Variations on the Verse-Chorus-Bridge Song Form

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer, Senior Instructor, Dalhousie University, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg - California GurlsThere’s a good reason why verse-chorus-bridge forms are the most commonly used ones by songwriters. It gives wonderful opportunities to balance repetition with contrast. But that doesn’t mean that every song using that form needs to be structured the same way. That would be like saying that every building that uses ceilings, floors and walls all have to look the same. Once you’ve decided that you want to structure your music by using verses, choruses and a bridge, you should get your creative mind working.

The typical way the verse-chorus-bridge format unfolds is as follows:

(Intro) -> Verse  -> Chorus -> Verse -> Chorus -> Bridge -> Chorus (repeat)

Here are some imaginative ways you can structure your song that allow you to use the verse-chorus-bridge format without making it so obvious:

  1. Start with the chorus. In fact, you can even start with the chorus, then pretend you’re starting the song, and move right to an intro. Example: “Cooler Than Me” (Mike Posner) Once you get going, use the verse-chorus-bridge in typical fashion.
  2. Follow the bridge with a 3rd verse. Most of the time, you’ll use the bridge to build energy, which sets up a repeat of the chorus beautifully. But try placing a bit of a pause at the end of the bridge, then begin a 3rd verse. Use the 3rd verse to rebuild energy. Example: “Love Me Tomorrow” (Chicago)
  3. Try a multi-part bridge. The bridge, as you know, is mainly meant to amplify the lyric, giving the listener even more insight into the song topic. The energy usually builds as the singer “tells all.” A multi-part bridge is a perfect way to allow that building of energy to ebb and flow a bit, and can involve an instrumental break followed by a vocal section, or several instrumental sections. Example: “Year of the Cat” (Al Stewart).
  4. Insert the song intro after the second chorus. If you’ve got an intro that really drives the song forward, try making more use of it by inserting it into the middle of the song. The best place to do this is after the second chorus, and before the bridge. Example: “Break Your Heart” (Taio Cruz)
  5. The bridge that’s really a Verse 3. As you know, the bridge usually uses an entirely new melody, the main reason being to give opportunities to provide new lyrics and a fragmenting of musical ideas. But try this: use the same chord progression as the chorus, but develop a new melody to partner with it, then return to the chorus. Or, if the song supports it, try rapping a 3rd verse. Either way, you wind up with something that acts as a verse, but has the qualities of a bridge. Example: “California Gurls” (Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg).


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