Getting into Shape: A Little Structure Never Hurts

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Welcome to For a Song. I’m your host, Cari Ray, and I have to confess, not only am I really enjoying sharing this time and my passion for songwriting and the creative process with you, but I think it’s making me a better writer. It’s been said that if you really want to learn something, teach it. And, well, I’m not really teaching in this case, but preparing for and writing these segments has me take a closer look at the craft. And my fierce commitment to bringing value here calls on me to think critically on many levels. So it goes that as I challenge you, I am challenging me.

As I have read and listened back to past installments of For a Song, I notice that my love of songwriting as a vehicle for storytelling certainly comes through. It has always been the most comfortable go-to for me. And while I believe the message or story you want to tell and the chord you mean to strike with a song is of upmost importance, there are other crucial components of songs that work. No song can rise to the top leaning solely on any one, but any one, left ragged, can positively tank an otherwise good tune. Rhythm, melody, harmony, & structure are a few of these suspects. So my first thought was to make a rare move to file the flowery for a moment and hit the books in our next several opportunities together to explore these elements.

And I wanted to start with structure. I have recently become a curator on a site called “Fluence.” In short this site allows artists and songwriters to submit audio and video content for review by curators that range from producers to songwriters to music industry bloggers and influencers, etc. And recently, there has been a nagging issue with many of the submissions I have received. Let’s call it issues with structural integrity.

In pop songwriting (and by pop, I mean popular), there are some basic pieces that make up a song. Sometimes referred to by letter (A, B, C, etc), the main components that can make up a song are as follows. Verse, Chorus & Bridge. These are the big 3, other elements are Intro, Pre-Chorus, Tag & Outro. Not every tune has all of these pieces, but understanding what they are can help you decide when and how to use them best.

So I started writing. And writing. And Writing. Before I knew it, I had nearly 3 sessions worth of material and felt like I had barely scratched the surface of each song element. I realized that I could easily dedicate an entire For A Song to each…Chorus, Verse, etc. A moment later I had another realization. I was bored. A study of songwriting would be incomplete without taking a close look at the very pieces and parts that songs are made of. But we are trying to make good radio here folks, not present a dissertation. I was feeling torn, so I traipsed to the studio to talk to my producer about my dilemma of style vs. substance. After much deliberation, pontification, and a glass or two of red wine, a solution emerged. One that will allow us to cover our bases relative to mechanics while leaving our time here to tiptoe through the trials and tulips of the creative process.

Moving forward, I will periodically be posting additional written content to that delves a little deeper into the mechanical aspects of the creative process. Because the best song concept can fail to relate if not presented in an accessible way, and structure is an important piece of that puzzle. To get us started, I’ve posted an entry about Chorus on my website. Your homework? Go read it!

I’m Cari Ray, join me next time on For a Song…