This Is the Structure of a Pop Song in 2020


When I first started writing and producing music I had no idea how important the structure of a song is, I recently found my old notes and decided to share them with you; this article is meant to help you understand what the structure of a pop song is.

Song structure we call the way a song is structured or arranged, we refer to the repeating or non-repeating sections of a song. The most popular song structures in 2020 are:

  1. Intro
  2. Verse
  3. Chorus
  4. Verse
  5. Verse
  6. Chorus
  7. Outro

and

  1. Intro
  2. Chorus
  3. Verse
  4. Pre-chorus
  5. Chorus
  6. Verse
  7. Pre-chorus
  8. Bridge
  9. Outro

8 Popular Pop Song Structures

Here are eight popular song forms. Enjoy!

1) Modern verse chorus pop song 

Intro | Verse | Chorus | Verse | Verse | Chorus | Outro

2) Modern 6 part pop song

Intro | Chorus | Verse | Pre-chorus | Chorus | Verse | Pre-chorus | Bridge | Outro

3) Verse/chorus pop song

Verse | Chorus | Verse | Chorus | Verse | Chorus |

4) 3 part pop song

Verse | Chorus | Verse | Chorus | Bridge | Chorus

5) Hook opening pop song

Chorus | Verse | Chorus | Verse | Chorus | Bridge | Chorus | Outro

6) Pre-chorus pop song

Verse | Pre-chorus | Chorus | Verse | Pre-chorus | Chorus | Bridge | Chorus

7) EDM pop song

Verse | Chorus | Verse | Chorus | Bridge | Drop Chorus | Chorus

8) Instrumental pop song

Verse | Chorus | Verse | Chorus | Instrumental/Solo | Chorus

What Is a Song Structure?

Song structure we call the way a song is structured or arranged, we refer to the repeating or non-repeating sections of a song. 

Typically a song can be structured from two parts and can go up as much as six or seven parts. However, recent radio-friendly popular music tents to use fewer parts typically five or four. 

Typical song parts found in popular songs 

  1. Intro
  2. Verse
  3. Pre-chorus
  4. Chorus
  5. Bridge 

Song parts explanation, these are guidelines and not rules

Intro

The intro, as the name suggests, is our introduction of the song. Its main use is to capture our attention from the beginning and lead us smoothly into the next section. This often happens when we use unique sounds that distinguish our intro from the rest of the songs. It’s important not to start the intro small and not to introduce a lot of musical elements all at once, as this can potentially overwhelm the listener.

Verse 

Okay, moving on to the verse section! 

A verse is often placed after the intro. Even if we encounter more than one verse in a song, usually, the melodic line remains unchanged, but the lyrics do change. As the verse progresses, it adds more information to our storyline, which will progress even more once we reach the second verse. 

Prechorus

Here the melody line will change to create contrast with the preceding verse. A pre-chorus does lead the way to our payoff (otherwise known as “chorus”) also in the chorus section is where usually our hook lies. A common characteristic of a pre-chorus is that it adds tension, which in turn will be resolved when we reach the chorus section. 

Chorus

This is the payoff and the reason why the listener has stuck around for so long! 

When we have more than one chorus sections in one song, the melody and lyrics will often remain unchanged. Sometimes new elements are being added, and new chords are introduced, but generally, 99% of the time choruses remain the same throughout the song.

Bridge 

Luckily Most popular songs share a standard structure that allows us to expect where to find each section and remember the song as a whole.

What Does Chorus Mean?

Chorus literally means “voices together”, implying the joining and harmonization of voices in the form of singing. 

Usually, we will find the title of the song somewhere in the chorus and this is also where our main hook lies, our most memorable section of the song. 

Chorus and verses commonly alternate throughout a song, also each section can also alternate in length. As an example, sometimes, at the beginning of a song, you might encounter two verses instead of one. 

In contrast, you might encounter a second chorus section at the end of a song; also, these extra choruses might sound louder since usually more elements are added (layers of music and new instruments).

