Understanding Why Each Section Matters In Your Songwriting
Picture, if you will, a house. This house is your completed song, the amalgamation of several connected yet distinct bodies of work. Your house begins with the foundations; once laid, the walls are erected, the roof is placed on top of them. Then, the guts of the house are installed – the plumbing, the wiring. And finally, all the homely trimmings are added to give the house character, to get you to connect with it emotionally. It may be useful to dissect your song in a similar fashion – your chord progression lays the foundations for your walls of melody, upon which you’ll eventually hang ornate lyrical phrases. And while a simple verse-chorus composition may be structurally sound, to truly make a house a home you’ll need to pay equal attention to its pre-chorus, bridge and breakdown. It’s a familiar enough analogy – each brick being a single word, and so on. With that in mind, we’re going to examine the nature and importance of each element a song can feature, culminating in a more balanced, holistic view of what the songs we write truly are, and what more they can be. This is the nub of this article and why each section matters.
This will be to your song what the room where you leave your shoes and coats is to your house. It’s the first thing people will see and hear, and may just be what they judge your song on – so make sure it’s nice and tidy, and don’t make them stay there for too long, or they might just leave.
The verses of your song should prepare your listeners for the impending chorus. They can be expansions of the theme your chorus reiterates, or tangential thoughts that stray just far away enough to offer a fresh perspective, but not far away enough to feel irrelevant or unrelated. Your verses are your rooms – part of the same house, but each with their own characteristics and functions. They might look and sound similar (they’ll feel much more at home in your song if they do), but it’s their subtle differences that earn them their place. Having said that, some songs have verses which are repeated, which would make them studio apartments, or have walls covered in only one kind of wallpaper – you’ll get a strange sense of deja vu, unless it’s particularly interesting.
Historically the best way to get over any gap, the bridge in your song is what connects your verse and chorus. It may share elements of both, or may be a tonal or lyrical variation on your verse, or something else entirely. In practice, a bridge enables you to get to point B from a point A that might seem worlds away. If you’re building a song out of drastically quieter or more sombre rooms, you’re going to need some intermediary space before hitting your listeners with a chorus that could blow the entire roof off. The whole thing could collapse unless your bridge (or “attic”, that special place that seems so much like a room but has so much of the roof in it) is strong enough.
The call to arms, the rallying cry, the chorus should be written on the basis of it existing to draw in new listeners and encourage them to sing along, to make them part of what you’re doing. There are few greater rewards than for an audience to sing your lyrics back to you, and this is a strong starting point. When everyone’s singing the chorus, they’re all under the same roof, no matter which room or verse is their favourite. If your guests sing loud enough in the lounge, you’ll hear them in the upstairs bathroom – and might just have to join in.
This must be the living room area – a place for guests to sit and chat, or somewhere to just chill in front of the TV. At any rate, it’s your song’s activity centre – the part where anything different or exciting happens. It might be the guitar solo, or a tempo shift, or
At any rate, it’s great fun for a while, but it’s not where you want to spend all your time.
At the end of their visit, you want your guests to leave on a high note. When they’re saying their goodbyes, preparing themselves once again for the cold outdoors, give them something to remember you and your lovely warm song by. Whether it’s a chorus they can hum all the way home, or a last minute burst of energy they’ll still be reeling from hours later, make sure it’ll leave fond memories in their hearts. And beware of fade-outs, because your listeners might not be sure when the song’s over, and therefore might not know when they’re supposed to go home.
Well that’s the end of this article on songwriting and why each section matters. For more articles like this and much more check out all the latest GMI – Guitar & Music Institute posts.