Song layout

We Can Work It Out


Now you have the main idea it’s almost time sketch out a high level  overview of the song. To do that you need to have a structure in place and understand the job each section does.

Song form

There are lots of different ways to structure a song. As with every other decision in song writing the only “correct” choice is the one that fulfils your artistic goal. 

For this exercise, we are going to focus on the most commonly used structure in contemporary pop, rock, funk, reggae and Soul. If you want to try something else you can read more about your options here

Here’s the form we are using:

  • Intro (4bars) – optional 
  • Verse 1 (16 bars)
  • Pre-chorus (4 bars)
  • Chorus (8 bars)
  • Verse 2 (8 bars)
  • Pre-chorus (4 bars)
  • Chorus (8 bars)
  • Bridge (optional)
  • Chorus (8 bars)
  • Chorus (8 bars)
  • Outro (4 bars) – optional 

Intro and outro

These sections are optional and are often kept short in order to get the listener to the chorus quickly. Only you can decide if you need them based on your creative intent. 


The verses are the sections of the song where you tell the majority of the songs story. Most of the content lives here. This is the place where you use sensory words to “show not tell” the listener what is happening and help them feel what you intend them to feel.


This provides a link between the verse and the chorus. If often set’s up the chorus sometimes building tension that the chorus will release. Lyrically it’s often a way to connect to the repeated message in the refrain. Sometimes this is done using linking words such as “but” or “and”.


This is the main emotional point of the song. The lyrical message of the chorus usually takes one of these three forms:

  • Call to action – “Get into the groove”
  • Statement – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”
  • Question – “Do you really want to hurt me?”

If your chorus isn’t one of these three, ask yourself why.

Choruses typically uses repetition to drive the message home. Look up the words to songs you like, note how often the chorus message is repeated. There are different types of repetition used including but not limited to: 

  • Sandwich repetition – the main message starts and ends the chorus wrapping up anything that’s in the middle 
  • Internal repetition – Repetition inside a line itself e.g. If we sing “what do you care” and then repeat “do you care, do you care, do you care”
  • Complete repetition – the chorus says the same thing over and over. This is taken to an extreme by Daft Punk. The lyrics of their song “Around the world” are simply the phrase “Around the world” repeated 144 times.


You should only use a bridge if you need one. It’s a place where you put new lyrical content. It should be tangential to the rest of the song. Sometimes a bridge will re-frame the rest of the content making you change your view of the rest of the lyrics. In contemporary music the bridge is a place to bring in new musical ideas as well preventing the song from becoming too repetitive.

Sketch out the song

Now you know what each section of the song should do you are ready to sketch out your song. Don’t try to write lyrics just yet. Draw on the ideas you have developed to outline the shape of the song from a lyrical perspective. Just put down the main message of each section. You should end up with something like the below example:

  • Verse 1: I’m alone but I’m happy
  • Pre-chorus: but now I’ve met you 
  • Chorus: I can’t do without you
  • Verse 2: why is everything different now?
  • Pre-chorus 2: but the more I know about you
  • Chorus: I can’t do without you
  • Bridge: Do you need me as much as I need you, I hope you do because
  • Chorus: I can’t do without you

When you are happy with your outline write it into the story section of the song idea canvas and the top boxes of the song structure canvas. Congratulations! You have created a lyrical outline for your song.

Now what?

Now you have created an outline of your song it’s time to write some music. 

onward to write the music

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