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Different Parts, Different Roles


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I've started to think recently, about the roles each part in a song plays. Verses have one role, choruses another, and so on. The reason I started thinking about this is because I've heard lots of songs in which the verses are way better than the choruses, I actually listen to the songs just to hear the verses.

An example, Alkaline trio - Over and out:

Now, is this good? Bad? I mean, strong verses can't be bad, but is it good if the verses are better than the chorus?

Also, what strong song structures are there except ABABCB?

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hey

There's lots of song forms though most derive from key song forms.

A lot of folk and blues songs are based on the use of a refrain, so no chorus as such just a line at the end of the verse that is repeated more or less. There are various blues forms, the one you may have heard of is "12-bar blues". Other common forms are AAA and AABA and the most common form now - verse/chorus.

Most other forms are derived from these core forms.

I have been drafting articles on the song forms for some time and they will be available soon. :)

Cheers

John

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Now, is this good? Bad? I mean, strong verses can't be bad, but is it good if the verses are better than the chorus?

It does seem that in the most effective/successful ditties of the day most of the central esential weight is carried by the pop-chorus.

That's what is most generally intended to catch the ear and hang on, laden with an oft-repeated hook.

Also, what strong song structures are there except ABABCB?

If you will forgive me saying so, Boff, I think your asking of the question suggests that you might be listening to music falling within a pretty fixed range.

There are the simpler folk forms which John alluded to including the basic old 'ballad' forms of eight or sixteen bars (e.g. 'Blowing In The Wind)

These often become formulated as:

'simple verse structure' - where that one single shape is repeated and repeated.

'simple verse-chorus structure' - where the same musical shape is still happening, but lyrically there is a repeatad 'joining-in' section between each lyrically different verse.

'contrasting verse-chorus structure' - seemingly much less common - where those alternating lyric sections are actually different musically.

Then there are 'blues-forms' which use a basic harmonic skeleton for an eight-bar shape or a sixteen-bar shape or, most often, a twelve-bar shape.

Then, part-way through the last century, came the more sophicticated structure which I refer to as the 'modern chorus' - in which the verse happens just once at the beginning and is then forgotten about, leaving all work and attention to rest upon the body of the chorus - most usually 32-bars in length and bult with an AABA shape - which the Beatles were very fond of - but it could get as complex and meandering as the composer wanted and end up being 40 or maybe 60 bars long - there is no real fixed limit.

Rock and roll then dumped all that nonsense and largely reverted to those old.folk-forms again.

And now the dominant pop favourite seems to be settled at verse-chorus-verse-chorus, with another section commonly insinuated before the final triumphant chorus for emotional/dramatic impact - giving you the 'C' part of your ABABCB shape.

In all cases it seems that the chorus definitely has primacy of focus.

Interestingly, as a relevant aside perhaps, just the other day I heard again the lovely old Neil Young song 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' - the words for which I have seen written out using the labels 'verse' and 'chorus' and 'bridge' - while the music/harmony remains the same 4-bars endlessly repeated - so reducing the lyrical divisions to much less significance in a way.

John and I are both hacking at articles on structure - and have been for a while now - it's a slow race to see who finishes first.

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It does seem that in the most effective/successful ditties of the day most of the central esential weight is carried by the pop-chorus.

That's what is most generally intended to catch the ear and hang on, laden with an oft-repeated hook.

If you will forgive me saying so, Boff, I think your asking of the question suggests that you might be listening to music falling within a pretty fixed range.

There are the simpler folk forms which John alluded to including the basic old 'ballad' forms of eight or sixteen bars (e.g. 'Blowing In The Wind)

These often become formulated as:

'simple verse structure' - where that one single shape is repeated and repeated.

'simple verse-chorus structure' - where the same musical shape is still happening, but lyrically there is a repeatad 'joining-in' section between each lyrically different verse.

'contrasting verse-chorus structure' - seemingly much less common - where those alternating lyric sections are actually different musically.

