Experimenting with Odd Song Forms Can Pay Off

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting
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Music NotesMost songs follow a rather predictable pattern: after an intro of some sort, you get the basic verse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge – chorus format. For most, straying away from this tried and true song form can be a bit daunting. But if you’re looking for ways to set your songs apart from the others out there, shaking up song form can be an experiment that really pays off.

So try some of these ideas:

  1. No introduction. Try writing a song that dives right into verse 1, like the Beatles “Hey Jude” In a way, such songs use the verse to do what the intro normally does: set a mood and a basic feel.
  2. Chorus first. If your song feels like every other song out there, simply doing something counterintuitive like starting with the chorus can shake things up enough to set your song apart.
  3. Instrumental solo first. Often, songwriters will place the instrumental solo after one of the choruses, as an instrumental bridge back to the repeat of the chorus. But try starting with a solo for something unexpected.
  4. A cappella verse 1. A cappella, as you know, simply means unaccompanied. Try working out vocal harmonies for a verse 1, and bring in the instruments for the second half of the verse or the chorus. Listen to Imogen Heap’s “Wait It Out” from her “Ellipse” album for a great example of this.
  5. Song fragment as an intro. If you’ve written a short fragment of a song that seems to need more, you could try using it as an intro of sorts, even though it may not relate to the song at all. And in fact, the intro in this scenario could be a stand-alone song. But tagging it on to the song gives it a reason to exist that it may have been missing. I’ve always felt that Genesis’ use of “Horizons” just before “Supper’s Ready” on their “Foxtrot” album is a great example of this.

Your job, as always, is to find ways to make your songs stand out from the countless others that are jostling for position in the world of music. Don’t be afraid to be experimental. Your ears will tell you if your experiments have paid off.
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One Comment

  1. Good ideas. The Beatles did point one and two a lot.

    They also did a cool thing where the intro was an adapted form of the chorus. You can hear this in

    She Loves You
    Help
    Can’t Buy Me Love

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