We all have moments when we have good riffs, chord progressions, or song ideas but we can’t create a good song structure.
Coming up with a good structure for a song can be a challenging task. But it can be done if you have a good and correct strategy.
Each of us arranges a song in our way. But if you are stuck and don’t know how to do it, you need to have a song structure template.
But before you create your song structure template, you need to know how to get started.
Best Way To Structure A Song
A good recorded or mixed song is great but if it doesn’t have a proper structure, it won’t sound good and won’t become a hit. So, I created a beginner’s guide on how to create song arrangements and structure.
1. Trust Your Imagination
In general, music and art are the product of human imagination and talent. We conceptualize a concept in our minds, then transfer it to sound, drawing, etc.
And to come up with a song idea you need to start and rely on the power of your imagination. Because it’s your song and you know the best what it should look like and sound like.
When you write riffs and assemble the song you need to imagine the song structure in your mind and have a basic idea of how should the arrangement be.
You can then write it down so that you won’t forget it. Furthermore, it is much easier to rearrange a structure when you can see it visually.
Also, most times if not always the first idea is the best in everything. We all had the experience when we can’t recreate what we come up with first.
So, it’s important to trust your imagination when writing and arranging a strong structure. And also, always try to save and remember it. You can write it down or record it on your phone to remember it later.
2. Use A Reference Track
A great idea when structuring a song is to use a reference track. It’s a very common practice in mixing and mastering and it’s very helpful in songwriting too.
But it’s different for song structure. In the mixing and mastering process, we use reference tracks for the sound but in this case, we want them for the structure and arrangement.
Your song is unique but we all have influences and your sound will some similarities to other famous songs. So, you can use the arrangement and structure of that so song.
Listen to it carefully and see how many verses or choruses it has, does it has a bridge before the chorus, and so on.
Also, see the whole picture and analyze why that song has that particular structure, where is the emphasis, and things like that.
Then you can try it on your song and it might work or you might get some more new ideas you hadn’t thought about.
Using a reference track when building a structure for a song is very handy and it helps you to see the whole picture and create new ideas.
3. Record A Scratch Song
When you have an idea of how you want to structure a song it’s a good idea to record it as a scratch song. A scratch song is the first iteration of your song and it doesn’t need to be perfect.
Its only purpose is to assemble the song structure. Don’t think about the sound or playing on time. You just need to transform your idea into a recording to see and hear if the structure works.
I use this method all time when writing new songs and it works perfectly. This is the best method to come up with new ideas and helps you to create a better structure for your song.
You need to record the whole song with all the instruments. Vocal is not necessary but if you do it it’s better because it will help to arrange your song even better.
Also, at this stage, you can pan guitars left and right, try different sounds and tones for instruments, and implement different mixing techniques.
But this should be minimal because the main goal is to have the whole song recorded to easily arrange it later.
4. Try Different Arrangements
You now have your song recorded and it’s the first version of the structure. Though it isn’t perfect, it is a reasonable place to start.
You can rearrange your recorded demo and do anything you want with a scratch song. You can change sections and arrange them in different ways.
Also, you can hear which version of the structure sounds better by comparing the different versions.
And it’s not necessary to like everything or choose only one at this stage. The goal is to create a second version of the song or just improve the first version.
And improving is much easier because, in the digital world, we can cut, copy, paste or do anything to the tracks. And that’s one of the reasons why I love digital recording. And you don’t need to pay anything because we can use free DAWs.
In this step, you can use a reference track again and of course, trust your imagination and be free. Try anything that comes to your mind and you will find what you are looking for.
5. Build With Chunks
The best way to build the best song structure with a scratch song and its version is to use chunks. In simple words, build the final version with sections taken from different scratch song versions, like a Lego.
For example, you like the intro from the first version and the verse from the second version. Just take them and add them together to a new track.
Continue this process and build the song structure with chunks. Of course, you are free and you can do anything you want.
The only thing you need to do is to listen to your song over and over to come up with ideas. Then build the final version from different takes like a building block.
