Writing songs is an art form. It is an art of repetition and structure. A guitarist can learn from the song forms of today in order to write great songs.
What is a Song Form?
Rhythm, harmony, and melody (RHM) are the building blocks of all music. A guitarist will also want to add interesting lyrics to a song. Songs typically have the following main form or structure (and variations of these) when a guitarist is focusing on the lyrics:
- Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus
- Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Bridge – Chorus
- Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus
- Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse
In general each verse will have the same melody or Riff. The only difference is the lyrics that are sung over the melody. Moreover, each chorus usually has the same melody and also the same lyrics. The chorus can also involve more than one voice, but does not have to. This is a good spot for the music to repeat.
Guitar Riffs and Repetition
A guitarist will want to add repetition into their music. It can be unsatisfactory for a listener to hear a short section of music that they like, then not hear it again. In fact, form and repetition go hand in hand. Repetition satisfies the listener and helps them to participate in the song by singing along — or simply being able to anticipate what’s coming next.
A guitarist should pick a melody (or catchy rhythm, or phrase, or harmony, or riff) that is strong enough to repeat. Once such a riff idea is created, it should be memorized and/or written down or recorded.
In fact, some guitarist will name their riffs so they can recall them. They may call a riff the “hammer” or the “falling down” since the riff reminds them of such things. The guitarist Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was a master riff creator and serves as a good example to follow.
Moreover, the part of the song that should diverge from the rest is called the bridge. It adds a new dimension to the song, but still sounds consistent with the rest of the music. It may be a point in the song where the song changes key or modulates. One such technique is to go from a major key to a minor key, such as, G major to E minor.
Variations of Song Forms
Here are some variations of the forms listed above with intros, solos, and outros included. Many guitarists will spend countless hours developing their solos. In fact, many of the improvised solos played are actually well thought out and practiced riffs and such.
I’m Your Hoochi Coochie Man by Muddy Waters and Others:
Intro – Verse 1 – Chorus 1 – Verse 2 – Chorus 2 – Verse 3 – Chorus 3
Living After Midnight by Judas Priest:
Intro – Chorus – Verse 1 – Chorus – Verse 2 – Chorus – Bridge – Solo – Verse 3 – Chorus
Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne:
Intro – Verse 1 – Chorus – Verse 2 – Chorus – Bridge – Solo – Intro – Verse 3 – Chorus – Outro
Crossroads by Eric Clapton and Others:
Intro – Verse 1 – Verse 2 – Verse 3 – Guitar Solo – Verse 4 – Guitar Solo – Verse 5
As one can see, form brings some order to the music. It is taking the music somewhere. The final product is not just a meaningless mess of sound. It has order. Form is the foundation of the song. Sometimes all a song needs to be good is to add some structure, some repetition. If this can be done within the three to five minute time frame, then the song may get some play time on the radio