The Importance of Song Structures

A familiar song structure is essential because it allows the listener to focus on the song without being distracted.

When we hear a song for the first time, there is a lot of new information to take in, when we use a familiar song structure we allow the listener to focus on the elements that really matter. 

It’s like when watching a movie, you expect the hero to save the girl, kill the bad guy and be alive at the end of the film, try and derive from this familiar recipe and you will end up with unhappy viewers. 

Song structures are a journey; they subtly invite us to go on a three-minute trip. The journey starts with an engaging intro that captures our attention; then, we get intrigued with a good verse that tells a story; afterward, the expectation is created with a captivating Pre Chorus, and finally, our expectations are fulfilled, and we get rewarded with a chorus stat sticks in our head!

The net step is to add the element of surprise and contrast with a cleverly structured bridge to lead us to the final payoff of the last chorus.

How to Know Which Structure to Use?

Choosing the right song structure is something personal. There are no rules that can tell you which form is best; you should look at the billboard hot 100 and analyze the top ten in order to discover which are the most popular song forms atm. At the same time, you should use your intuition, imagination, and pay attention to upcoming trends. 

IF I was to release a song withing the next couple of months, I would listen to today’s charts and last quoter charts and use whichever form is popular atm.

Three Ways to Write a Pop Song

There are many ways you can structure a hit song. As an example, analyze songs from The Beatles, and you will discover that they largely used the verse-chorus structure. Then again, take songs from the eighties, and you will notice the introduction of the pre-chorus and prominent big choruses.

Below I illustrate three examples of popular song forms

Verse-Prechorus-Bridge-Chorus Form

  • Intro
  • Verse 
  • Pre-chorus 
  • Chorus 
  • Verse 
  • Pre Chorus 
  • Chorus
  • Bridge
  • Chorus 

2) Chorus-Verse-Prechorus-Chorus Form

  • Chorus 
  • Verse
  • Pre Chorus 
  • Chorus 
  • Verse
  • Pre chorus
  • Chorus 
  • Bridge
  • Chorus 

3) Verse-Prechorus-Chorus Form

  • Verse
  • Intro 
  • Verse 
  • Pre chorus
  • Chorus
  • Verse
  • Pre chorus
  • Chorus 

Older Popular Song Forms

Below I will illustrate two forms. The one was very popular in the beginning of the 20th century and the second one is used in blues and rock and roll since the 1950s.

The Thirty-Two Bar Form

This form is found in jazz and early to mid-twentieth century popular music. Its a structure composed of 4 sections that are 8 bars each. The first, second, and fourth sections are identical in structure and chord progression. The third section is different, adding a unique twist in the song; there is where we will find the bridge. 

  • Verse
  • Verse
  • Bridge
  • Verse

The Verse-Chorus Form

A similar structure is the verse-chorus model. This form also introduces a bridge towards the end. 

  • Verse
  • Chorus
  • Verse
  • Chorus
  • Bridge 
  • Chorus 
  • Chorus

Compare the Song Structure of 1980’s Hits to Today’s Hits

Yes, there are a few song forms that have stood the test of time and have proved to be widely accepted by the listeners, and in many cases, we should follow them and use them, but we also must alo keep an eye out for current and upcoming songwriting trends. 

As an example, if we compare hit songs from, let’s say the 1980 and 2019, we will most likely notice structural differences between them.

1980 Songs vs 2019 Popular Song Structures

1980‘s Call me – Blondie 

Length 3:32

Structure:

  • Intro, 
  • Verse, 
  • Pre-Chorus, 
  • Chorus, 
  • Instrumental, 
  • Verse, 
  • Pre-Chorus, 
  • Chorus, 
  • Bridge, 
  • Instrumental, 
  • Chorus 
  • Outro.

