Deciding Song Structure

I mostly enjoy writing songs on the basis of arrangement/sequence of  the following elements.

  • Verses
  • Chorus
  • Instrumental

A typical song structure might be

  • Intro
  • Verse 1
  • Verse 2
  • Chorus
  • Verse 3
  • Chorus
  • Instrumental (perhaps over chorus chord sequence)
  • Verse 4

A typical arrangement for the above structure might be

  • Intro – just acoustic guitar and organ, panned right and left around 50%
  • Verse 1 – vocal begins
  • Verse 2 – bass guitar and minimal drums (perhaps just hihats and bass drum at this point) begin
  • Chorus – introduce snare to drum part
  • Verse 3 – change snare to side stick
  • Chorus – return to snare, thicken snare sound with claps,  add cymbals, introduce electric guitar
  • Instrumental – bring in lead guitar to play melodic solo – perhaps a simple interpretation of the chorus vocal melody
  • Verse 4 – strip back everything

Normally before I record anything I would have the whole song mapped out in terms of structure and how it builds. I would do this by working with midi based software Guitar Pro 5, assigning a simple piano sound to the vocal melody part, and appropriate instruments sounds to the other parts. Though the actual sounds generated by Guitar Pro never survive through to the recorded song, I find them more than adequate for me to check the musical progressions and arrangement ballparks before I start recording. In fact at the beginning of the recording stage I use individual instrument parts exported as wavs from Guitar Pro as placeholders, which I then gradually and progressively replace.

Download the Guitar Pro 5 development file for my song ‘As Ancient As Stars’

Listen to the finished song here

How do you decide song structure?

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