Saturday, October 15, 2016

The most famous song structures in modern music

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are presenting a new blog category: songwriting!
With these articles we are going to break down some of the creation processes behind the most successful songs in terms of chords, sound choices, structures and arrangements.

Let's start by saying that by no mean these article wants to become a guideline on how you should write a song: a song is an art composition, and the main content it should convoy is INSPIRATION, not following guidelines.
If you don't have a musical or lyrical message to deliver, it's totally useless to apply the most effective structure, the most common chord progressions and the most modern sounds: music is not marketing, and the "fake" products, those created just with the cookie-cutter are easy to spot and will never remain in the heart of the listener.

Let's focus on the most common song structure: a rock or a pop song is often composed by 5 parts:

A) intro: the introduction of the song
B) verse: the part in which the bulk of the lyrics are
C) bridge: the part used as a connection between the verse and the chorus
D) chorus: the fulcrum of the song
E) instrumental: a part of the song without lyrics, e.g. a guitar solo

By listening to your favourite pop/rock/metal songs you'll notice that statistically, the most common structure is A-B-C-D-B-C-D-E-D-D, or some variation of it (for example the first verse can be longer than the second one, or there can be a bridge before the last choruses after the instrumental).
This song structure allows usually the artist to get to the first chorus within the first 90 seconds mark, which is a standard in writing songs for radio airplay, and to keep the overall song lenght under 3/3.5 minutes, which is also another standard obtained by studying the average attention span of the casual listener.

Now, we know that most of the songs follow those rules to be more effective, but there are many others that prefer other structures. Some of them for example do add or subtract some element, for example by adding another part:

F) Special: a verse that is totally different from the others

Therefore another very common song structure that we could find is the following, with all its possible variants: A-B-D-A-B-D-F-E-D-D
This structure is without the bridge, therefore the song is more agile, it takes less to get to the chorus and the variation element is the special before the instrumental part, or sometimes replacing entirely it.

Let's now do a training with a couple of famous songs, let's start with a pop one: Baby one more Time by Britney spears. In this case we can clearly see a structure A-B-C-D-A-B-C-D-A-F-D-D
which is a very common pop variant of the classic structure, in which intro + special takes entirely the place of the instrumental part to make the song even more focused and vocal-centric.

Moving towards rock/metal territories, let's check out this beautiful Iron Maiden single: Flight of Icarus, one of the most famous songs of the band. In this case the structure is A-B-C-D-A-B-C-D-E-D-E, with two guitar solos alternating with the choruses in the last part of the song, since guitar solos are (unlike in pop) a trademark in heavy metal.

As you can see the most common structure can be found in many different genres, and we encourage you to listen to your favourite songs and write down the structure, then compare them among them and with yours: it's a very interesting exercise in understanding the various dynamics inside the songs, to learn what we can do to make our songs flow more effectively, and especially to learn that in this world the rules are made to be broken and completely changed!

Additional awesomeness: there are some particular bands of less commercial genres like progressive, djent or some type of extreme metal, who deliberately change the structure from song to song making them much more complex and articulated (but often less easy listening). The structures can have different type of verses rotating (es. Verse with riff 1, verse with riff 2, verse with riff 3...), or with more than one chorus alternating. Let's try to break down the incredible Make Total Destroy by Periphery: A-B1-C-D-B2-B3-B4-E-D-E-F-B5-B1 !!!

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