When I first started releasing my original music, I had no professional experience or knowledge about songwriting in any way, all I knew was what I wanted to say and express through my music! As time went on and I started writing more and working with other musicians and music producers, I realized the importance of knowing the proper terms for the parts of a song to be able to communicate better while creating music.
Not only that, but I was also interested in analyzing the different genres and how different structures affect the sound and overall vibe of the music. Learning about song structure will give you a ton of insight into how each part will add to your storytelling and sound. Typically, a completed song will be built in parts or sections that give the composition structure, allow it to flow, build-up, break down, and ultimately end successfully.
The different parts of a song include an intro, verse, pre-chorus, refrain, hook, chorus, interlude, bridge, breakdown chorus, solo, and outro. In modern dance and electronic music, there are also other parts such as a breakdown, build/rise, and a drop. Keep in mind not all songs will include every one of the parts listed above, but some combination or subset of them.
Here is a good video overview of the parts of a song:
The different song components are what gives the song structure, and what you base your whole composition on. There are many words used to label specific sections and it’s important to know that there’s no right or wrong here, just variations! Having this knowledge about the parts of a song will help you communicate with other musicians, but will also give you the ability to organize your thoughts and songwriting workflow to be as efficient as possible. When you know about the main building blocks, you’ll be able to express more creatively since you can shuffle things around and break the rules in your arrangements to get your desired effect. Overall, knowledge about song structure is like having a great tool to aid you in your journey to creating better and more powerful music! Without further or ado, let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Here Are The Different Parts Of A Song
In this section, we break down each component of a song.
The intro is how a song starts. You will find the intro at the beginning of a track and it’s usually a couple of bars to ease the listener into the song. It can set up the song in terms of rhythm, feel, and overall energy or it can be something that is completely different from the rest of the track. There’s no right or wrong way to go with an intro, however, the goal is to create an initial interest or excitement for the listener as the song is about to start! Artists can go as wild or as basic as they want with a song intro, from audio samples of movies, to just guitar strumming, it’s all about the story you want to tell. Intros are a great area to get creative and put your signature touch that reinforces your sound identity as an artist.
There are so many types of intros but there are some you may frequently come across, such as a song that starts with the actual chorus but as a stripped-down version to hook the listener from the start, or one that starts with the main chord progression but without the rhythmic elements that will later be introduced in the track, or maybe the intro is also the main melody or riff that’s used throughout the song. The possibilities are endless with intros as long as it grabs the listener’s attention!
The verses are where the story is told and where the main body of lyrics is. Songs can have many verses, where each verse tells us an additional part of the story, however, most songs nowadays have 2 or 3 verses to keep under 4/5 minutes of length. Each verse would normally have different lyrics that don’t repeat throughout the song, however, the main melody of the verses remains the same with additional elements and variations as the song builds up. In terms of lyrics, it’s all about the detail and imagery here, this is where the artist will create a strong visual and narrative in the listener’s mind.
Musically as well, the verses are where the story unfolds and it usually also remains the same throughout the verses with some elements added here and there to create intensity and add to the dynamic as the song progresses. The verses give context to the main message of the chorus and are what will eventually lead to it, therefore it often contrasts with the chorus musically.
The pre-chorus is not necessarily used in all songs, but you can commonly find it in many of today’s songs! It’s not one of the main elements that you need to include in your structure, but it adds a ton musically and creates an additional melodious part that leads into the chorus. The pre-chorus is a short phrase that has a different melody and is much shorter than any verse or chorus. Having a pre-chorus creates anticipation and excitement that leads the listener into the part they’re waiting for, the chorus.
The pre-chorus is repeated before every chorus throughout the whole song and is usually the same lyrically and musically. The listener automatically knows that when they hear the pre-chorus, the good part is coming! I personally love including a pre-chorus in most of the songs I write, just because I feel like it’s more interesting to have three different sections, verse, pre-chorus, and chorus, rather than just two. It keeps things interesting with an additional melody line and can let you build up your story lyrically as well!
The word “refrain” comes from the french word “Refraindre” which in English means “to repeat”. You can find refrains in all kinds of music, from classical, to jazz, to pop. Many people use the word “refrain” and “chorus” interchangeably which is a common misconception as they are not the same!
