Parts Of A Song Defined

Each component, or your song elements, serves a very specific function in creating the overall tapestry. 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 bit of a mess on your hands. And by that, I mean something your listener has a hard time following.

I’m not saying you need to follow all of the rules all of the time. What is ideal for your listener is that you understand the rules, and then leverage them to tell the best story or convey the emotion/message you’re going for in a way they can relate to so they can experience it to the fullest. Listeners are familiar with the rules because they listen to songs. Use that to your advantage.

For example, they know a chorus is a big moment they can sing along to and it will repeat several times. They know a verse is telling them something so they listen for a story or message to get them back to the chorus. Knowing your song parts helps both you and your audience.

This is a great starter article if you’ve never written a song, or you are having issues with making sure you’re using core song elements in the right way.

So – let’s take a few minutes to run through the song elements available to you, and the role they each serve within a song.

There are additional articles to provide more detail for each of one of the 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.


Is responsible for keeping the listener engaged. A verse should help the listener move them through the story line or idea, get them to the chorus in a logical way, and contrast with the bridge (if you have one).

A verse shouldn’t be a simple chronology, but a presentation of information in a unique way using the meter of the language to naturally flow into the next element (a chorus, another verse, pre-chorus or bridge).

Tip To Match Line Length in Verses

What Is A Verse In Songwriting?

Pre-Chorus or Lift

While not mandatory, this can be a great device for ramping up into your chorus. The 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 Is A Pre-Chorus In Songwriting?


This is what your song’s about. As the “big moment,” 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 Is A Chorus In Songwriting?


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 Is A Bridge In Songwriting?


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 lyrics, but that’s a personal choice. When I’m writing for myself in the Americana and Western genres I have a bit more latitude with a title since I’ll probably be performing it live, and I want it to be short and memorable. It will likely be part of my hook, but it probably won’t be as connected to the lyric throughout like a country song would be.

When I’m writing country songs to pitch, I’ll want to write to the title. This means, I establish the hook then make sure each line can be tied back to the hook, and as a result, to the title.

Some Examples:

  • “One Night Standards” – Ashley McBride
  • “Actin’ Up” – Miranda Lambert
  • “Alabama Pines” – Jason Isbell


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.

Be sure to read this article on how to to create a useful title you can fully leverage across your song: A Song Title Should Give You Options

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