Different Song Structures
So you thought that was it? You thought you could learn the structure of one basic pop song and you’d be fully up to speed on this whole songwriting malarkey? There are many more different song structures!
Songwriting comes in all shapes and sizes
This just means that there is more to learn and that you have more options for song styles by using different song structures! Today we’re going to be looking at a 70’s era songwriter classic: So Far Away by Carole King. Why this song? Because it is beautiful, but also because it’s a really good example of a two section song structure and shows how you can do so much with so little. Lets take a listen:
I’m going to be using the same letter coding structure layout as I did before. If you’re not sure what this means go back and read my last article and you’ll be up to speed. The structure is as follows:
A // A // B // B // A // A // B // B // A // A //
This song follows a far more simple structure
Than the Ariana Grande song. It is, you guessed it, and A/B structure. Meaning it only moves between two sections for the entire song.
The trick with writing with repetitive song structure like this is to work out how to still have all the traditional hooks and plus points of a conventional pop song. With Ariana Grande, her song structurally moved in an uplifting way towards the chorus. So the focus was more on melody and arrangement. That’s what drives a song like that and gives it a sense of purpose. With a more songwriter edged song, your starting points are different.
Let’s think about the title of this song for a second.
It’s called So Far Away, and the song describes a person yearning for the touch of significant other, but they are in different cities, countries, whatever you want, and therefore they cant be together.
So straight away, the repetitive nature of this song can play a part, because it’s not really moving anywhere often. Which not only fits the narrative of the song, but it also can aid creating a sense of longing. Once we throw in the lush easy listening chords that lull you into a sense of ease, we’re in a state in which daydreaming and fantasizing become much more likely for the listener.
If you remember back to the Ariana Grande structure, you’ll remember that the song followed a verse, pre-chorus, chorus structure.
Or A/B/C. On first listen, you could argue that this song doesn’t have a chorus, or at least its doesn’t feel like its got a definitive pay off. But actually, it does.
Take the first ‘verse’ of the song. The opening line is ‘So far away’ and goes on to establish the basis of the narrative for this whole song. The melody is memorable, and the rhythm of the lush chords stands out to the listener. Now if you didn’t know what I was describing, wouldn’t you say it sounded a lot like a chorus? You would right? That’s because in an A/B structure, often the A section is considered to be the hook of the song. This can be seen across songs from this era. Take Carole’s dear friend James Taylor as a prime example. Carolina In My Mind follows this exact structure.
So now we’ve established that the A section is our pseudo chorus
Where does that leave the B section? Put simply all the B section needs to do in this song is move the harmony slightly away from section A, develop the narrative a bit, and then loop us back round to section A in style. As we don’t have the benefit of naturally developing structure, you must be tactful and tasteful with how you go about this. In Carole’s case, she moves the chords to a descending minor progression over the minor 6 chord of the key, which is a departure from the lush open sounding chords from section A.
I don’t know the science behind it but descending chords just seem to add a sense of movement.
And she also develops the narrative by giving the distance between the song’s protagonists context. Referencing moving down the highway, and the potential dangers being on the road away from her partner bring her.
So that’s basically it, another way of approaching different song structures!
The key points to take away from a song like this is that you need to reestablish your definition of a hook/ chorus.
You’ve got to be on point lyrically as songs like these tend to focus more on them. And make sure your B section is enough of a departure from section A but can return to section B fairly easily.