The Structural Elements of Songwriting

  • Introduction
                This is the opening section of a song that contains music often times without words. It often builds tension, which engages the listener.  This tension builds and releases in the down beat of the next section of music. The intro may use music or the basic chords from any other section of music (Verse, Chorus, Bridge) allowing the music to flow. An introduction is not limited to any specific instrument or any combination of instruments.

    Verse
                This is a section of music that uses the same melody, but has different lyrics. The verse is similar to the stanza of a poem. Each verse is identified as it’s own.

    Pre-Verse
                This is an interlude that is no longer often practiced in today’s rock or pop music. It opens up the first verse after the introduction.

    Chorus
                This is the main part of a song that recurs between verses and often after the bridge. In the chorus, both the music and the lyrics, repeat. The lyrics will connect with the verse, or follows a pre-chorus.

    Pre-Chorus
                This is the set of lyrics and music that occur before the chorus that connect the chorus to the verse, if the chorus cannot stand alone following the verse.

    Bridge
                The bridge is often placed after the second chorus and introduces new material, such as new chords, a new melody, and lyrics. Like the introduction, the bridge acts as way to create and build tension to lead into a the resolution of the song.

    Outro
                This is a section of music that concludes a song. It is often repeated material with new elements, following the last chorus.

    Collision/Layering
                This is a technique where multiple musical parts overlap, or are written on top of each other to build tension. Music can also be written so that two or more different music lines complement each other (counterpoint) and do not have the “clashing” effect, but instead causes the music to sound busy. This busy effect also creates tension and suspension, leading into a release or resolution. The resolution is often heard in the chorus, since the chorus is the recurring theme of the song.

    Solo
                This is a line of music written specifically for one instrument. This line showcases the instrument in front of the others, while other instruments accompany by playing chords and simple rhythms.

    Ad lib
                This often occurs in the outro of a song when an instrument breaks away from the rest of the music and performs in an improvisatory fashion. The instrument performing the ad lib is no longer confined to the tempo or meter, and becomes free from the other music.

    Hook
                This is a short musical idea, or motif, that is written to catch the listener’s ear and be memorable. It may occur after the intro, but often in the chorus. The purpose of the Hook is to stick and stay in the listeners mind.

    Theme
                This is a recognizable melody in a song. There could be two themes within one song, but each is recognizable by itself. The theme is another recurring passage of music meant to be memorable and catchy.