Each song you are listening to on the radio has its own structure. Sometimes you can tell which part of the song is playing even if you start to listen to this song from the middle. There are several sections (or patterns) each song can be divided such as intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus (or hook), bridge and outro. I will explain the difference between each part and will share with you some examples of commonly used song structures in hip-hop, r&b and pop music.
Intro is a small piece of the song (4-8 bars, from 5 to 30 seconds) but sometimes can be longer or shorter. Often times there are very few instruments and melodies and no drums and bass in this part of the song. In hip-hop music intro usually, ends with drum fills and/or synth fx sweeps. Also, in modern trap music, there is an effect when a high-pass filter is slowly opening from the beginning of the intro to the start of the verse or the chorus. You can clearly hear this effect in tracks produced by “Mike Will Made It”.
Verse is usually 16 bars (or 32 bars if we use double tempo counting) in length, repeated several times throughout the song and has fewer instruments than the chorus. Mostly hip-hop songs have 2 to 3 verses. Sometimes the verse is starting with no drums at all and gradually builds up from the beginning to the end of the verse. You can feel a drop of an energy of the song after each hook and then it starts to build up again. It creates a contrast in the entire song. Instrumental patterns are adding during the verse and there is a small drop in energy with some drum fills and FX right before the hook.
Pre-chorus is a small piece of the song which creates a transition between the verse and the hook. Typically, the length of the pre-chorus is 4 bars long and sometimes there is a change in the chord progression and the melody which distinguishes the pre-chorus from the verse. Pre-chorus is used to prepare listener to the hook. Usually, If there is the pre-chorus after the first verse then all the following verses will have pre-choruses too. However, pre-chorus is rarely used in hip-hop music.
Hook (or the chorus) is the king of the track and the catchiest part of the song. This is the part where most of the instruments and melodies are playing at the same time. In hip-hop music often times there is a singing part of the vocals combined with the vocal double-tracks presented in the chorus section which creates high energy (or climax) point in the song. The length of the hook is usually 8 bars divided by two repeated parts. The hook repeats itself after each verse and even 2 times after the latest verse.
Bridge is the part of the song which is commonly used in pop music. The idea of the bridge is to create new emotional feelings in the listener’s head. Generally, the bridge is used once in the entire track and you usually face the bridge in between the latest two hooks of the song. Sometimes musicians change the chord progression, rhythm pattern or even use modulation (change the key of the song) trying to bring something new. However, the bridge is not as thick part of the track as the chorus.
Ok, this was the theory. Now let’s take a look at the famous rap song “2Pac feat. Dr. Dre – California Love” and split it into sections.
Song structure: 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre – California Love
- 00:00 – Intro – 4 bars
- 00:13 – Hook – 12 bars
- 00:45 – Verse 1 – 16 bars
- 01:27 – Hook – 12 bars
- 01:58 – Bridge – 8 bars
- 02:19 – Verse 2 – 16 bars
- 03:01 – Hook + Bridge – 20 bars
- 03:54 – Outro – 20 bars