to link to Say Anything’s “Alive With The Glory Of Love.” The intro happens just once at the beginning of the song.

3. Theme. Themes and intros are very similar, but themes need to happen more than once. A theme is likely to be heard at the beginning of songs. It’s considered a theme because it can be used to set the mood of the song. It likely has a catchy instrumental top line. The theme will repeat after choruses. To help you understand the idea of a theme, I’m going to link to Paramore’s “Misery Business.” The theme starts the song, and come back two more times. You can find it after the first chorus and the last chorus.

4. Post Chorus. A post chorus occurs immediately after the chorus. This song modifier is used to transition out of the chorus and into a verse or bridge. So, a post chorus is different than a theme because a theme happens at the beginning of the song and likely has a catchy instrumental top line. A post chorus does not happen at the beginning of a song. A post chorus is just as likely to have a vocal topline, as it is to have an instrumental one. Now, I’m going to make one more distinction so that I cover all bases. But this distinction is not an incredibly important one. If a post chorus is used at the beginning of a song without a vocal or instrumental topline, that part is considered an intro.

Use these song structure modifiers to help build the song. Each modifier you use needs to have a purpose. Consider how the theme was used in “Misery Business.” It created an in your face feel and provided an instrumental hook. We haven’t gone over all of the song modifiers yet so keep an eye out for Part 3.


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