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Songwriter Exercise 4 - Choose Your Songwriting Sections

Decide the Unique Layout of Your Next Song

"Step 1: Choose the Songwriting Sections to be in your next song."

Which sections are best to have in your next song?

Each songwriter is different...and each song is different. But what every song has in common is a unique layout. As a songwriter, your next task is to figure out which layout is the best for expressing your target emotion to your listeners.

At this point, think of yourself not as a songwriter, but as a movie director or editor - arranging each piece of your film in the best order to give your listeners the best experience in the short time you hold their attention.

And any experienced film-maker would tell you that the difference between a great movie and a terrible one lies in it's editing; it's layout...but enough about movies.

There are 7 sections to include in any song's layout, and each element supports your lyrics, music and target emotion in one way or another.

Below are brief instructions for each section you choose to include in your next song.

IMPORTANT: This exercise is more about "choosing" on your song's section than about development, so you're not obligated to develop anything right now.

So which sections are in your song?

The Intro - "Not Necessary, But Very Effective"

Here's your opportunity to make a great first impression! The Intro is a "sample" or "trailer" of your song. As listeners listen through this section, they decide whether or not they're interested enough to listen to the rest of your song. If you choose to include an Intro section, use it to tease and entice the listener's ear.

Read the rules on writing your Intro.

Do you have any ideas as to how your music will sound in this section? What about your lyrics?

The Verse - "At lease One..."

Here's where you tell your story! The Verse is where your story is shared with the listener. Traditionally, there was at lease one verse in every song, and that verse was as long or short as the songwriter chose. Having 3 verses in a 3:30sec song is the norm for today's song since there's such a huge selection of songs to listen to, so you can only hold your listener's attention for a short time.

For some songwriters, the Verse is the first section they work on.

Read the rules on developing your Verse.

The Chorus - "Where Everything Comes Together."

What's the point (or overall message) of your song? The Chorus is the summary of your song's story, and the first section your listeners will remember...if they like your song. For your lyrics, your chorus summarizes your verses. For your music, your chorus is the song’s climax (or high point) where every musical element - that you’ve included in your song - is heard.

For other songwriters, the Chorus is the first section they work on.

Read the rules on developing your Chorus.

Do you think you'll want to develop your Chorus first?

The Hook - "Wow! That's Catchy!"

Ever had a song stuck in your head? Well the Hook is both the "catchy music element" and "clever lyrical phrase" that repeats over and over throughout your song to make it more memorable. It’s a tool that pulls or latches onto a listener's sub-consciousness to help them remember your song. Hooks can be placed all throughout your song, so they're not really "songwriting sections" per say.

Imagine the worst song you ever heard...one that everyone else loved so passionately. Why did they love it so much? Is there something memorable about it? Something that just gets stuck in your memory?

Read the rules on developing your Hook.

Can you think of a clever lyrical phrase you'd like to repeat in your lyrics? What about a simple, catchy melody?

The Break - "Take a Breather."

Give your audience a chance to rest. The Break is a pause from a song's normal "flow". Breaks are meant to break your listener's concentration, so as to not get bored with the song. Breaks make your song more exciting because they're usually "surprising" (imagine having a floor suddenly disappear from under you - and then reappear - as you walk across...like in a house of horrors at an amusement park).

Breaks; the Rules.

You can add Breaks to your song after it is developed.

The Bridge
- "Get Over The Hump"

Help your listeners find their way home! The Bridge is the section where listeners reflect on the outcome of your song's story. Lyrically, a bridge can be used to “break” or introduce a new rhythmic style. Musically, a bridge can introduce a new melody to your song. Think of a bridge as an “arc” or plot twist of a movie, where everything changes.

Read the rules on developing your Bridge.

The Outro - "Tying off Loose Ends...or Not."

Either leave them wanting more or slowly add satisfaction. The Outro is the end section of your song. I think of your Outro as a mirror to your intro. In other words, you want to use your Outro to tell listeners “well…that was my story!” But in many cases - as with many of today's songs - your Outro can be used to introduce another song you've completed.

Read the rules on developing your Outro.

Usually Outros are added to the end of songs to make one final, definitive "tug" on your target emotion even as the song ends. And because most Outros mirror a song's Intro, Outros can also create a "looping effect" that compels the listener to play the song again.


"Step 2: Choose your 'Verse' or 'Chorus' as the main section to develop your themes."

Your next step is to decide which section [Verse or Chorus] will lead your song's development; which section will be the starting point for writing all other sections.

A song's theme is another way of saying a song's "style" or "delivery pattern", that's repeated throughout the song until it ends. There are two themes (patterns) that exist within every song:

  • Rhythmic Theme - Repeating a vocal delivery of your song's lyrics (how lyrics are sung) .
  • Melodic Theme - Repeating melody pattern of your song's music in different sections.

Songwriting Theme Table - Rhythmic & Melodic Theme are created from Main Verse or Chorus.

In each theme, there’s one main songwriting section from which all other sections are developed. Let's take your song's main verse, for example.

Your lines have a unique "vocal delivery" (there's a special way you'd like to sing them). A Rhythmic Theme is created if you choose to reuse the same vocal delivery pattern in your song's 2nd verse...repeating the 1st verse's rhythm.

So which section will lead your song? Your Verse or Chorus?

If you have multiple Verses or Choruses in your song, pick a one as your main section from which to build the lest of your song.


Final Word:

From this point forward, we'll use the next four (4) songwriter exercises to develop one (1) section of your song, starting with your Lead Section. Afterwards, the last two (2) songwriter exercises will walk through developing your remaining songwriting sections.

Let's continue with your next songwriter exercise, Songwriter Prominence.

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