Pages Navigation Menu

Start With Something That's True

Song Elements Overview

Song Elements Overview

Updated 11/1/14

Each component of a song, or your song elements, serves a very specific function in creating the overall tapestry of a song. And, much like a tapestry, if you weave things together in a way that’s innovative, but doesn’t necessarily use the elements for the proper purpose, you could end up with a hole.

Most “holes” in songs are usually a result of poor song structure. So – let’s take a few minutes to run through the elements available to you as a song writer, and the role they serve within a song.


Core Song Elements




This is the undercurrent of your song, set against the accompaniment (chords for a guitar player). The melody line should be interesting, but not bizarre, and memorable. For a tutorial on melodies, listen to anything written by Burt Bacharach or Jimmy Webb.

Master Class: Melody & Lyrics Work Together

6 Essential Songwriting Books On Melody




Is responsible for keeping the listener engaged in the song. They should move them through the story line or idea, get them to the chorus in a logical way, and contrast with the bridge. A verse shouldn’t be a simple chronology, but a presentation of information in a flowing manner using the meter of the language to naturally flow into the next element.

Tip To Match Line Length in Verses

What’s A Song Verse For?


Pre-Chorus or Lift or Channel


While not mandatory, this can be a great device for ramping up into your chorus. Your song’s tempo and the nature of the song (e.g., a ballad may not be appropriate because it makes the song too long) will help determine if you should use a pre-chorus. You should use a pre-chorus to build additional tension for a big release in the chorus.

What’s A Pre-Chorus?




This is what your song’s about. As the “big moment” in your song, the chorus should create a focus on the meaning of the song. If it’s a strong chorus, it should have a slightly different meaning each time it shows up, using the verse just prior to colour the interpretation. A great example of this is Beth Nielsen Chapman’s “Child of Mine.”

What’s A Song Chorus For?




While often used to fill space, don’t be tempted! A strong bridge is a great “ah-ha!” moment in a song. It can be a compelling contrast to your chorus, and help deliver the hook of the song in a completely different, and larger than life way in the chorus which follows it. Keep in mind – you don’t always need one.

What’s a Song Bridge For?




Should be memorable and tie back to your song. I usually wait until the end to decide on a title so it doesn’t dictate my song lyrics, but that’s a personal choice. But, I also tend to write Americana.

If you’re writing country or pop songs to pitch, you’ll want to write to the title. This means, establish your hook (which is likely your title) then make sure each line can be tied back to the title.

Don’t get hung up on “a title should be short” (e.g., Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard”).

Remember – to know the rules is to have the skills to break them effectively, and that’s ultimately what spending time on song craft is all about.

A Song Title Should Give You Options


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest