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Song structure (popular_music)

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Song structure (popular_music)

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Songs in popular music are almost never through-composed. That is, they almost always use the sectional forms such as strophic form. Other common forms include thirty-two-bar form, verse-chorus form, and twelve bar blues.

The first two sections listed below are considered primary, while the intro or introduction and coda (music) or ending may or may not be used in different performances and are not considered essential to the identity of most songs. A bridge is slightly more important. These two sections are usually repeated throughout a song though the bridge, intro, and outro are usually only used once.



Main article: Verse.

In popular music a verse roughly corresponds with a poetic stanza. When two or more sections of the song have basically identical music and different lyrics these sections are probably the verses of the song.


Main article: Refrain.

In popular music, chorus is used to mean the refrain of a song, which often sharply constrasts the verse melodically, rhythmically, and harmonically, and assumes a higher level of dynamics and activity, often with added instrumentation. Chorus form, or strophic form, is a sectional and/or additive way of structuring a piece of music based on the repetition of one formal section or block played repeatedly.

When two or more sections of the song have basically identical music and lyrics these sections are probably instances of the chorus.


Main article: Bridge (music).

In song writing, a bridge is an interlude that connects two parts of that song, building a harmonic connection between those parts.

Normally you should have heard the verse at least twice. The bridge may then replace the 3rd verse or precede it. In the latter case it delays an expected chorus. The chorus after the bridge is usually last and is often repeated in order to stress that it is final.

If when you expect a verse or a chorus you get something that is musically and lyrically different from both verse and chorus it is probably the bridge.

AABA form

Thirty-two-bar form uses four sections, most often eight measures long each (48=32), two verse or A sections, a contrasting B section, the bridge or "middle-eight", and a return of the verse in one last A section (AABA).

Variation on the basic structure

Verse-chorus form or ABA form may be combined with AABA form, in compound AABA forms.

Twelve bar blues and other chord progressions

Main article: chord progression.

Sections are often defined through the use of different chord progressions in different sections. However, the repetition of one chord progression may mark off the only section in a simple verse form such as the twelve bar blues.

Further reading

  • Richard Middleton. "Form", in Horner, Bruce and Swiss, Thomas, eds. (1999) Key Terms in Popular Music and Culture. Malden, Massachusetts. ISBN 0631212639.
  • Covach, John. "Form in Rock Music: A Primer", in Stein, Deborah (2005). Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195170105.
    • Everett, Walter, ed. Rock Music: Critical Essays on Composition, Performance, Analysis, and Reception.
    • Covach, John and Boone, Graham, eds. Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis.

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.