Song Structure: The Ultimate Guide (With Examples)

Song Structure: The Ultimate Guide (With Examples) Song Structure: The Ultimate Guide (With Examples)

If you're new to music, learning how to write a song can feel downright intimidating. Sometimes, knowing where to start is the most challenging part of the process. As you might have noticed as a listener, many songs seem to follow a similar pattern - this is no accident, these patterns are organized into groups called song structures.

One way to ease your sense of fatigue as a musician is to work off of a basic song structure and fill in the blanks. Below, we'll reveal some of the best song structure patterns, used in pop songs and beyond. We'll also dive into some of the essential elements of songwriting so that you can keep your listener's attention accordingly.

What is Song Structure and Why Does it Matter?

Song structure refers to the pattern of sections within a particular composition. While songs across genres vary greatly as a whole, you'll find that plenty of tracks share the same foundational structure when you take a closer look.

Understanding good song structure will help you understand how one pieces together hit songs - it may seem like your favorite songwriters piece together excellent tracks out of thin air, but there are some "rules" or best practices of craft, and song structure is certainly part of it.

By taking time to understand the basic elements of a song and the typical pattern structures, you'll be better equipped to know when to change up the chord progression, insert a guitar solo, or introduce a new lyrical idea. Before we break down well-known song structures used in pop music, rock music, and beyond, let's review the individual components that make music as we know it:

Understanding the Components of a Song

Each of these song elements fit into the overarching structure of a song. You'll find that not all songs use each of these components, but certain elements like the verse and chorus, for example, are fairly ubiquitous across most song structures:


An intro leads you into a song, sometimes revealing some of the chorus melody or hook, otherwise just leaving some space before the lyrics of the verse come in. In Marvin Gaye's Got to Give it Up , the intro sets the party scene with sounds of talking and merriment before the verse comes in:


The verse is the meat and potatoes of a song, with the most variable melodic structure. These are usually the longest passages in a song, where you learn the story of the speaker, setting up for the dramatic drop in the chorus.

In Mr. Brightside by The Killers, the verses tell a story of the speaker lamenting over a lost love. This is one of the rare tracks in which the two verses are exactly the same, typically they are very lyrically different:

Pre Chorus

The pre chorus leads into the chorus, having a distinct melody in contrast to the verse. The pre chorus may share the same lyrics as the prior pre chorus or it may be completely different. For instance, in Lorde's Royals "But every song is like" section before the chorus is the pre chorus:


The chorus of a song is arguably the most important component, encompassing the catchiest lyrics and melodies in a song. If a listener walks away with an earworm or a song "stuck in their head", they are most likely reliving the chorus of any particular track. The chorus of a song reuses the same lyrics and melodies as the other choruses of the song and often includes the song title as well as the hook of the song.


A hook is typically considered part of the chorus, but it's a particular sentence or two of the chorus with the catchy melody or lyrical line that keeps you coming back (hence the "hook" moniker). For instance, in Taylor Swift's Mine, "You are the best thing that's ever been mine" could be considered the hook which is part of the overarching chorus.


A bridge often takes place between the second and third chorus, connecting the exposition and finale of a song. The bridge can have a completely different lyric, rhythmic, and melodic structure than the verses and choruses of a song, and there is typically just one bridge section for the entire duration of a track.


The outro leads the listener out of a song, typically following a final chorus. It may feature some additional instrumentation or a gradual fade out to ease the listeners out of the sonic world of a track.

6 Common Song Structures with Examples

Elements in song structures are referred to as letters, with each letter representing a different component like a verse or chorus. For example, if a song was comprised of a verse chorus and then another verse chorus, it could be written as ABAB.

However, it's important to note that the letters are not assigned to any particular song element, they are simply used to display repeated sections. So, theoretically, a song structure that went from chorus verse to another chorus verse could also be written as ABAB.

Now that that's out of the way, let's take a look at some of the most common song structures you're bound to come across while writing songs and enjoying your favorite music:


Otherwise known as verse chorus structure, ABAB features two repeated sonic elements: In most cases, a verse element and a chorus element. You can hear this at play in My Girl by The Temptations:


This common song structure usually amounts to a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, before a final chorus. The bridge helps create tension before letting it all loose in the finale chorus of the song. This is one of Taylor Swift's most commonly used song structures, as showcased in Lover :

Strophic or AAA

Strophic song structure or AAA form refers to a song in which the same structure is repeated until the end. This can be heard in songs like the traditional classic Amazing Grace as performed by Pentatonix here:

12-Bar Blues or AABA

As the name suggests, 12-bar blues is based off of a sequence of well, 12 bars or measure of music, born out of the performance of blues music. This form is closely related to AABA, where four bars are played, another four bars are played, and then three different bars are played, ending on another four bars in the original structure. You can hear this at work in classic blues songs like Hound Dog , as performed by Elvis Presley:


This is a loose term that essentially refers to any song that doesn't have any distinctly repeated sections. You can hear this in songs like The Beatles' dark Happiness is a Warm Gun, which features several melody changes:


Though less common, this song structure is still seen across popular music, like Radiohead's masterpiece Everything In Its Right Place. After two sections of verse and chorus both sharing similar chord progressions and melody, the song fades out with a C section:

How Do I Know Which Song Structure to Choose?

Knowing which song structure to choose depends on the musical structure of your composition. For instance, some genres, like blues, align well with derivative formats, like 12-bar blues.

For more generalized genres, you can essentially select any song structure, though some forms may be more popular than others - ABAB and ABABCB song structures are arguably the most pronounced, at least across pop and dance music.

Experiment with different song structures to find what aligns best with your composition. When in doubt, take a break to analyze some of your favorite songs - how do your favorite artists structure their songs? Taking inspiration from something you already love can be a great starting point for working past writer's block .

Song Structure FAQs

Check out these commonly asked questions and answers to enhance your understanding surrounding song structure:

What is the basic structure of a song?

A song can be composed of verse and chorus as showcased through chorus-verse structure, though most songs tend to include more structural elements as described above. Most songs are built around the catchy, repeated melody and lyrics presented in the chorus section.

What are the 3 main parts of a song structure?

The main components in a song tend to be the verse, chorus, and bridge section, but individual elements may vary from one song structure to the next. Popular music plays with a wide variety of song structure, as showcased in this comprehensive guide.

What is the most famous song structure?

The most famous song structure used in pop songs, rock songs, and all other genres is ABABCB song structure. This structure describes a song moving from verse to chorus to verse to chorus to bridge to ending on a final chorus.

What song structure does Taylor Swift use?

Taylor Swift experiments with a variety of song structures throughout her discography, however, each song typically contains verses, choruses, and a bridge section. For instance, her song Style moves from verse to chorus to another verse and another chorus, transitioning to a bridge section and then the final chorus.

You can use these basic song structures to inspire your next creation. While these are the most common song structures, don't forget that there is nothing wrong with breaking the norms here and there. Have fun experimenting and weaving different song structures into your music.

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