Types of Song Structure

Man holding guitar and writing musical composition
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As you listen to songs that have become huge hits, you'll notice that most of them have well-written lyrics and memorable melodies. One thing you may not immediately notice though is the song structure, or form. When crafting a song, songwriters also take into consideration the genre they are writing for and what song structure best fits it. Here are the most common song forms.

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AAA Song Form

What is the similarity between the songs "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Scarborough Fair?" Both songs are in the AAA song form. This form consists of different sections, or verses (A). It does not have a chorus or a bridge. It does however, have a refrain, which is a line (often the title) that is repeated in the same place in each of the verses, usually at the end. 

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AABA Song Form

Also known as American popular song form or ballad form, the AABA song form has two opening sections/verses (A), a musically and lyrically contrasting bridge (B), and a final A section. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is a song written in traditional AABA form.

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ABAC Song Form

Popular with composers of stage and movie musicals, this song form begins with an 8-bar A section, followed by an 8-bar B section. It then returns to the A section before launching into a C section that is just slightly different melodically than the previous B section. "Moon River," written by Andy Williams and showcased in the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's," is a classic ABAC song.

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Verse/Chorus Song Form

This type of song form is often used in love songs, pop, country, and rock music. While the versus change, the chorus almost always remains the same musically and lyrically. Hits like Madonna's "Material Girl" and Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" follow this form. One important rule of thumb when writing the verse/chorus song is to try to get to the chorus quickly, which means keeping the verses relatively short.

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Verse/Chorus/Bridge Song Form

An extension of the verse/chorus form, verse/chorus/bridge song form typically follows a pattern of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. It is also one of the most challenging forms to write to because songs can become lengthy. As a general rule, a commercially viable song shouldn't exceed the three-minute and 30-second mark. "Just Once," recorded by James Ingram, is a good example of a verse-chorus-bridge song.

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Other Song Forms

There are also other types of song structures, such as ABAB, and ABCD, although these aren't as commonly used as the other song forms. Try listening to songs that are currently on top of the Billboard charts and see if you can determine which structure each song follows.