Forms that meets the needs

Forms that meets the needs


Tip #3. Song FORM helps the listener PROCESS THE DETAILS OF THE STORY.

If I pull up to the drive-through at McDonalds and an employee runs outside to the car and hands me a fish sandwich and a chocolate shake… how would I respond? I’ve not had time to make up my mind and choose what I want, etc. Timing is Everything!

My tiny brain needs to see the menu and process my order.

There is a reason that the outside menu has big pictures of the food, not just the name & price.

It is possible to begin a song with the Chorus, but it’s usually more effective AFTER we’ve been given some details that lead up to it. Then, it comes as a payoff, not a slap in the face.

The best way to learn about Form is to listen to the professionals. Learn to analyze and understand the Form of your favorite songs. I’ll bet you already understand song form just from listening to popular music.

FORM will usually fall into one of the following categories or labels:

1) 12-Bar Blues

2) ABA


4) 1-part, 2-part, 3-part

5) Verse/Chorus


I would argue that several of these labels actually have identical meanings, but different composers refer to them in the terminology they have grown up hearing.

For example, I refer to a “channel” while others would call it a “pre-chorus”. It is and does absolutely the same thing… it transitions you away from the verse and sets up the chorus.

Some would call this PRE-CHORUS a separate section, others would say it is part of the verse. Others would obviously call it part of the chorus… So what???

You can call it a “TRANSITIONALICIOUSMAXIMUS” if you want… as long as it delivers some musical and emotional impact.

Again, the needs of the song should dictate a song’s Form, not the other way around. You don’t enter McDonalds through the kitchen, even though the food is why you’re there. You don’t place your order in the manager’s office, even though he runs the show.

The McDonalds design works to MEET THE NEEDS OF THE CUSTOMER. You enter, you head toward the menu, you see the options, you choose, you order, you eat… call it blueprint, marketing, feng-shui, FORM…whatever, It works!

In songwriting, we should MEET THE NEEDS OF THE LISTENER. They are our CUSTOMERS.

And, for better or worse, the “customer is always right”. They don’t care about song Form, but they feel it when it isn’t right.

For the beginning songwriter, the principles of song Form may seem like old-fashioned rules that aren’t very practical. But make no mistake, writing music without using the various song forms is like writing poetry without the alphabet… it’s impossible.

There are already many online articles & lessons about FORM in songwriting. Instead of explaining the mechanics for you with a music theory approach, (you SHOULD understand the mechanics), I’ve tried to give you an EMOTIONAL concept instead.

The wrong song form confuses the listener. Using a form that works delivers the “Happy Meal” to your audience.

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