The refrain is a short line or phrase that repeats throughout the song just like a chorus would, however, it can be at the beginning or the ending of a verse and with no musical buildup. You can think of a refrain as a lyrical hook that is part of a larger section and repeats throughout the song. They’re the line that gets listeners hooked to your song and emphasizes the main message of your lyrics. So you can say that all choruses are refrains but not all refrains are choruses.
The hook is technically not a “part” of a song, however, it’s an element that shouldn’t be overlooked in any song. The hook is the catchiest and most recognizable part of any song and usually makes or breaks the song. In popular music, the hook is a line or a phrase that catches the listener’s attention. In genres like pop, R&B, hip-hop, and rock, the hook is usually located in the chorus and is repeated many times throughout the song. It usually is the title or main line of the lyrics that is catchy and easily remembered.
If you want to write a “hit” song, then your hook is your biggest selling point! Get that right, and of course some other elements, and you’ve got yourself a catchy tune! But of course, it doesn’t only have to be lyrics, it can also be melodic or rhythmic as long as it’s equally catchy and defines what your song is all about.
In hip-hop, the hook is almost always the chorus part between the rap verses, where you may find a female singer but sometimes this is also just referred to as chorus. There are many types of hooks you may come across, such as:
- The first lines of a chorus
- The last lines of a chorus
- The title of the song
- A melodic riff in the song
- A rhythmic section
- A specific sound used in the song
As long as it’s a catchy line, melody, or rhythm, has the title of the song in it, repeats throughout the song, and reels your audience in like a fishing hook, then you’ve got yourself a hook! If you start your songwriting with the hook, just make sure you keep the rest of the song in mind in terms of music and lyrics.
I’m sure you’ve already heard the word “chorus” many times before and you know what I am referring to! This is the main part of the song that is repeated many many times throughout. The chorus is the big climax or the highest point in any song where the main message of the lyrics is usually similar every single time it repeats. The chorus can sometimes have the title of the song in it but it doesn’t have to at all, and the lyrics usually stay the same but they can also change or have variations.
Generally, the chorus is louder in dynamic than the verses and usually is the catchiest part of the song where all the voices and instruments come together for this big payoff. The listeners always want to come back and listen to this section of the song that is repeated many times and where they know all the words.
The chorus always contrasts with the verses whether it is more or less intense, but the more contrast the greater the effect of the section on the listener. Really powerful choruses usually release the tension that builds up as you go through the song from verses to pre-chorus. Some songs choose to have very similar music in the verses and choruses and don’t create a contrasting relationship, so you can tell the chorus part from the words that stay the same and repeat throughout the song.
I personally sometimes start my songwriting with the chorus as I usually get inspired by a melody line that I want to be the main part of the song, however, many artists opt not to have a main chorus in their songs. Depending on their songwriting style or genre, some artists choose not to include one as it may give the song a commercial feel, or perhaps they prefer to center the song around the story and powerful lyrics instead of the music. There’s no right or wrong in songwriting, as long as it delivers the main message and emotion of the story and reflects the identity of the artist. The chorus is one of the most important parts of a song by far.
Interludes are the parts in between, they’re usually located between the chorus and the next verse. You can think of interludes as the music that leads the listener to the next part of the story. Interludes can be short or they can be longer depending on the song but usually, they’re just a few bars that ease you in from the chorus to the next verse. Interludes can be just an instrumental or have some vocal harmonies on top as long as it’s a short passage that connects different parts of the song together.
The bridge is such a breath of fresh air when it is included in a song. This part is a break from the main melodies of the verses and choruses to relieve the listener from repetition and is only included once of course. The term is based on the German word for bridge, “Steg”, which was used to describe a transitional section in medieval bar form in the 18th century. People sometimes also give it the name “middle eight” which is because 8 bars is usually the length of a bridge.
Including a bridge in your song can add a lot of drama and space for additional storytelling elements because it creates a contrasting section to the verses and chorus. This part of the song includes both different lyrics and music than the rest of the song. You can think of this section as a third main section of a song that creates buildup so that when it resolves to the final chorus, it provides the listener with a sense of release. You would normally find the bridge right before the last chorus as it prepares the listener for the climax. Although, you should keep in mind that not all songs have bridges.
9. Breakdown Chorus
The breakdown chorus is usually included in songs that don’t have bridges or a different section to create contrast before the final chorus. A breakdown chorus is the chorus again but played with quieter dynamics or with fewer musical elements so that it creates contrast with the final chorus when it comes in for the highest part of the song. It’s almost always followed by a full sounding chorus. This term comes in handy when communicating with other musicians and music producers you’re working with, instead of saying “play the chorus quieter and less intense so we can go on to play the final chorus with the full dynamics”. They will automatically know what you mean when you say breakdown chorus.
