7 Creative Ways to Structure Your Songs Better
So you’re about to write songs or are revisiting some of your older material to improve it, and you want to know how you can structure your songs better. Let me start by saying that while there are a few things we can do here, we don’t want to go too crazy (unless that is the point) because the trade-off of getting too experimental with structure is risk losing listener attention.
The best way to structure your songs better is to use one of the established common song structures in songwriting. This is because most people are used to hearing music a certain way. They expect to be walked through a song in a certain order and these structures are meant to do so.
This is similar to the way that storytelling walks the audience through a story with common structures.
That being said, there are a few other creative ways to structure your song better and spice things up further.
Some of these are:
- Use a common song structures
- Change the song section your idea is used for
- Check the peaks and valleys of the song
- Adjust song sections’ duration to add variety
- Don’t take too long to repeat hooks
- Use the structure to support the message
- Compare your structure to your other songs
I want to go more in detail for each of these so read on to see them all or if one catches your eye feel free to skip to it.
Use a common song structures
We have to start here because this is the first songwriting tool we need to make sure your songs are structured correctly and not all over the place.
In contemporary music like rock and pop (and it’s subgenre’s) most songs follow the 2 song structures below and use variations of it. These 2 are:
- Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Bridge – Chorus
- Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse
These are not the only ones, these are just the most common, but there are many variations.
Some variations on those structures are things like starting the song with the Chorus or adding in other smaller song structure elements such as Intros, Outros, Prechoruses, Postchoruses, Instrumental Breaks and Solo sections, etc.
These other structure elements can be standalone melodic or chord progression ideas, or parts of the Verse and Chorus but played in a slightly different way.
Some examples of variations of the two main song structures above are:
- Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Bridge
- Intro – Verse – Prechorus – Chorus – Verse – Prechorus – Chorus – Bridge – Prechorus – Chorus – Outro
- Verse – Chorus – Postchorus – Verse – Chorus – Bridge – Chorus – Postchorus
These are just ideas. They are just possible combinations adding in the other elements to the main Verse/Chorus elements. Your song and song ideas will really be what dictates what you should add in or remove.
For example, maybe your Verse idea and your Chorus idea have too big a contrast or don’t mesh well right next to each other, so adding a Prechorus can help them to transition. Maybe going right back to your Verse after the Chorus doesn’t transition well, so adding a Postchorus will help smooth out the transition. It’s going to depend on the song.
If you want to read more about common song structures check out our post Song Structure Templates To Write Songs Fast.
As a side note if you’re interested, Classical music has other structures which you can learn about by Googling “music forms”, and Jazz usually has a big focus on improvisation so structure is different there, because the goal is different from most contemporary bands and artists. Just something else to look into if you’re curious.
Change the song section your idea is used for
One thing that I’ve learned by writing with other people is that if I have an idea that sounds like a Verse to me, it can sometimes sound like a Chorus to someone else. And sometimes changing the placement the idea is being used for to another section can work even better, and it’s really mindblowing when it does.
You don’t need a second person for this (although it helps) but my suggestion to you is to imagine using your idea for one section of the song as a different section of the song and testing it. This can really breathe new life to an old idea and also inspire you with the song because it now sounds like something totally new. Don’t overthink it, but it is worth testing.
Check the peaks and valleys of the song
Unless you’re going for a droney, repetitive type of song, most songs have peaks and valleys. It’s important to pay attention to these changes in energy/tension/release when you are choosing what idea will become which song section.
This sort of goes hand in hand with the last point but in addition, considers the peaks and valleys of the song.
Contrast is important. So if your choruses are meant to be big, then use the big sounding idea, but if your Choruses are meant to be small or low energy then you can use the big sounding idea as your Verse, and use your small/lower energy sounding idea as your Chorus. Make sense?
Adjust song sections’ duration to add variety
When looking at structure we also have to pay attention to how long each song section will be repeated for.
You will generally want to keep Choruses shorter than Verses (because the Chorus is the main idea, and the Verse is where you expand on the idea).
But you also don’t always want every Verse and every Chorus to be the exact same length in the same song because your song may become predictable, especially if not much changes from one Verse compared to another Verse or one Chorus compared to another Chorus.
So try varying the duration of the first Verse compared to the second Verse, or the duration of the first Prechorus to the second Prechorus, etc.
Bonus tip: you can also play with time signatures so not only can you have more or less bars in Verse 1 over Verse 2 for example, but you can also add in an extra bar in another time signature, like repeating 4 bars of a 4/4 Verse and throwing in an extra bar of 2/4 to spice things up.
Don’t take too long to repeat hooks
Adding to the previous point, when looking at your song structure, you want to make sure you are not dragging things on too long before repeating the hook of your song. You don’t want to end up with a song that feels like it takes forever to go where it’s trying to go (unless it’s for a specific purpose).
The same goes for making it too short. Don’t rush through one section just to get back to the hook.
Use the structure to support the message
This one may work for people trying to write a very conceptual song. For example, if your song is about bringing together two perspectives with another person, you can have one perspective told in the first half, then a Bridge in the middle of the song, and then the other perspective in the second half. In this case the song structure is also supporting the song’s message of uniting the two perspectives using the Bridge, musically and conceptually.
This might be a bit more on the experimental side of things, but the main idea is that song structure can sometimes be used to support the song concept.
Compare your structure to your other songs
Lastly, this is a bit of common sense but occasionally you want to make sure that you compare the structure of your songs so that you are not making every song exactly the same. It’s ok if a few are, but if you have an entire EP or album where every song has the exact same structure then when people hear the album top to bottom they are going to feel like it’s too predictable and may get bored even if your songs sound good standalone. Those secondary structure elements like Intros, Prechoruses, Postchoruses, Solo sections, etc will come in handy for this.
This might be an important tip for anyone releasing many singles, as you might forget when you don’t have the context of an entire EP or album.
While song structure is more of a foundation for your song than a place to get crazy, hopefully this article helped you see a few ways you can structure your songs better in creative ways that you haven’t tried before. If that was the case, consider subscribing to my Youtube channel and bookmarking this site to check as new content is published!