The first two installments of this column covered inspiration and ideas; and about milking those ideas in an open-minded stream of consciousness. So you’re in the state of mind where you’re not worried about matching the rhyme or getting hung up on some less significant detail while the great ideas disappears into the night.
Once you have the ideas written down, the crafting of the song begins: unless you’re one of the lucky ones who channeled an entire song that doesn’t require any tweaking.
If you weren’t lucky this time, don’t feel bad. There’s a saying in songwriting circles that goes, “Great songs are not written…they’re re-written.”
Now, you can start “thinking” about the song. And one of the things you’ll apply conscious thought to is the song structure, which is also commonly referred to as the form. There is also an internal rhyme form, and we’ll get to that a little bit later.
Songs consist of different sections (verse, chorus, bridge) that are typically assigned a letter (A, B, C) in the order that they appear. This is the language that the musicians that record your demo will most likely be using. It’s not unusual for some parts of a song to be repeated; for example a song might have two verses before the first appearance of the chorus, but only one verse before going into the second chorus: AABAB
It is important to remember that A does not always equal verse. Many songs feature the chorus at the beginning of a song; in this case A represents the chorus.
Each of these sections will have their own chord pattern and melody; and (generally) that same chord pattern and melody will played each time that section appears, though each verse will typically have different lyrics. The bridge which is commonly the C section, usually only appears once.
For example, the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” uses the following form:
A B A B A C B A A
The song starts with the chorus (which is cool because it’s being kicked off with the hook, which also happens to be the title), so that’s the A section. Each of the short verses (B section) has a nifty little trick of starting with the same line “Little darlin’”, and a repetitious but building bridge (the C section) with nothing but the line “sun, sun, sun, here it comes” being repeated 5 (!) times.
The double chorus at the end gives the song a sense of finality.
Of course, songs come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s no one right form. But, it is useful to have one even if you modify it to suit your needs. So, if you want your C section to be a solo section: fine. If you need a D section: create one!
One of my last songs used the coveted AAAAAAAAAA form – all verses: no choruses, no bridge.
While “Johnny B. Goode” uses the same chord progression for the verse, chorus and the solo sections, technically it’s not an AAAAAAAAAA form as there’s a different melody for the verses and the chorus. (plus the intro and solo sections feature the famous Chuck Berry guitar break!)
There is more to the song than just the A, B and C’s (and that’s not just a plug for my column). There’s the intro, turn arounds, tags, and outros, too. All of these, along with different variations on the repeated A and B sections, will keep your song interesting. We’ll cover those tricks in future columns.
Inside the verse, chorus and bridge, you may have a rhyming pattern to your lyrics. While I do not want to confuse things, I’m afraid letters are also used to identify rhyming patterns.
Using one of my own songs, this chorus and verse shows a AABB CCDD rhyming pattern:
I hate everybody ‘cause they don’t understand?they think I’m a fool, they just don’t get it, man? I hate everybody, hate the stupid things they do ?I hate everybody, but I don’t hate you
I hate my father cause he says “son, move on”? I hate my mother cause she says he’s right I’m wrong ?I hate my brother just because he’s a jerk ?I hate that little twit who says get back to work
And when the chorus gets repeated again after this verse, the rhyme repeats as AABB. But the next verse introduces a new rhyming syllable so they’re given new letter names. And when the chorus is repeated yet again, the original letters are used: So it was be displayed as:
AABB CCDD AABB EEFF AABB
But, of course there are many different rhyming patterns, and the verse and chorus (and bridge) don’t need to share the same one. Some songs have every line in the verse or chorus end with the same sound: AAAA
And I should note here, that verses and chorus don’t need to be limited to four lines, it’s just that my samples, for simplicity sake, all do. There’s a five line rhyme scheme that I think is very effective for verses: ABABC DEDEC
Recognizing your rhyming pattern can really help when you’re stuck for a line: at least you know the syllable at the end of it. We’ll cover more on rhymes when we meet again.
“I Hate Everybody” copyright 2003, Jake Kelly. Used with permission.
Originally posted 2009-04-08 04:20:45.