How To Rap: Song Structure

A common obstacle many artists face when learning how to rap is not knowing where to place verses and hooks due to a lack of understanding about song structure. In this article I will break down what song structure is and show you how to process all of the information that the instrumental is giving you.

What’s Song Structure?

Now we previously looked into what structured lyrics are. Now lets define what song structure means. Song Structure is the order or pattern in which sections of the song such as verses, hooks & bridges are presented and or repeated. Let’s take a quick look at some of the commonly used sections that you will likely find in a rap song.

Intro: Is a small space of time “typically 4 bars but sometimes shorter or longer” that is at the beginning of the song. Often times there are no drums during this section in order to create a large build up for the transition into the hook or verse “which ever comes next”.

Pre-Hook: Also known as a pre-chorus. This is rarely used in rap music but it’s still worth mentioning. A pre-hook can be as long as 8 bars but typically in rap music it’s 1-2 bars and is just a simple phrase that is repeated before each hook. It acts as almost like a heads up that the hook is about to start. It’s something simple and catchy that people can easily follow along with. Now during the section of a Pre-hook there may or may not be any change in music to accompany it. Often times it’s considered more a part of the verse than a section of the song.

House Of Pain used a Pre-Hook on Jump Around with the lyrics “I came to get down, I came to get down, so get out your seat and jump around”.

Hook: The hook aka the chorus is typically the busiest part of the song. This is where most of the instruments are presented which creates a high point in the song and often times carries some type of melody. The hook is typically 8 bars in length and is usually repeated 3-4 times throughout the duration of the song.

Verse: The verse is typically 16 bars in length, usually repeated three times throughout the song and has fewer instruments than the hook. The verse is usually a low point in the song as there are less instruments during the verse so the lyrics can be the main focal point without to many distractions. This also creates a needed dynamic in contrast with the hook. Sometimes throughout the verse the energy will gradually build to lead up to the energy level of the hook.

Bridge: The use of Bridges isn’t as common in rap as it is in r&b and pop music however you will still hear it used from time to time. The bridge is typically used after a hook that had a verse in front of it. The bridge usually presents a key change to give a distinct feeling from the verse and hook. The bridge isn’t usually very long because it’s purpose is to bridge the hook to the following verse and offer a break from the predictable format of the verse followed by the hook. A bridge is typically 4 to 8 bars in length.

If you would like to hear a bridge being used in a rap song check out 50 cent In Da Club his bridge comes in between the second hook and second verse when he says

My flow, my show brought me the dough
That bought me all my fancy things
My crib, my cars, my pools, my jewels
Look, nigga, I came up and I ain’t changed

Outro: The outro is a small space of time which is usually 4-8 bars and is at the very end of the song after the last hook. This is typically where the song fades out. Sometimes a hook may be repeated a second time in this place. Also at times there may be a change is musical arrangement such as taking out the drums to lower the energy level as was done previously in the intro.

Common Song Structures

Now that we’ve defined what all the different sections here are a few common song structures.

Intro – Hook – Verse – Hook – Verse – Hook – Outro

Intro – Verse – Hook – Verse – Hook -Verse -Hook -Outro

Intro – Hook – Verse – Hook – Bridge – Verse – Hook – Outro

Now keep in mind there are endless ways to structure a song. These are just a few examples of some of the most common forms found in rap music. So the next time you are listening to a song or hip hop instrumentals  see if you can identify each section of the song.

How Did I Do?

Did you find this article helpful? Have a question or comment? I would love to hear back from you so make sure you drop your 2 cents in the comments section below.

Comments

  1. Amber says

    This definitely is a great article! It is thorough, informative, yet easy to understand. Thanks so much! Reading this definitely helped me understand what I was needing to!

    • says

      Hey Amber, thanks so much for reading and commenting! I’m really happy to hear that you found this article easy to follow and understand. I appreciate your kind words and positive feedback! Keep up the hard work! :)

  2. Alex Orzuna says

    Hey Cole been a fan for a fat minute now and I’m just getting started with structuring lyrics and I love the smoother transitions I’ve gained but I’m having trouble with breaking my words into syllables and puzzling them in the same line. I guess my question is how do I know how many syllables is too much on one line?