Then you can listen to all the versions you have and hear how different they are and which one is the better one. You can choose the one you like.
6. Make Final Changes
After you do all of these you will have the final and optimal version of your song. And it’s time to do some final changes and edits.
Final edits should be minimal and you don’t need to make drastic changes because it might ruin everything. You may have to start it over again so you need to be careful.
A good method is to make small breaks, about 15 to 20 minutes. Just clear your mind to have a fresh look at your song.
You can eat some snacks, drink coffee, or just walk around your block. Making small breaks is very common in mixing and mastering too because it helps to rest your ears too.
When listening to music over and over causes ear fatigue. So, your mind is not clear after some time and breaks are a great way to rest your ears and clear your mind.
And when you listen with a fresh and clean mind, you perceive music differently and you come up with new and better ideas.
So, listen to your song to understand the structure, make final and minimal changes, rest your ears, and you will create a better structure for a song.
7. Create A Song Structure Template
But the process doesn’t end here. There is a final step. When you have the final version and you are satisfied, you can create a song structure template from it.
This will help you to create new songs with a structure from the beginning. That’s a very handy way to write songs when you have a template. You won’t need to start from scratch.
Of course, all songs are different but it’s better to have a basic structure than no structure. But if you write songs in a specific genre, then using song structure templates is a great method.
Creating a template for a song structure is very easy with modern digital audio workstations. For example, in Reaper, you can add make a section and give it a name like verse, chorus, etc. Then you can save it and use it as a template.
Reaper is my favorite DAW because it offers amazing features and customization. For example, there are hundreds of themes for Reaper you can download for free and change the interface to your liking.
You can create song arrangements faster and easier with these templates. As a general rule, templates are excellent solutions for all kinds of tasks.
Song Structure Examples
Different music genres have different structures although a specific arrangement can work with different styles. So, having various song structure templates is very handy.
So, here I will show structures for various music styles and you can use them as song structure templates for your music.
For example, hip-hop has one of the simplest songs structure. The beat is almost always the same and verses and choruses are defined by vocals.
Next to a simple song structure template is a pop song, especially modern pop. The core of pop music is big choruses so a typical pop song will have an intro that can be a verse two, two verses, and two choruses. Sometimes they have some kind of bridge before the chorus.
Rock music is a little bit more complex than pop music and is more interesting. At least for me. A standard rock song structure has an intro, verse, chorus, bridge, and guitar solo, and most of them have an outro too. Classic and modern rock have small differences.
Also, because rock music is based on blues we can say that they have similar song structures but blues is a little simpler. However, you can use the same structure for blues and rock.
Modern metal is more complex than classic rock or old-school metal and has intricate parts. But it is somewhat similar to intros, guitar solos, etc. Also, metal music has subgenres that have slightly different structures. And metal music is more riff-based than rock music.
A more complex song structure template is progressive rock and metal with changing time signatures, guitar solos, and unorthodox song structures. Modern progressive metal is a little bit simpler than old-school progressive like King Crimson and Yes.
And perhaps the most complex song structure you will find is in jazz music with interesting parts, phrasing, and improvisations. Also, jazz is one of the hardest music genres to play but it lets you go free and improvise.
These are just simple presentations of song structures in different music genres and you can find more complex songs in each style.
Having a structure template for a song is great and here you can see song structure templates of most popular music genres. But it doesn’t mean that you must use them. However, song templates are great for faster songwriting and recording processes.
Art and music give you the freedom to do whatever you want and express yourself in the way you want. So, you can create weird and unorthodox song structures and it’s fine.
Do whatever you feel is right but having a song structure template is a great help. You can use these music genre templates as a reference and customize them to your liking.
I hope I was clear in my message and you understand why song structure is important to create good music and how it helps to write songs faster and more efficiently. You can use already established song structures, create your templates, or blend them. Also, if you blend song structures from different music genres you can give your songs uniqueness and freshness.
I recommend you create different song structure templates in your DAW and always start with them. You can then modify and adjust it to your song and create unique and interesting music.