I was surfing YouTube the other day and ran across a seminar by Ralph Murphy, a legendary songwriter. One of the most useful takeaways I got was his list of 6 most popular song forms (or song structures) when songwriting.
I’ve changed up the order a bit based on personal preference but they are all there.
- Song Form 1 = verse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge – chorus – end
- This is the most common song structure.
- The bridge should express the “what if?” or the opportunity of the song’s story
- Song Form 2 = verse – chorus – verse – chorus – music – chorus – end
- common in rock, dance and country but lacks a bridge or “middle 8”
- Song Form 3 = verse – lift/pre-chorus – chorus – bridge – lift/pre-chorus or chorus
- this is the song structure that has the most #1 hits
- the pre-chorus should be 2-6 lines that precede the title line
- the pre-chorus expresses the “and, if, but, maybe” of the song
- bridge should be just about 2 lines but not much more
- Song Form 4 = (a) beginning – (b) now – (c) what if? – (d) down the road
- no chorus
- 1st or last line or each section is the title line many times
- sense of passage of time is usually essential with this song structure
- Song Form 5 = chorus – verse – chorus – music – bridge – chorus – end
- this song structure is called a rondo… or at least is similar to a rondo
- great for dance record songs
- lots of Western Swing songs are written in this song form
- Song Form 6 = preamble – followed by song in various structures
- the preamble sets up the premise for the song or introduces the song
- think Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer
It’s a long video and some people don’t seem to be buying his view. But it’s worth a watch.