Then there are 'blues-forms' which use a basic harmonic skeleton for an eight-bar shape or a sixteen-bar shape or, most often, a twelve-bar shape.

Then, part-way through the last century, came the more sophicticated structure which I refer to as the 'modern chorus' - in which the verse happens just once at the beginning and is then forgotten about, leaving all work and attention to rest upon the body of the chorus - most usually 32-bars in length and bult with an AABA shape - which the Beatles were very fond of - but it could get as complex and meandering as the composer wanted and end up being 40 or maybe 60 bars long - there is no real fixed limit.

Rock and roll then dumped all that nonsense and largely reverted to those old.folk-forms again.

And now the dominant pop favourite seems to be settled at verse-chorus-verse-chorus, with another section commonly insinuated before the final triumphant chorus for emotional/dramatic impact - giving you the 'C' part of your ABABCB shape.

In all cases it seems that the chorus definitely has primacy of focus.

Interestingly, as a relevant aside perhaps, just the other day I heard again the lovely old Neil Young song 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' - the words for which I have seen written out using the labels 'verse' and 'chorus' and 'bridge' - while the music/harmony remains the same 4-bars endlessly repeated - so reducing the lyrical divisions to much less significance in a way.

John and I are both hacking at articles on structure - and have been for a while now - it's a slow race to see who finishes first.

Actually, I think my taste of music is way wider than most peoples' are. Sure, I mainly listen to all different kinds of metal, but I also like rock, pop, folk, trance, rap, symphonies, indie, contemporary worship, etc (yes, I am bragging). I think the reason I'm asking is becase I usually don't pay attention to song structures. Maybe I should, I bet I'd be surprised!

Thanks for the walk-through, not that much to comment about though.. It will be interesting to read your (and/or John's) article on structure :)

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Actually, I think my taste of music is way wider than most peoples' are. .....I usually don't pay attention to song structures.

My mistake.

I always presume songwriters will be students of the form.

Hope the articles will all be interesting.

Mine is now centred around history and terminology

Sometimes it's hard to make these things fun and worthwhile reading.

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There is lots of songs that don't follow the basic ABABCB form. Johnny Cash's songs don't even really have chorus's (most of the time). Like Highwayman is just 4 verses and 2 music breaks. Man In Black is just 5 verses. Lithium by Evanescence goes BABCAB. I think it's awesome when musicians strive to do something different a bit different.

I know what you mean about the verses being sometimes stronger and more catchy than the chorus. Rap songs are like that alot of times. Listen to Hands Held High by Linkin Park. The verses say alot more and are way more catchy.

~TIMOTHY~

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what strong song structures are there except ABABCB?

I have some favorite song structures that don't appear very often in the music I listen to. One of my favorites is Chorus, Verse, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus. (The Verse, Verse parts might be one longer verse instead.) The first thing the listener hears is the catchy part of the song, the part that explains why the song is worth listening to. That is followed by the complete uninterrupted story in the verses. The chorus repeats. The bridge reveals important details that don't fit in the verses. And the final chorus ends the song. A good singable title in a well-rhymed chorus, unrhymed verses to keep the lyric sounding fresh, and a bridge that catches your attention -- put all that together and you've got a good song.

Keep writing,

Don

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I used to write a lot of songs that went iAABe or iAAABe, with B as a development of A.

Basically I'd find a nice long chord progression, maybe a minute or so, that finished unresolved (i.e. usually on chord V). I'd repeat it a couple of times, but on the final repetition would take the chords somewhere else, usually ending up back on chord I. I'd then stick on a different idea for an intro to set the scene, and try and come up with a creative idea for the end. I would sometime change to another key at the end, or come up with a different riff and have an extended out-tro, or use something based on the intro.

No chorus, no verse, no bridge, no middle 8.

I've dumbed down a bit these days, so tend to go with the standard ABABCB half the time.

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