October 28th, 2020

Three Songs To Inspire Experimentation With Song Structures

Our Sound Tips for this month are a little different. Instead of focussing on music production, we want to encourage you to think a little more deeply about song structures.

 When writing a new song do you take time to break away from the tried and tested Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Middle 8-Chorus format? There are good reasons for doing so. Making your song a little less predictable is a great way of pulling a listener's focus back towards your music – doing something unexpected can be a real attention-grabber. Below we look at three songs with unusual structures to inspire you to experiment further with your own arrangements.

1. Journey - Don't Stop Believing

A huge hit that makes you wait until the very end of the song for the chorus? This is a very unusual structure indeed for such a popular song. The song cycles through verses, instrumental sections and bridges before launching into the guitar solo at 3:05. It is only after this - at three minutes and twenty-two seconds into a four minute song – that we hear the chorus, which repeats once before the song starts to fade out. The effect that this structure has on the audience, is that the tension is wound up incredibly tight before the song finally launches into a huge payoff. The wait makes that resolution all the sweeter. 

2. Queen and David Bowie – Under Pressure

Another huge hit, and this time the writers pretty much dispense with the chorus altogether! If anything, the main hook of the song is the bass riff, a point proven by Vanilla Ice when he scored a transatlantic number one hit after sampling it for 'Ice Ice Baby'. The first part of the song cycles between two different sections that would probably normally be considered verse and bridge parts. However, the second half of the song then takes us way off the map, consisting as it does of an extended four-part bridge section. Finally, at the end of this musical journey, the song resolves back on that initial riff. 

3. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

This is an interesting case study from master songwriter Max Martin on how a song that doesn't have an obviously unusual structure can still keep things interesting by consistently altering the lengths of sections. The second verse is half the length of the first, while the first and second bridges are also notable for having two completely different vocal melodies. After two 16 bar choruses the final two choruses are only 8 bars long, and are divided by a 16 bar instrumental break in which the lead synth riff is foregrounded. Huge pop hits are not always quite as formulaic as you may think!

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Roger Gamargo
Oct 28, 2020
Great!!! Thanks a lot

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