Song Forms 2

Edited by Peter Muldoon – Original article appeared in Mouthzoff Magazine iss 8, 2 November 2013

Last months issue saw us looking at First and Second forms, also referred to as AAA and VCVCVCC respectively. Two of the most popular forms, Third and Fourth forms both add sections to expand the story. Click here to go back to the beginning.

Third form, like second form, contains Verse and Chorus sections but what makes it different is the added part known as the Bridge also known as the Middle 8 (which refers to the position in the song and the typical length of the section – eight measures [bars]). The function of the bridge is to add a new perspective to the story and to add a new musical flavour. Lyrically, this might be asking ‘what if…?’, or giving new info that doesn’t fit into a verse structure. A bridge typically doesn’t repeat, but usually leads back into the repeated chorus to take us to the end. When writing a Bridge it needs to be seen as a musically new section, so you typically wouldn’t recycle chord progressions or melodies from verses or chorus but create a new sound. It may dynamically comedown to a quiet reflection of the rest of the song or build with even a key change (like in “Leave The Pieces” by The Wreckers, written by Billy Austin and Jennifer Hanson). Its strength isn’t in a soaring melody and catchiness like a chorus, but in the fact that it is different. In terms of the rhyming scheme, it should also change from what was used previously in the verses and choruses.

Some great examples of this form are; “My Life Would Suck Without You” by Kelly Clarkson (written by Max Martin, Lukasz Gottwald and Claude Kelly) or “Then” by Brad Paisley (written by Chris DuBois, Ashley Gorley and Brad Paisley).

Fourth form is also similar to second form but the new section is known as a Pre-Chorus or Lift. Yep, it’s the short section between the verse and the chorus that provides a ramped up section to prepare you for the gloriously soaring chorus. Usually the pre-chorus is repeated exactly the same each time and similar to the bridge, it should have a unique rhyming scheme. Pre-Choruses often use some literary tricks, like rapid fire internal rhymes (“I stole a whole fruit bowl”) or alliteration (“Lucky lizards lounged while leering at Lucy”). Also, musically it should build and lead into the chorus. It is these types of ideas that make the Chorus seem catchier.

“Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams, written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, is a great example of a fourth form with an additional bridge.

Trends in songwriting in the last 10 or so years have lead to the expansion of this form to also contain a Bridge. Obviously writers only use this when they have a lot to say and it won’t just fit into a couple of verses, a lift (repeated) and a chorus (repeated). For example, “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams, written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance.

Some Fourth form examples are; “Roar” by Katy Perry (written by Katy Perry, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee and Henry Walter) and Taylor Swift’s “Sparks Fly”.

Next month we will finish up this 3-part series on song forms with a look at the final two forms – Fifth and Sixth forms.

Missed something? Click here for all three articles in the series.

The Author

Sonic Edwards

Sonic is the author of two very dry books on Scale Fingerings for Bass Guitar.
He is also an in demand session musician and educator.