Paying attention to song structure

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by socialleper, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I'm trying to get back into writing music and lyrics for the band I'm in, which plays music that is a little more simple than stuff I've written before. In the past I've written songs with too many parts, some jarring changes, and (according to the singers) too many words in the lyrics to remember. So now I have to actually think about how to write listenable song structures.
    When you listen to music do you actually pay attention to the flow of a song or an entire album? Have you ever said to yourself all of these songs have the same pieces? The typical structure of most rock songs seems to be intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-middle bridge-verse-chorus-outro. But does anyone actually notice this template approach to songs? If I think too hard about a song being too simple or too organized like another song, do I run the risk of ruining the song by over thinking it?
  2. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    If I am listening to an album by an artist I will definitely notice if their songs follow a formula. Billy Talent and Artemis Pyledriver come to mind. I do not generally pay attention though as most pop music is some formula or another, people don't like originality, they like familiarity.
  3. Milk


    Sep 16, 2013
    Montreal, Canada
    I do tend to notice templates of songs.

    When i write songs usually the only thing i have to willingly make an effort to write is an intro and outro. Its rare that in the process of writing a song i have an intro or outro that comes to me naturally. I've learned more recently to not try to force it, if i cant come up with a good intro or outro, maybe i just don't need one. I don't want weaker parts or parts that sound maybe more forced.

    Otherwise i do follow verse chorus verse chorus bridge...usually. But not always. Sometimes i end on the verse after the bridge without going back to the chorus. Some songs i have a repeating bridge, which i guess means it wasnt really a bridge in the first place? Like it'll come back in the song. The most recent song i wrote is verse-chorus-verse-chorus-"bridge"-solo-verse-chorus-"bridge". I repeat the bridge and end on it...i guess it's a bridge/outro.... Sometimes i have second verses that are shorter than the first, like in this song i do. its two measures longer on the first verse. I don't really think about it much though unless i'm analysing it like right now, the logical structure for any particular song just usually makes itself evident. It's only later maybe that i'll really think about its structure.
  4. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    Unless you're going down the prog route, I think one thing you can do to keep things interesting is to use the traditional song elements in different ways. This could be trying different arrangements of the different elements, or presenting them differently through the song by altering dynamics and instrumentation.

    One exercise to help get your mind out of routine is to sit down with a few albums and jot down arrangements. Some bands do things really differently, but often you can't tell until you've actually gone through and analysed their music.
  5. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    Yes and no.

    I work very similar to you. In the end you need to identify your strengths and weaknesses, likes and not-likes. Then find like-minded folks to jam with and let whatever is inside come out. Not to turn this into an art-existentialism rant but music is art and art is a product of an artist's own perspective. Why conform your perspective of the world to someone else's perceived paradigm?

    Or not.

    Good luck!
  6. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    Music is an artistic expression of emotion, and admittedly that expression can be chaotic, but if its too haphazard people don't want to hear it or think haphazardly amateurish.
    I don't want to make something too simple, but I don't want to noodle it over and over just for no one to really care. Since I analyze everything to death, it's hard for me to know if other people even pay attention to song structure. If they care more about flow than repetition. If they would even noticed if most of the songs on a CD had the same basic structure.
  7. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I don't know if I really consciously notice it, but yeah, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus seems to be pretty much the pop/rock song default structure (maybe skipping that last verse and going straight from the bridge to a final chorus). Seems to me that artists who want to mix things up but still remain accessible will just tinker with it a little to keep things fresh, like going verse-verse-chorus (doubling the verse pattern before going for the chorus), or having two distinct bridges, maybe with a chorus in between. But get too complicated beyond that and you're into prog territory - which I like, but it will cost accessibility.
  8. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    If you're looking for a change, you can also think about the meter of each song, and change that up from time to time: don't write everything in 4/4--try something in 6/8, or 3/4.
  9. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    When I write a riff I'm not really conscious of its time signature; I just try and make it catchy if it needs to be or innocuous if its just going to be in the background.