Basically, can consider the first verse as one kind of intro, but instead of the instrumental music, this intro has the vocals and the words to prepare the atmosphere for the listener and lead them to the hook – or chorus of the song.
Chorus. Introduces the big idea or emotion in the song. It’s the key of the song. The most important part of the song that anything before chorus is preparing the listener for this part and anything after the chorus is explaining the follow up story of what happens after the key moments. For example, in the song “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, that statement is the big idea. Everything in the verses and bridge point to that big idea and everything in the chorus revolves around that idea. It is highly recommended to mention the title of the song in the chorus and put your main focus on the words and melody of the chorus to be as catchy as possible, because psychologically people tend to remember the chorus of a song more than any other part of it.
Verse 2. Takes the big idea deeper. Many beginning writers make the big mistake of introducing more characters, context and setting in this section. As a general rule, verse 2 needs to dig in deeper to your big idea or follow up about the story and explain what happened after the introduction in the first verse and the “conclusion” in second verse. Second verse is your chance to explain more about all the characters and events you brought in the first verse. Giving more characters, context and setting tends to back the story up instead of advancing it. Be conscious of taking the big idea farther in verse 2 and it will be easier for you to write and easier for your listener to follow up.
Bridge. If you have a bridge, it should take the big idea farther than verse 2 did or it could sum up the whole song. Again, be conscious of moving the story forward. Not every song needs a bridge. My first publisher used to say, “Don’t build a bridge if there’s no river to cross”. If there’s nothing to say, write an instrumental solo in or just go back to another chorus. The bridge is not a “must” in a song.
Outro. The musical piece that ends the song if you need one. Some songs stop cold at the end of the last chorus or another lyrical piece. Most have an outro to close out the song. A recent research had shown when a song is ending with a gentle fade out, there is more likely for the listener to replay the song because they still want the song – due to fading out – and they would just play it back from the beginning before the outro completely fades out.
Length. For most genres these days, it’s best to stick as close as you can to 3 minutes. 3:30 used to be the standard for pop and country, but that is shorter now because radio can squeeze in more ads if they have shorter songs to play. After I write 2 verses and a chorus, I always play the song down and time it to make sure I’m not getting long-winded. One good way to play with the length is write in a method I would like to call it “breaks”. They way it works is that you write each section in 2 different parts and treat each of those parts like a piece of Lego. Just put them together, add and remove them until you get your perfect length.
Hangi Tavakoli is our in-house established and professional music producer with 20 years of experience in songwriting, music production, mix and mastering. He has written and produced more than 5,000 published songs to-date, including some major hits in international scale.