Do you have uncompleted songs in your notebook and countless voice memos on your phone? Welcome to the world of a songwriter, where we regularly jump from one idea to another and leave dozens behind without completing them. In this first post, I will focus on song forms and how they can help you complete your song ideas.
Until a decade ago, songs were created in large studios with big budgets, where the role of the ‘music producer’ and ‘songwriter’ was clearly defined. Everyone had a specific job in these large projects and the work was almost done in a factory assembly line manner. Fast forward to today, with the great technology at our disposal, the roles of a songwriter and producer are blurred. With a laptop in our hands, we can simultaneously write and produce professional level songs.
In this new era of music, a good producer-writer has extra responsibilities that we should all be aware of. First and foremost, you need to know how to present your musical ideas to the listener in a concise and clear manner. You can cook the best food in the world, but if it doesn’t look presentable on the plate, nobody will want to eat it. So, before we start producing a song, we have to know how to organize the various musical ideas in a presentable manner.
Enter: Song forms. Song forms allow us to present our musical ideas in a natural and simple manner. There are many song forms that have influenced today’s contemporary music styles. Here are some of the most important ones:
1) Verse – Pre-Chorus – Chorus
Verse – Pre-Chorus – Chorus form is the most popular form within Pop music since the 1950s. A lot of songs that we listen on the radio today are still based on this form.
A great way of explaining the Verse – Pre-Chorus – Chorus Form is the highway analogy. Imagine you get in the car and you start driving on your street. The story is introduced, and we get some details about what’s going on. This is Verse.
And then you start accelerating to a bigger street en route to the highway. We’re approaching the big section of the song here. This is Pre-Chorus. Keep in mind that the Pre-Chorus is an optional section, and not every song in this form has this.
Then you finally get on the highway and you’re fully accelerated, this is Chorus. This is where we all sing along.
And then every once in a while, we have to cross a bridge. This is the Bridge section. It is generally a contrasting section to the rest of the song where we want to move away from the general themes of Verse – Pre-Chorus / Chorus and bring a new perspective.
2) Verse – Refrain
This is a form that traditionally originates from folk music, but has crossed over to styles like blues, rock and many others. It is especially powerful for storytelling and to demonstrate a specific point, because it is repetitive. Verse-Refrain is comprised of a verse and a refrain. At the end of every verse there would be a recurring refrain, which also usually is the title of the song. A great example would be: The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan.
This song form originates from jazz, where we repeat A section twice and then the B section arrives. The form is completed with one last A section in the end.
What’s your typical workflow for writing and producing a song? Feel free to comment below!
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Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His new EP ‘Lines’ was released on November 2017 and his debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify. In addition to being a musician, he regularly teaches workshops and masterclasses internationally. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter, and for more information you can visit his website www.alpertuzcu.com