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.