Creating a Song Format That’s Just a Little Different

Try these easy modifications in standard song structure that keep your music fresh.

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Keyboard synth and headphonesThe verse-chorus format is by far the most popular structure in modern day songwriting. It’s easy to see why: it’s a basic songwriting principle to build energy as a song progresses, and the verse-chorus format has energy-build as part of its design. In addition to the verse and chorus, you can usually expect to see an intro, bridge, and perhaps a pre-chorus as well.

One of the drawbacks to the verse-chorus structure is that your songs can acquire a bit of sameness, and that can create listener boredom. If the audience starts to notice that all of your songs are built on the same structural framework, it all gets a bit predictable.

So why not give these ideas a try. They all use the standard verse-chorus song form, but do it in slightly innovative ways.

  1. Leave out the song intro. Intros are meant to establish tempo and key, and also give the audience an idea of the song’s basic sound. But it can be very effective to simply jump in to verse 1, no intro. A great idea if all you can think of for an intro is to strum a chord on your guitar.
  2. Start with the chorus. The benefit of starting with a chorus is that you inject a good dose of song energy into your music right from the start. In a way, the chorus takes on the attributes of the intro.
  3. The unaccompanied verse. The Eagles hit “Seven Bridges Road”, starts with a cappella singing, and it’s very effective. Singing a verse without accompaniment, or with very sparse accompaniment, will work only if you’ve got great vocals. But it’s a really innovative way to start.
  4. Start with an instrumental solo. There are lots of good examples, but the idea is to consider starting with what to an audience would otherwise sound like an instrumental bridge. Like unaccompanied vocals, it only works well if you’ve got someone with great solo chops.

What other non-standard ways have you ever used to start a song? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.

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Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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3 Comments

  1. Cool post. I’d love to send you a tune that uses an idea like this but not sure how. I seem to remember you saying you were interested in hearing stuff by your readers, but if not, totally understand. Would post a link here, but sometimes that doesn’t go over so well! As always, love the blog, one of my most-read!

      • Hi Gary,

        Thank you for listening to a tune of mine. Your latest post struck a chord with me as I always try to change up the structure a bit. This one starts with an acapella chorus.

        If you’re interested in hearing more stuff, just say so. i can send you a link to my CD, which I foolishly released right after becoming a first time father and have had no time to try to promote. Sigh. I also have a blog http://www.cerebellumblues.com which has been somewhat dormant for too long. I hope to get back to doing more music, but it could be awhile, if ever, before I can be very serious about it again. Enjoy the song. Let me know what you think!

        https://soundcloud.com/cerebellumblues/15-i-got-religion-and-it-all

        Jeff

        On Fri, Sep 14, 2012 at 12:10 PM, The Essential Secrets of Songwriting Blog wrote:

        > ** > garyewer commented: “Hi Jeff: Thanks for your comment, and I’d love to > hear your tune. Please email it to gary [at] pantomimemusic.com Thanks > again, -G”

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