Change Up Your Song Structure To Keep Things Fresh

2014 Jan 31, 2014

I’m going to be honest with you. I like traditional pop/rock song structure. I like a couple of verses, followed by a chorus each time, a killer bridge or solo section, and so on. I think that general format (and it’s variations) has stood the test of time in modern music for a reason. It works and people like it.

But if you’re like me, it’s good to change it up every so often to keep your album sounding fresh. Sure you can change instrumentation or something major like that throughout an EP, but the simplest change is to the actual structure of one of the songs. Here are a couple of suggestions.


Via Monica Liu Flickr

Hit The Chorus First

We all love the chorus of most songs because typically that’s where the hook lives. That’s the part everyone hums over and over again. It’s the part you simply can’t wait to get to. So why wait at all?! Why not simply start your song with the chorus?
Plenty of artists do this (it’s not really that uncommon) and you can do it too. Whatever song you’ve written, simply flip the verses and the choruses around. One of my favorite bands from the early 2000s is Linkin Park. On their first two records they seemed to do this a lot. Maybe a bit of a vibey intro thing and then straight away they hit in the face with a rocking chorus hook, only to come down to the verse later.

Never Leave The Bridge

If you have a song that’s doing its normal verse and chorus thing, one option to change it up is to simply get to the bridge and stay there. Don’t think of the bridge section as a momentary change, only to come back into the hook or the chorus. But rather the bridge is the next chapter in the song and the outro. Once you get there, you never leave.

In fact, I’ve taken this approach with one of my new songs. It has a simple verse, chorus, verse, chorus that builds into (hopefully) an epic bridge. And really the bridge is the release, from all the tension prior. Lyrically it’s what sums up everything else I’ve sung before. It’s the apex of the song, the climax. So I hang there and end there. No need to come back.

Who Needs A Chorus?

If you really want to get crazy, consider dropping the chorus all together. Think of all the great hymns people have been singing for hundreds of years. They are primarily made up of verses. Sometimes you’ll go four or five verses deep and then you’re done.

To do this requires two things, however: a memorable well written melody and lots of lyrics. With no chorus you can no longer save the hook for a simple line of lyrics that repeats a lot. You need to say some good stuff and say it in a verse melody that becomes forever cemented in people's’ brains.

Just Pick One Song To Tweak

These are just some simple examples of ways to tweak a typical song format. I’m sure you can think of many others. The idea I’m getting at is to simply choose one song on your new project and mix up the song format. It’ll keep your EP or album fresh and be a welcome break in the flow. 

Maybe pick a song that seems to be struggling. Perhaps you have a good song that doesn’t have that final sparkle to it. Maybe it needs a fresh format to give it some more life. Or maybe you’ll just write a song or two that’s different naturally.

Just something to think about as you finish up your next writing project.

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