Song Structure – I Can Explain

I’m enjoying having a place to post observations about patterns I see with students. Today I am thinking about song structure. This is not something that is as simple to practice as scales or chords, but if you don’t understand song structure it is hard to play songs.

I should note that mistakes in song structure are not just common with students but also with performing musicians. People go to the chorus too soon, or too late, or they skip the bridge, sometimes on their own songs!

My method for understanding song structure is pretty simple – I listen to the tune repeatedly and write the structure down. In detail. Example – “I Can’t Explain“, by The Who. And you really must watch this video.

Intro – I bVII IV I riff is played three times – first time with just guitar, then bass and drums come in

A section – This is not a verse. Maybe it’s a pre-verse, I don’t know, but the first 8 bars after the intro never happen again. The I bVII IV I riff is played three times, then the fourth time the IV chord is replaced with a V chord. Missing that V chord is easy. Hitting it is easy too, if you know it’s coming.

B section – this is just the main riff played twice with some background singing. It happens after the chorus as well.

The rest of the song follows a Verse, Chorus, Solo, Verse, Chorus, Solo, outro form

The verse is 8 bars long – three times through the main riff and then the syncopated “I know what it means but…” lyric (chords are I, bVII, V)

The Chorus is really short – 4 bars (I vi IV V) followed by 4 bars of the main verse riff – the B section.

The first solo is only 4 bars long. The second solo is twice as long.

The outro is basically a doubled B section with a syncopated ending.

The overall structure of the tune is

Intro, A, B, | Vs, Ch, B, Solo, | Vs, Ch, B, Longer Solo, | Outro

Spending some time thinking about song structure is good for you. It will help keep you from going to the wrong part of the song, and it might also help your songwriting. Especially if you know lots of tunes with different types of structures.


1 thought on “Song Structure – I Can Explain

  1. Pingback: Best Way to Write a New Song? | Jarmo Puolakanaho

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