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.
where can I get bar sheets from I just found your channel today and absolutely love it
Hey Anthony, I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying the channel. To get the bar sheets and all the other FREE goodies just sign up to the newsletter at http://colemizestudios.com/howtorap and everything will be delivered directly to you through e-mail. If you have any issues let me know. Thanks!
Thank you Cole going through this stuff is building my confidence. I wake up everyday more ready to master these techniques.
My pleasure Za. I’m really glad to hear that my content has been helpful for you. Thanks for reading and commenting! Keep up the hard work. You got this! 🙂 – Cole Mize
Hi.. This is so helpful.. 🙂 Thank you so much..
My pleasure Pranita. I’m really glad that you found this article on song structure helpful. Keep up the great work! 🙂
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!
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! 🙂
Thanks man but I keep having problems in rhyming. Also how long is a bar? How many seconds? But overall thanks man!
My pleasure Wck! In regards to rhyming make sure you check out my article on how to write lyrics faster The length of a bar completely depends on the speed of the music tempo. Music with slower tempo will be longer than faster music. Check out my video on picking the right beats to rap to, Tempo explained and music notes explained These should help you out greatly! Let me know by commenting underneath each article what you think 🙂
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?
Hey Alex, I’m glad to hear you’ve been enjoying my videos! 10-12 syllables per bar is a good place to start. Check out my lesson on structuring lyrics if you haven’t already it’s really good stuff! Let me know if it helps 🙂
Is a bar a sentence? If not, what is the real definition of a bar?
A bar isn’t necessarily a sentence however it is common for rappers to fit sentences within 1 bar. For an in depth look at bars and musical time make sure you check out this video I did bout it. Hope this helps 🙂
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
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 🙂
Good ass article 5/5
Thanks John! I appreciate the glowing review and am glad that you found this lesson helpful! That’s what it’s all about!! 🙂
Can a hook ever be a 4 bar or is an 8 bar necessary?
Hey Jonathan, There’s no rules to how you structure your songs. An 8 bar hook is pretty standard but your hook could be 4 bars or even 16 bars. There’s no rules only techniques 🙂
My pleasure Jonathan! 🙂
So good best article ive read in ages
Thanks SOS I’m really glad to hear that you enjoyed my article and I’m humbled by your response. Thanks so much! 🙂
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 ..
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
thanx man this really helps had written alot of lyrics i was just a ghost writer in the dark but now i believe am gonna sing
That’s awesome to hear Ahmed I’m really glad to hear this lesson was helpful to you! Keep up the hard work! 🙂 – Cole Mize
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.
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! 🙂
this stuff really help me thanks a lot one question though do you know where i can get free beats for my raps
I’m glad this was helpful to you Will. If you’re looking for free beats check out my article on Top 10 Tips For Buying Rap Beats Online it will give you all the information you need to know plus some! 🙂 – Cole Mize
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.
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
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?
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
Wow that is really good insight, thank you very much Cole!
My pleasure Xterior I’m glad it was helpful! 🙂
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 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
great article. very helpful for anyone who appreciates music
Thanks Kelly! I’m glad you enjoyed the article and thanks so much for your positive feedback! 🙂 – Cole Mize
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.
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
Very helpful man. Thanks a lot!
My pleasure! I’m glad you enjoyed this article! Thanks for the positive feedback! 🙂 – Cole Mize
Wow cole really enjoyed this information brother …..keep up the good work….helped me out a lot
My pleasure Keith! I’m glad you’re finding my content to be helpful! I’ll keep it up! You so the same! 🙂 – Cole Mize
I been searching for structure like yours, so I’m so glad I found this; very helpful.
Hey Samuel I’m glad that you found my article to be helpful! Thanks for the positive feedback as well! Wishing you the best! 🙂 – Cole Mize
I dont normally read long shit but yours was worth my time its pity that i came across it later but still enjoying each writing . I hope u can listen to my work and give me feedback. Kingsamnovela@gmail.com for sub.
Thanks for the positive feedback KS90. I’m glad you are finding my content to be helpful! If you would like me to review your music you can purchase a music review from me here on my website. If you have any questions please let me know. Thanks! 🙂 – Cole Mize
I just scrolled through the comments and I just wanted to say. I am impressed you’ve been keeping up and replying since 2015. That’s dedication. I appreciate the work and consistency from that alone.
