Lyrics & Songs > Songwriting > Song Structure > What is a Song Break?

What is (it)? What is a Song Break?

A break is actually a brief "rest" or "pause" for the core melody within a song used to add further dimension and excitement.

It may include a quick instrumental solo or drum interlude or it may be a brief moment of silence, or a combination of each of these elements.

Why break my song!? I just pieced it together!

Human mind picks up on a song's patterns, so you break them.As humans, we're hard wired to pick out patterns (even sound patterns) because that's how our brains are able to easily deal with a whole bunch of information at once.

And anything that "breaks" that pattern is instantly noticeable and grabs our attention.

When listening to music, these unexpected moments - sprinkled throughout a song - are even more entertaining to our brains.

It's like we know what should come next in the pattern but the brief pause teases us to almost *need* it to happen.

This is also why in most pop songs, you often hear a cymbal crash when the core music returns; it's as if to burst the emotional pressure bubble that was built up, giving instant release.

Notice there's another break in Carrie's song just as her chorus ends (at 1:18) right before she starts singing "OH OH OH!" But let me just emphasize that breaks are not *required*. You DON'T have to use them.

Now that you know what a break is, listen to Carly Rae Jepsen's song "Call Me Maybe" and notice there's a break each time her chorus jumps back in from her verses (0:26; 1:26; 2:30, etc.).

It's hard to miss because there's a "reverse cymbal" just before a crash. Breaks can come before, after or in-between choruses, bridges or verses.

These are The Breaks (of Hip Hop)

In hip hop music, a break is ANY short piece of music that can be sampled and repeated over and over to create its own melody or drum loop, creating what's called a "Break Beat".

Originally hip hop artists & producers would sample breaks from jazz records, and then cut and loop them together to create unique music for a new song.

Today, ANY previously created song or music across any genre, as well as any interesting section of a song (even sound clips not necessarily from music) can serve as the source for a great "break beat" to loop.

Once a great (hip hop) break is target, it's looped as a core melody, and additional instruments may be added to flesh out the new sound.

For instance, in "Love Is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia, there's a break where the guitar performs a quick solo just before each verse. Listen to it at 0:12-16, 1:32 & 2:18 seconds.

...Now Pitbull not only samples this break, but also samples Mickey & Silvia's chorus for his song "Back in Time" (while adding a back beat, an increased tempo and an accompanying guitar melody).

In another example, skip to 0:23 seconds in Hubert Law's instrumental song "No More". Now listen to the break beat in J. Cole's song "Power Trip" (warning: explicit).

Notice it's actually the break from "No More" just slowed down, its tone lowered, and is looped (with a drum beat added).

Too many breaks!

If you're a DJ who makes club music, a break is when there's complete silence of all instruments (except for the percussion). In hip Hop and electronic music there are even shorter breaks called "cuts".

So as you can see, depending on your genre of music the break is a very versatile tool to add to your song structure. Again, it's not required but it is very effective if used correctly.



Learn How To Structure Your Breaks

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All the best,

- Jeezy


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