Understanding Song Form is Essential

Understanding Song Form is Essential

A good songwriter knows which SONG FORM delivers the feeling of a song most effectively.

Imagine walking into McDonalds and the first room you enter is the bathroom… what happened???

The builder used the wrong FORM or BLUEPRINT. Yes, every McDonalds does have a bathroom, but it SHOULD NOT AND WILL NOT be the first room you step into.

Likewise, a song shouldn’t introduce itself to the listener with the wrong section heard first.

This is what SONG FORM is all about.

Since McDonalds has sold a few burgers over the years, they understand the “BIG PICTURE” of selling fast food:

GETTING OUR ATTENTION (introducing), CREATING or STATING A CONFLICT (our need for food) and RESOLVING THE CONFLICT (burger, fries & coke).

In other words:

  • They get our attention. (with advertising)
  • They REMIND you that your stomach is growling. (a problem)
  • They are available, on every corner, to SELL to anyone. (the problem is fixed)


a) The INTRODUCTION gets our attention.

b) The VERSE(S) creates a conflict/tension.

c) The CHORUS delivers the answer/resolution.

OPTIONAL material:

d) The BRIDGE takes us somewhere for additional information or closure.

e) TAGS, SOLOS, VAMPS, BREAKDOWNS, REPEAT TILL FADE, etc. are icing on the cake, add-ons for arranging and production enhancement.

A great song works like a Novel or Movie, but in 3 – 4 minutes.

We are INTRODUCED to the main characters… (WHO)

we HEAR the story with verses… (WHAT AND WHERE)

and get it RESOLVED with the chorus, and maybe a bridge… (the WHEN & WHY)

All in a singable, danceable, memorable song.

3 & 1/2 – 4 minutes is all it takes.

One Form is no better than another, but there is most likely one that will help deliver the feel and emotional impact MORE EFFECTIVELY THAN THE OTHERS.

Tip #2. Song FORM is usually THE RESULT – NOT THE INSPIRATION for a song.

All of the popular song forms have strengths and weaknesses. Early rock n’ roll, (Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis) could express itself best from the mold known as 12-bar blues. That form is still valid today, but may not be as effective with other songs.

Diane Warren, probably the most successful songwriter of the past 20 years, said this in an interview when asked about Form:

“I usually write with verse, chorus, verse, bridge and chorus. Sometimes the structure of my song changes according to the feel of the song”.

The feel or vibe should dictate the form!

How do you pick the best form for your song?

Answer: All song Forms CAN work…

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