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Anatomy of a Song

Julie JD
May 03, 2011

Songwriting just comes so naturally that people don't even realize there is a format to it. Oh but there is. There are so many building blocks that construct a song. Most common that people know about is the verse, chorus format. But just using those two can get boring, and there are so many more than that. You may have used some and didn't know there were proper terms for it.

Besides verse and chorus, you have pre-chorus, tag and bridge. Everybody knows what a bridge is, but they often confuse it with a tag. A tag comes immediately after your chorus. It's melody and phrasing has to be different from the chorus and usually includes the title of your song. Repeating the last line of your chorus is not a tag. A good example of one is “single” by Natasha Bedingfield. This song actually has all the components I've mentioned. The tag is right after her chorus “I'm single, that's how I want to be” this tag reiterates the point of her song. It proves what she is trying to say, and it is also repeated to make it clear.

The pre-chorus comes before the chorus-duh. Usually mixed in the verse by those not realizing that they're using one. A pre-chorus is meant to build up tension before the chorus. You would do this by foreshadowing what is coming up in the chorus. Think of it as a tension and release sort of thing, you want people to be at the edge of their seat getting eager to hear the chorus and then finally it comes. It's similar to a story line where it builds up in plot then you have the climax where the story gets really interesting and then the resolution. A song is very similar to telling a story, except you try to captivate the audience more times then a novel would.

Everybody knows what a bridge is. It comes close to the end, but it is often misused or doesn't make sense. It's function is to create contrast to the rest of the song. You would add new chords, or new phrasing, or a new rhyme scheme, new melody or new rhythm. Any combination of those will suffice it just has to sound different. An easy way to do so is use the relative major or minor key to have it really stand out. Listen to your favourite songs and it'll start to jump out at you.

- Julie JD -