Song Structure Templates To Write Songs Fast
As a songwriter, you may find yourself with many ideas, a bit disorganized in your mind, trying to come out all at once in one song. I know I’ve been there. For that reason, I’ve put together a few song structure templates which can help you lay out all of those ideas on paper (or digitally) to write songs fast.
If you are into the weirder type of experimental, jammy songwriting, these templates can still be a great way to make sense of your ideas and adjust as you like from there. To understand the templates though, it would be good to start with the basics.
What is a song structure?
Let’s start at the very beginning. A song structure is how each idea in your song is organized by section to create the whole, your song.
A song structure is like the floor plan for your house, and each piece of your song is like a room in that house. Entrance, living room, bedroom, kitchen, backyard are a lot like an intro, verse, chorus, bridge, outro, etc.
Each room (song section) also has a purpose.
What are the roles of each song section?
In songwriting, each song section has a job to do, a lot like how a kitchen is for cooking or a bedroom is for sleeping, for example. It wouldn’t make sense to cook your food in the bathroom would it? Or maybe it does…I’m not here to judge you.
Thus, the sections of a song have roles in the song, and they are are the below:
- Intro: Sets the mood for the rest of the song. Sometimes the intro is ambient, or it might be a variation of another song section. The idea is to give you a preview of what’s to come.
- Verse: Here is where you develop your idea and do the setup for your main idea (the chorus). Usually this section is descriptive and is meant to walk you through a story or describe a moment in space and time depending on the approach being taken for the song.
- Prechorus: This section is used to connect the chorus with the previous section and is fairly optional. It may provide a change in tension. Sometimes they can be short and sometimes they can last a few bars, but the key point is that this is setting you up for the main idea (chorus).
- Chorus: This is the main idea. Usually there is a contrast to the verses. The lyrics can be short like a catchphrase or they can be a bit longer, but usually there will be some kind of contrast to the verses so you know this is a separate section and the main point.
- Postchorus: Like the prechorus this is optional. They transition the listener from the chorus to the next part of the song.
- Bridge or instrumental break: This is where you go on a trip. Usually the purpose is to break out from the rest of the song or to make a variation on a previous section and squeeze the most out of it. Sometimes bridges can be made up of a variation of the Chorus, for example. This section can be short or long, it can be rhythm, instrument or melody focused or it can be a completely different chord progression that is meant to take you through a journey away from the rest of the song.
- Outro: This is essentially the end of the song. It’s used to give you a sense that an ending is happening. You might want to set an audience back down from the trip your song sent them on and this is the section for that; of course, you can also stop a song abruptly with no outro for dramatic effect as well.
Song structure examples
Now that we know what a song structure is, and the role of each part of it, let’s look at some structures and how they work. We’ll start with the most widely used.
Template #1: The “Pop Song Structure”
Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Bridge – Chorus
This is the most common song structure. There are countless amounts of songs that follow this format and it is what people are most used to hearing. So much so that many times, just arranging your ideas in this order will grab people’s attention right away because it’s familiar.
I also think that since people unconsciously understand this structure so well, they are less likely to get lost and have more brain space to appreciate the idea of the song section.
WARNING: You may be tempted not to use this structure because you don’t want your song to sound like so many other songs in terms of structure. This is completely understandable, and this song structure can be tweaked to that end.
However, I urge you not to get too over analytical here. Just because a room has 4 walls doesn’t mean every room is the same, and it’s also true in songwriting. There are so many other things that can make your song interesting and unique that it’s best not to bottleneck your creativity at the beginning with this. We’re just organizing ideas here, and structure can be tweaked or changed when the big picture is more clear.
Template #2: “Starting with the Chorus Structure”
Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Bridge
This is a variation on the Pop Song Structure where you start with the Chorus first. This can be good if you want to start the song off with a lot of energy as the Choruses many times are higher energy than Verses (but not always).
A good tip for knowing if this structure would work for your song is to look at your Chorus and decide “does this Chorus sound good by itself right off the bat? Or does it sound better when we are led into it by another song section?”. If it sounds good right off the bat then starting your song with that Chorus might work.
Template #3 The “No Chorus Structure”
Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse
Variation: Verse – Verse – Verse
This structure works really well when you have a short lyrical hook in your Verses. Some call this a “Refrain”. Put simply, you develop your song through the Verses and have a lyrical phrase that repeats in each Verse. This gives people something to hold on to as you expand on that Refrain. The Refrain is usually the title of the song. It’s like having a Chorus, except that it’s inside of your Verse, rather than having its own separate section.
Looking at it from a house analogy, I guess this structure is like having a one room studio apartment. Your living room is also your bedroom and has a kitchen. Maybe not a great example, but you get the idea.
Tip for song structures with no Chorus
I’ve also found that a great supporting element in No Chorus songs is a really catchy rhythm. Also, playing with the syncopation created by your lyrical syllables (sung or spoken) can add spice if the song starts to feel repetitive, since there’s no Chorus.
Writing a song structure – how to spice things up
To write your song structure you should try arranging your ideas in a common song structure like the Pop Song structure or the No Chorus song structure and hearing what it sounds like and where the song wants to go. This will be a great starting point. To spice things up after that try the below.
Add secondary song sections
Once the flow from one section to the next is generally good and you have a foundation, try adding in things like intros, prechoruses, postchoruses, outros to switch things up. These types of song sections are fairly optional. Like having a guest bathroom in your house. Not all houses have one and that is ok, we embrace the suck, we push through it.
Play with time signatures to add extra beats or bars for surprise
Another cool trick to spice up song structure is playing with time signatures and adding/subtracting an extra beat or bar in certain spots to create surprise. Just make sure the pulse of the song is still good. Even pop songs do this.
I guess this could be like adding shelves on your wall to tweak the structure a bit. It’s a small detail. I’m really trying with the house analogies here lol.
How to spice up your songs beyond structure
I will likely write another post entirely dedicated to this but lets cover it now briefly.
Structure is just one part of a song. Here are some other things where you can get creative that will be a great use of your time.
- Rhythms: complex, simple, odd time signatures, rhythms taken from traditional music in other cultures. There is so much you can do here.
- Melodies & chords: You can use common chord progressions, key changes, chord inversions, play with chords and melodies in different modes of the scales, Lots to explore here.
- Instruments and effects: Ever thought of putting a djembe in your rock song? How about a flute mixed with a synthesizer? How about pitch shifting your vocals to sound like a tibetan monk playing a french horn?
Like I said, there are a lot of other things you can do to spice up your song besides structure. Don’t trip about finding the most creative structure. Look for what works.
As you might see, song structure can be on the more logic based side of songwriting. When you are trying to write songs fast, knowing your options for song structures is key. Also, this is the type of thing a producer often does to turn your song idea into a fully produced piece of work.
Hopefully this article has helped you feel less trapped by song structure and more empowered to use it as the powerful organizational tool that it is.