Pop song structure refers to the fitting together of different musical sections. It should be catchy and linger in someone’s mind. Pop songs tend to be shorter and bring in choruses far quicker than other genres of music. This is because the chorus is the most catchy part of the song and pop songwriters want the listener to hear it as soon as possible.
Good pop songs should stand out regardless of the production behind them. Whether it’s sung with a piano or has a fully produced studio instrumental behind it, the core of the song should be simple and easy to remember. Sometimes production can add even more hooks and melodies through other instruments. This will only enhance your pop song further.
What is the typical structure of a pop song?
The pop song structure can take varying forms but will typically involve a verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus structure.
A 3-minute pop song at 120 bpm will have 360 bars. However, this can vary significantly from song to song depending on its structure and tempo. There is no fixed limit for how many bars make up an individual section either so this can change a lot.
A verse is usually between 8 or 16 bars. Sometimes verses can be really short, around 4 bars, in order to bring the chorus in sooner. A shorter verse is usually more effective with a pre-chorus section because otherwise, the song will be really short. You can also cut down a second verse to around half of the first. This is especially the case if your verse is longer, around 16 bars, because the listener may not be as engaged the second time around.
Song structure examples
Introduction – The intro is a crucial part of the pop song structure as you will want to get the attention and interest of the listener straight away.
Verse – A verse provides listeners with more insight. It leads to the main message of the song whilst advancing the story.
Pre-chorus – A pre-chorus fits in between the verse and chorus, changing the mood to build up anticipation for the chorus.
Chorus – The chorus repeats both musically and lyrically. It is the ‘pay off’ component of the song which listeners tend to be waiting for.
Verse, pre-chorus & chorus – The verse, pre-chorus and chorus typically repeat with an added arrangement. The second verse can be shorter than the first so that you get to the chorus quicker.
Bridge – The bridge can provide a tool to break up the repetitive effect of jumping back and forth between the verse and chorus.
Break – An instrumental break is an instrumental or percussion section within the song which breaks up the pop song structure. It is optional but can be used effectively within a song to build anticipation and grab our attention.
Final chorus – A song will start to wrap up with the last chorus after a bridge or break. It could be repeated twice at the end, sometimes including a drop chorus to contrast with a big ending.
Outro – The outro is the closing segment. The song will often fade or break down to a simple beat or melody.
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How to write a pop song that sells
First, you must choose what kind of song you want to write. Even within pop, you have plenty of options from which to choose. Will it be a big ballad, slow and gentle, fast and dancey, or low key. This can always change as you’re writing it but it’s good to have an idea in your mind from the start. Then start to come up with different ideas for different sections and start looking at piecing it together.
It’s best to sit down with a piano to start writing your pop song. You’ll be able to create chords with one hand and experiment with melodies on the other. It doesn’t have to be a massive grand piano. You can use a keyboard or keyboard controller that can play the piano through your computer. This will typically be through a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). If you want to know more about DAWs then you might want to do some research on home recording studios.
What makes a pop song successful?
A catchy song is one that sticks in the minds of its listeners. And that’s the song that sells, both directly to fans and to companies who might pay to use your tunes. The catchiness of a song is dependent on how easy it is to remember and how it makes someone feel. The song doesn’t even have to be played for it to get stuck in someone’s head and even humming it can cause it to spread from one person to another.