Thanks so much for noticing Kuro! Tho it can be challenging to keep up with all the comments hearing back from others on how my content has helped them always inspires me to keep pushing forward. Thanks again for your kind words! Best wishes! 🙂 – Cole Mize
its really helpful to me cus i have not yet started so i think i will start the right way
There you go, Alberto! You are certainly in the right place! I sure could have used my tutorials when I was first coming up! LOL! 🙂 – Cole Mize
Hey man, 1st up this is probably the best and easiest to understand tutorial I’ve come across so cheers bruv! 2nd is a question, I can write lyrics that I’m stoked with but always come up with awkward intros, I just can’t get it to go into a flow, how do I come in? Any tips?
Hey Nick, Thanks so much for your positive feedback! I’m really glad that you enjoyed this article! My biggest tip for you would be before you start writing your lyrics scat over the instrumental and come up with some really dope cadences and then structure your lyrics around the cadence. If you would like to see an example of this watch this video. I hope this helps! 🙂 – Cole Mize
Thanks so much for all your tips, suggestions and knowledge!! I tried leaving a message for you from your “About” page, but never got a response, so I hope you are still active here.. I am trying to put a song together, and being as I learned to rap on my own, I have just learned about bridges. My question is this, does it matter how I do a bridge in my song? I would like to send the finished song to the producer, and put it out there on the internet, and I wrote 8 bars that I rap (the third verse is 8 bars, with different instrumentals, so I think it is supposed to be a bridge), is this okay? Is there a “rule” about how you are supposed to use a bridge, or could I be creative and rap it, but use a different rhythm? Again, thanks so much for all of your articles and videos, they’ve been a great help!!!
Hey Beneetzinc, My apologies for not responding to you. I typically respond to all my e-mails within 3 days. If I didn’t respond within that time frame it may have gotten lost in my spam folder for some reason. But in response to your question, no, there are no rules when it comes to writing bridges and what you’re talking about doing sounds just fine. Just make sure it’s dope!! That’s the only rule lol 🙂 I hope this helps and I’m wishing you the best with your song! 🙂 – Cole Mize
Sweet, thanks Cole!
My pleasure! 🙂
I love coming back to this past every time I need to freshen my mental.
It helps every time fool proof!!!!
I’m glad to hear that Roza! It’s always good to get a refresher, Thanks for the love and support! 🙂
hi really liked this it helped me SO MUCH thanks again
Hey, looking for explanation or ‘name’ for the up sweep at end of each verse in Girl i Want to Eat You by Die Antwoordt. Why is this la-de-da up thing so appealing? What culture does it come from?
Website???to write you? :/
Ty im trying to teach my partner structures but my biggest issue is teaching him bars this has been very helpful but do you have any tips on teaching how to count bars this all is second nature to me as ive been doing it for 25 years so now that ive got to teach it its very difficult to explain it.
Hey Joe, I would recommend sharing my video I did explaining bars with your friend. In addition to that, I would also share my video on establishing rhythm I think this both will help him out greatly! Thanks for reaching out! 🙂 – Cole Mize
HANDS ON EXAMPLES!. To be honest I wish I would have found this before I actually started writing however this is indeed what I have been searching for. I was in search of a more vivid description on hip hop song layouts and this video covers all I needed to known . It is clear and straight forward witch isbhard to find these days…. Much love and please continue… (Title) (How To Rap: Song Structure)
HANDS ON EXAMPLES!
TRULY HELPFULL AND APPRICIATED.
Hey just wanted to say thanks for the video it’s really helpful. I’m 16 and starting to write. But what I notice is that rappers such as youngboy. In songs such as “outside today” sing the hook (chorus) like out of nowhere. I don’t even hear a pause in the tempo. So is he doing is wrong or what? Because the base and everything else just keeps running. There is really no distinction (to me at least) in the chorus and verse in terms of tempo.
As said before there are endless ways to structure a song and all and there’s no set in stone way of making music. So even though typically there should be distinction don’t always expect it. Hopefully that answers your question
now present in your city
Thank you for this article! Really helpful and making things more clear.
Hey Cole. Your article really helped explain things better for me. I want to be a rapper and this helped a lot. Thanks! 🙂
Heyy…. That article really helped clearing my concepts….. Though I wasn’t knowing much about music theory bt it helped me out wipe out my doubts…. Thanks Alot brother….