  3. trevor says

    I want to ask something when you making a song is it necessary when maybe you on your verse and you make a verse and repeat it on top of the first verse

    • says

      Hey Trevor, I apologize I didn’t understand your question. Are you asking while you’re working on writing a song is it okay to rap let’s say the second verse in the space of where the first verse is? If that’s what you asking then no there’s no problem with that because regardless of where you’re practicing your verse at on the beat it’s still going to be to the same tempo and rhythm of the beat so you should be fine. If I misunderstood your question let me know. Thanks :)

  4. kanope says

    Hello , Good evening Brother !!
    I would like to thank you … for the tip and great technique Rap Video ..vi your few days ago … and today I kept See – los..muito Interesting your videos
    ..mim congratulations ajundou enough (note : not even intendendo your language ‘m from Brazil … at the moment I am using the translator to send this mesage and video also use Youtube..desculpa translator by graphic error that google does not know translates very well lol
    ..thank you ..

    • says

      My pleasure Kanope! Thanks for the positive feedback! I’m glad my videos have been helping you out! Keep up the great work! Much love to Brazil from The States! :) – Cole Mize

  5. says

    Hey cole, I know you sent me here for a look at chorus, but I guess I meant to ask if you will ever do a more in depth breakdown on writing a chorus. I sure I’m not the only one trying to figure out how to make it catchy, memorable, simple, etc.
    I appreciate it. Plus this article is a great bookmark.

    • says

      Hey Tony, yes I will be covering chorus in depth in the future. If you ever want to work together on some of your chorus feel free to set up a 1 on 1 session with me and you will learn a whole lot in the process of creating memorable hooks! :)

  6. Xterior says

    Hi Cole, reviewing your articles really help cleared most of my doubts. I have a question, is it possible to write verse over the hook part of the structure? From your video, you said don’t be afraid to switch it up and I’m a little confuse by that.

    • says

      Hey Xterior, sure you can write your verse where ever you want. Just know that if your rapping over a beat someone else made they likely creating hook sections for the song that may introduce melodies you can play off of during your hook. So if you are putting your hook In a different spot that the producer created you may not have much melodic instruments to play off of. Tho I recommend sticking to the song structure of the instrumental Feel free to experiment and have fun. I hope this helps :) – Cole Mize

      • Xterior says

        Hi Cole, thank you for your reply! I have figure out the rough overall for the song structure which is Intro-Hook-Verse-Hook-Verse-Hook-Hook-Outro. Is there too much hook in there and should I replace it with 8 bars?

        • says

          My pleasure Xterior. That sounds like a good song structure. If you have a really catchy hook then it shouldn’t be an issue with repeating twice at the end before the outro. You may want to also consider adding something different to the last hook. It could be doing the hook with a different attitude, octave, adding different ad libs etc.. . You could also create a 8 bar prehook/bridge before the last hook as well. Just experiment and see what sounds best to you. :) – Cole Mize

  7. says

    Thanks for another great article Cole, it’s thanks to people like you that I can become a better artist every day. The content you put out is always helpful and informative. I can’t thank you enough for what you do and hope you continue to do your thing.

    Thanks again,

    Rajeev

    • says

      Thanks so much for your positive feedback and kind words Rajeev! I’m really glad that my content has been so helpful to you! That’s what it’s all about right there! I’m wishing you the best in all of your musical endeavors. Keep up the hard work and I’ll be doing the same! :) – Cole Mize

  8. Rubal says

    It’s just splendid, i loved it. Now i have come to know that i’m not still ready to post my rap song on you tube but will keep trying and learning from you. I have a question – does the same tutorials work for Punjabi Rap too. I listen to Bohemia a lot.

    • says

      Thanks for the positive feedback Rubal! I’m really glad you’re enjoying my content! Yes all the techniques that I teach can be applied to any language because music is a universal language. Keep up the hard work and if you have anymore questions please let me know. :) – Cole Mize

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