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The term form is a very broad category, but in the world of songwriting we're talking about structure when we're talking about form. The term applies to music on a small scale - how lines of lyric progress throughout a verse, for example - as well as on a large scale: how long your bridge section might be. Most of the time, when music isn't working properly, it relates to some aspect of form. Bad form makes songs difficult for audiences to remember. Let's take a quick look at the concept.

Lesson 1: Focusing Your Lyrics

Lesson 2: Writing Creative Lyrics

Lesson 3: Writing "Familiar" Lyrics

Lesson 4: Writing Melodies That Work

Lesson 5: Structuring Melodies

Lesson 6: Integrating Lyrics, Melodies


Lesson 7: Choosing the Right Chord

Lesson 8: Strong, Fragile Progressions

Lesson 9: Considering Form


If songwriting for you is hit-or-miss, you need a better process.


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In a sense, everything we've talked about in this course has been about form. To use the analogy of the architect once again, you can talk about where to put windows, walls and doors... you can ruminate over whether the colours should be red, green or beige... you can discuss the kind of kitchen countertop you plan to use... and when you do so, you're really talking about form.



When we think of verse-chorus-bridge songs, we’re thinking of form. It’s the basic structure. Most songs with start with some sort of intro, then move into verse 1. Then it’s the chorus, then verse 2, possibly a bridge, a third verse, a final chorus and outro. That’s form. In this case, it’s a predictable form, but pleasantly so.

Form injects a sense of predictability to your song that is necessary. If your song is too predictable, it quickly becomes boring. But some predictability is very satisfying and necessary.

Imagine that you are being taken for a walk, but every time you turn a corner the scenery looks completely different, and the people you are walking with have changed their clothes. That would be troubling to say the least. While you do like to have some surprises around the corner, you also need some stability and logic. Form allows you to control the balance between predictability and novelty.



Form also happens on a much larger scale. Ending your song the same way it starts can be a way of having the listener feel that they have come back to the same place they started their journey. And on an even larger scale, some songwriters will write song cycles, which are several songs usually under one overall title, all of which reference each other on some level. In that sense, such songwriters are borrowing techniques from classical composers who relate the movements of a symphony to each other.

The last several songs on the Beatles’ Abbey Road is a good example of a song cycle, even though the fact that they operate that way is more an abstract perception; each song has its own title, with no direct reference to any of the other songs.

The exercises and activities that follow will help you perceive form in other songs, and will help you think of ways to incorporate form into your own songs.



1. Make a list of four or five of your favourite songs, and write the form (ABA’… etc, for example) of the first part (verse and/or chorus) of each song:

2. Compose a melodic fragment that could serve as a first line of a verse or chorus. Make sure that the first chord of the fragment is the tonic chord and last chord is the dominant chord* of the key you’ve chosen. Then compose an “answering” phrase that sounds identical, but is modified to end on the tonic chord. (The chorus of “Jingle Bells” is a perfect example.)

3. Compose a melodic fragment that could serve as a first line of a verse or chorus. Then compose a line that exhibits opposite melodic structures. For example, if your melody starts with a leap upward, try composing a melody that begins with a similar leap downward. Make each fragment use at least three chords, ending on the tonic chord. Try to keep the same mood and musical gestures.


This concludes the Free Online Songwriting Course by Gary Ewer. If this has fired your imagination, and you want to learn even more, consider getting Gary's songwriting e-books today. They'll show you how to write great songs, and get people humming your melodies all day long! Click here to read more.


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