1980‘s Another one bites the dust – Queen

Length 3:34

Structure:

  • Pre intro
  • Intro
  • Verse
  • Pre-chorus
  • Chorus 
  • Turn (repeats intro) 
  • Verse
  • Pre-chorus
  • Chorus
  • Instrumental
  • Vocal break
  • Verse
  • Pre-chorus
  • Chorus 
  • Outro

1980‘s Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

Length 4:53

Structure:

  • Intro
  • Verse
  • Pre-chorus
  • Chorus 
  • Verse
  • Pre-chorus
  • Chorus
  • Instrumental
  • Chorus
  • Outro

1980‘s Let’s go crazy – Prince

Length 4:40

Structure:

  • Pre intro
  • Intro
  • Verse
  • Pre-chorus
  • Chorus
  • Instrumental Post chorus 
  • Verse
  • Pre Chorus
  • Chorus  
  • Post-chorus
  • Instrumental 
  • Pre-chorus
  • Vocal break
  • (Very long) Outro

2019 7-Rings – Ariana Grande

Length 2:58

Structure:

  • Intro
  • Verse
  • Pre-chorus
  • Chorus
  • Verse
  • Pre-chorus
  • Chorus
  • Bridge
  • Chorus
  • Outro 

2019 Sunflower- Post Malone

Lenght 2:37

Structure:

  • Intro
  • Verse
  • Pre-chorus
  • Chorus 
  • Verse
  • Pre-chorus
  • Chorus

There are of course, many more examples we could illustrate but as a general rule, keep in mind that modern songs compared with songs from the 80s and 90s are shorter in length and feature almost no instrumental sections.

How to Read Song Structures (The Right Way)

Bellow I will include the most popular song structures of 2019, have a look at the list below to understand how is section is represented.

  • I=Intro
  • A=Verse
  • PC=Pre-Chorus
  • B=Chorus
  • C=Bridge
  • IB=Instrumental Break
  • VB=Vocal Break
  • T=Turnaround
  • O=Outro

Most Popular Song Structures of 2019

1) I-A-B-A-A-B-O

Intro | Verse | Chorus | Verse | Verse | Chorus | Outro

This structure is found in the following songs:

  • Money In The Grave-Drake featuring Rick Ross         
  • Panini-Lil Nas X         
  • Wow-Post Malone

2) I-B-A-PC-B-A-PC-B-O

Intro | Chorus | Verse | Pre-chorus | Chorus | Verse | Pre-chorus | Bridge | Outro

This structure is found in the following songs:

  • Take What You Want-Post Malone featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Travis Scott         
  • Talk-Khalid
  • HIGHEST IN THE ROOM Travis Scott

3) I-A-PC-B-A-PC-B-A-B-O

Intro | Verse | Pre-chorus | Chorus | Verse | Pre chorus | Chous | Verse | Chorus | Outro

This structure is found in the following songs:

  • 7 Rings Ariana Grande         
  • Goodbyes Post Malone featuring Young Thug

When Is It Time to Think out of the Box?

There is a fine line in popular music that I’m careful not to cross, at least for my self. What I want is to create something that is familiar and at the same time, new and unique. For me to achieve that goal next to my creativity, I must follow the above rules we just talked about. Sometimes I strictly follow an already familiar structure, and other times I improvise, in both cases, I try and “feel” what is right for the song.

If you can’t decide on the song form, I suggest you create two versions of the same song, then wait 24 hours and listen to them both with a fresh set of ears. This technique will help you choose the best structure.

Follow the Songwriting Masters

A technique I sometimes use before producing is: I choose a song that’s similar to the one I want to create. After that, I insert markers inside my project, marking the start and end of each section; after that, I simply produce within the preconfigured section lengths.

This technique allows me to focus on the meat of the song without worrying about how long or short everything should be. Of course, when the track is done, I can always adjust the length if I feel like it. 

Conclusion

 In conclusion, make a song too long, and it will most likely bore your audience, but make it to short, and you run the danger of having your track appear incomplete.

I hope I have helped you through this article to understand how to structure a hit song!

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