A solo is the part of the song that highlights one specific instrument. Solos in popular music are usually for guitar, piano, or vocals. The solo instrument or voice can be performed completely alone or with other accompanying instruments. A solo in today’s music usually occurs during a break or a bridge to add an element of excitement to a section without lyrics.
The outro is as you guessed it, the final part of the song that eases us out of the story and music. Like the intro, there’s really no right or wrong with this part. It can either be a complex outro, something that has nothing to do with the song, or as simple as a few bars of the verse or chorus repeating and fading out. For example, the outro of “Hey Jude” is a popular one, ending the song on “Na Na Na Na Na… Hey Jude!” repeating several times and eventually fading out completely. Sometimes it is the intro repeated again or just a few elements of the verse or chorus music stripped down to a cadence.
In other genres such as electronic music, some DJs opt for a simple “kick” as an outro to be able to mix in the next song as part of their live sets. So outros really just depend on the artist, musical genre, and have no specific rule, the possibilities are endless!
Dance music genres usually have different structures than the usual verse chorus verse bridge type of songs, and that’s because they serve a completely different purpose, which is to make people dance. The main parts will of course be similar, however, much much longer as tracks usually last up to 7 minutes long.
These genres also use different terms to describe the structure of their tracks. For example, you may still use the terms intro, outro, and bridge, but instead of the usual verse and chorus, you may call them breaks, drops, and other terms which I’ll explain below.
The “breakdown” or “break” in electronic genres often refers to the verse section. It’s typically low energy and would last around 8-16 bars. It includes a beat and a progression that is followed by the “build” or “rise”.
This is the intense part that follows the “breakdown”(verse) and leads to the drop. This section is usually dramatic and includes exciting and suspenseful sounds to lead the listener to the drop which is the big “payoff” of the track.
Finally, the drop is just the same as the chorus in pop songs, in which the main message of the lyrics or music is repeated many times and occurs many times throughout the track. This drop is the highest energy of the whole track just like a chorus is in a rock or pop song.
Things To Keep In Mind
When you’re making a song or thinking about all the different parts of a song that will make up your structure, you should always keep in mind that music is about emotion and energy! So when you are thinking about the parts to include in your song you should think about your story and the energy you want to convey to the listener. Based on that, you’ll be able to decide if you want to add a bridge, a breakdown, or if you want your chorus to be highly contrasting to your verses.
It all depends on the emotion behind your words and the main feeling and sound you want to create. A good song arrangement takes your listener on a journey and has a good balance in terms of energy levels and dynamics as you go along. Keep in mind where you want to grab your listener’s attention, spark excitement, create suspense, or perhaps tension, and then a release!
Things You Can Do:
A trick that I have learned and that can help you write better songs is to listen to as many songs as you can in similar genres and analyze the structures. Listen to the shifts in energy, the pulls, the breakdowns, the surprises, and the releases!
You can always use similar songs as references to your song structures and arrangements. There’s absolutely no shame in that and I have done this a couple of times when I was stuck! There’s a reason these songs make it big, and that’s because they have the perfect balance of energy and take the listener on a journey. You’ll even find that many songs within the same genre have the exact same structures.
So go ahead, pick a song that you like or just one that you identify with as an artist, and use it as the skeleton to your next song. I’m not telling you to copy the exact song structure, but you can use it as a guide to creating song arrangements that match your genre. Now, you can also change things up, stretch things out, make them shorter, or even cut sections out completely! It’s as simple as that. This trick has helped me write songs faster and easier when I knew the sections I was working with, writing for each accordingly and creating music that matches the emotions I want to convey in each part.
Now that I’ve gone through all the song parts, I hope this article was helpful to you and has helped you gain some understanding of song structures. Now go make some awesome music!
My name is Malak and I have extensive experience singing, songwriting, and vocal recording. I have been a professional singer, songwriter, recording artist, and audio editor for over years now, working on many challenging projects.
My tracks were featured on the biggest Spotify playlists like New Music Friday, Fresh Finds, and Pop Rising. My music was also reviewed on Rolling Stone, and featured on Notion, Elle, and other big magazines!