When it comes to writing pop songs, there is a general formula that is used for the song structure. But before we even approach the specific structure of a pop song, it is important to know the purpose of a pop song because it helps in making the most of the structure.
Purpose of a pop song
The purpose of the pop song is to get the song hooked to listeners as soon as possible and to keep the listener stay interested as long as possible in a span of about 3 to four minutes. This is the age of consumerism where people buy, then get bored, then buy again, then get bored again, and so on and so forth. it’s a cycle. The same goes for pop music today. People listen from finding highly ear grabbing music, then get bored, so they listen to new songs, then they get bored again. So the pop song basically needs three things: familiarity, variety, and a hook.
So with knowing that we want the song we write to hook onto listeners, how does that translate in the structure of a pop song? We have to figure out what doesn’t work first, then lead up to what works and what works well.
Here’s a question. Would a song that was all verses work as a pop song? I don’t think so. Why wouldn’t it work? It wouldn’t work because you would get bored of the song quickly. The verses could be catchy, but if there isn’t anything to change it up, it will get old quick. So what do we do? Add another section.
So the lesson here is to bring variety to the song and stray away from having the song too mundane. But on the flip side, having too much variety wouldn’t work either. For example, if you introduced a new section every time without repeating a section, it would be hard to take in the song. Let’s say I had a song that had the structure A – B – C – D (each letter represents an individual section. In order for the listener to gain some sense of familiarity, he or she will have to hear the song again probably for a couple times even if each section was catchy. But if you had a song that reintroduced sections like A – B – A – B, the listener can gain familiarity within one or two listens. But remember that the song has to keep the listener interested with the hook.
The general structure of a pop song is A – B – A – B – C – B aka verse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge – chorus. This works so well because not only does it add a sense of familiarity by repeating sections A and B, there is a sense of variety with the addition of section C. Then familiarity is reinforced with keeping a sense of freshness by ending the section with B. This structure of a pop song is effective when the hook is carried in the chorus section where lyrics stay the same each time the section is sung.
You can use A – B – A – B – C – B as the base for your song and add sections to it to add the effects of familiarity and variety. Here are some examples.
A – A – B – A – B – C – B
A – B – C – A – B – C – D – C (This is known as verse – prechorus – chorus – verse – prechorus – chorus – bridge – chorus)
A – B – A – B – C – A – B
There are many options when it comes to the structure of a pop song. Remember that having just the structure of a pop song isn’t what makes a song popular. It needs a hook which is usually in the chorus section of the song. Have fun coming up with your structure!