Strengthening your song’s structure often comes down to what you add to the verse and chorus format.
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Pop songs are structurally simple compositions rarely lasting more than 5 minutes. Most of the time that structure is mainly the alternating back and forth between verse and chorus. Most songs will also include an intro, and beyond that, two other sections are often included: a bridge, and occasionally a pre-chorus. There’s often not much need to describe why a song should use a verse and a chorus. We know that verses describe stories, while choruses describe emotions. But how do you know when a song is a good candidate for a pre-chorus or bridge?
Adding a new section to the standard verse-chorus format allows you to express something else, and do it in a different way. A pre-chorus sits between the verse and chorus, while a bridge usually occurs after the second chorus.
The reason you might add a pre-chorus is not the same reason you would add a bridge to a song. In the case of the pre-chorus, its main purpose is to provide a smoother connection between the verse and chorus. A bridge’s main purpose is to add a section that contrasts the verse and chorus.
Here are some tips for why you might add to the verse-chorus structure of your song, and what to watch out for.
ADDING AN INTRO
- An intro’s main purpose is to grab attention, and announce the start of your song.
- Keep an intro to shorter than 15 seconds in pop music.
- Avoid simple guitar-strumming intros. Make something interesting happen!
- Use an intro to set up the style, mood, key, and tempo of your song.
- Try your song without an intro. Sometimes jumping right into Verse 1, no intro, is the best attention-grabber.
ADDING A PRE-CHORUS
- A pre-chorus sits between the verse and the chorus.
- A song is a good candidate for a pre-chorus if:
- the verse is short;
- the last note of the verse melody is far from the first note of the chorus melody;
- the verse chord progression is short, only using 1 or 2 chords.
- A pre-chorus needs to build energy to help connect the verse and chorus, so use the pre-chorus to get louder, move instruments higher, and move the vocal range higher.
- While verses and choruses tend to be in 4- or 8-bar lengths, a pre-chorus has no such requirements. So a pre-chorus can be 1, 3 or any other odd number of bars long.
ADDING A BRIDGE
- A bridge usually happens immediately after the second chorus.
- It’s also called the middle-8 by some, referring to the typical length (in bars) of a bridge.
- A bridge often intensifies song energy, particularly if it’s going to finish with a more-intense chorus. (“Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson is a great example).
- A bridge can also simply provide a harmonic contrast, exploring minor chords especially if the song features mainly major ones. (“Single Ladies” by Beyoncé demonstrates this.)
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