Song structures without choruses
T1M0N
Thread Starter
#1
4th January 2012
Old 4th January 2012
  #1
Gear nut
 
Joined: Jul 2007
Location: Bavaria / Germany
Posts: 90

Thread Starter
Song structures without choruses

There is a song structure that is often referred to as AAA or AABA or Verse-Verse-(Bridge)-Verse where the hookline (often the song title) appears in the first or (and) last line in the verse. Although not often, I think that I hear this structure sometimes on the radio (in current pop-productions). I wanted to make a list, but each time I want to start, I forget the songtitles.
Does anyone have examples of this structure on (preferably recent) hit records?

Examples could be "If you could red my mind love", "9 Million Bicycles". Thanks.
#2
4th January 2012
Old 4th January 2012
  #2
Lives for gear
 
pinkheadedbug's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2011
Posts: 1,556

This is basically ballad form. The most obvious example I can think of is Ode to Billie Joe but there are tons of others, mostly folk/country.

I wrote a couple recently. What I found with them was that if you don't have a chorus, you need to change up the verses somehow. In my case I altered the chords and melody slightly from verse to verse to give them a bit of progression, and built up the instrumentation slowly to give the whole song a bit of an arc.

Neither likely to be hits, since one is a death song and the other is in 7/8, but hey!

On Valentine's Day by The Sportswriters on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free

The Cavalryman's Lament (The Girl on the Swing) by The Sportswriters on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free
#3
4th January 2012
Old 4th January 2012
  #3
Lives for gear
 
pinkheadedbug's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2011
Posts: 1,556

(It's also a standard song form from the 30s-50s... Think of 'Somewhere over the Rainbow' and a thousand others... sorry not to be able to give more recent examples!)
#4
4th January 2012
Old 4th January 2012
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Kaoz's Avatar
 
Joined: Aug 2011
Location: Sydney
Posts: 1,842

Yeah I think if you do stuff in that form, you really have to do a lot more work harmonically and texturally, and really think about the overall structure in those terms. You can get away with keeping the melody fairly static if it's a good one, but harmony and texture are what can really make or break a song with that structure.

A lot of pop folk used to use that sort of layout, not too sure about now though.

Posted via the Gearslutz iPhone app
T1M0N
Thread Starter
#5
4th January 2012
Old 4th January 2012
  #5
Gear nut
 
Joined: Jul 2007
Location: Bavaria / Germany
Posts: 90

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaoz View Post
A lot of pop folk used to use that sort of layout, not too sure about now though.
Yes here in Germany Singer/Songwriter Reinhard Mey uses it often, too. But I'm sure there must be some recently internationally successful examples.
#6
4th January 2012
Old 4th January 2012
  #6
Lives for gear
 
pinkheadedbug's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2011
Posts: 1,556

There is a whole section on this structure in Jimmy Webb's Tunesmith book which I mentioned in another thread.
#7
4th January 2012
Old 4th January 2012
  #7
Gear maniac
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 172

Quote:
Originally Posted by pinkheadedbug View Post
There is a whole section on this structure in Jimmy Webb's Tunesmith book which I mentioned in another thread.
Horrible book!

Total self-loving yawn fest
#8
4th January 2012
Old 4th January 2012
  #8
has all the gear he needs
 
Unclenny's Avatar
 
Joined: Jan 2007
Location: Terra Firma
Posts: 8,133

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaoz View Post
Yeah I think if you do stuff in that form, you really have to do a lot more work harmonically and texturally, and really think about the overall structure in those terms.
I'm thinking that most of my material falls into this category now that I look at it. And because of that I do find myself trying to make up for the lack of structural interest by trying to inject texture and such into what I am stuck with.

Talking to other writers and seeing what folks who are much better song crafters than me are doing, I get to wondering if this form doesn't come from just being not quite as well versed in the specifics of how a song is generally thought to be best constructed. That is certainly the case with me.

The artistic merit of both extremes is open to debate.
#9
4th January 2012
Old 4th January 2012
  #9
Gear maniac
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 288

I have come up with a couple of songs in this format, not on purpose, they just happened like that. Songs with no chorus, or it is probably more correct to say the musical hook is the chorus. I like them both very much, or at least I would if they were ever finished.

If you want examples of modern music that successfully follow a similar structure then you can't get much better than the brilliant Massive Attack.




#10
5th January 2012
Old 5th January 2012
  #10
Gear maniac
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 288

Three more examples from the even more brilliant Radiohead...


Warning: Contains the "F" word:




#11
5th January 2012
Old 5th January 2012
  #11
Gear maniac
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 288

Last one, I promise ;-). But weirdly until this post I never actually realised how much of my favourite songs don't have choruses. I have been listening to some stuff today and listening out for the structure (which I know I should so more often) and been surprised. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that I like them so much.

Anyhows, not sure what this structure is, anyone have any ideas? Certainly an AABA (AABAC?) I think, but are the A's verses, or even choruses?

This thread has been brilliant for me, it has got me thinking about about structure more clearly and if many of my favourite songs don't have choruses I wonder if I should be writing more!

One of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard...

#12
5th January 2012
Old 5th January 2012
  #12
Lives for gear
 
initialsBB's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2002
Location: LA
Posts: 3,556

"Don't get any big ideas / they're not gonna happen" would by definition be the refrain or chorus since it's the only part that repeats. Although I'm not sure if it counts as a refrain if you can't actually make out what the singer is mumbling
#13
5th January 2012
Old 5th January 2012
  #13
Gear maniac
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 288

Quote:
Originally Posted by initialsBB View Post
"Don't get any big ideas / they're not gonna happen" would by definition be the refrain or chorus since it's the only part that repeats. Although I'm not sure if it counts as a refrain if you can't actually make out what the singer is mumbling
Yeah, I was wondering that. Even though it is the first line of each verse i guess it could be still considered a chorus. Could it be better described as the theme of the song? I do know this song actually used to be called "Big Ideas (Don't get any)" in early versions. Why they renamed it to "Nude" I don't know.

It's still not bad for mumbling though.
#14
5th January 2012
Old 5th January 2012
  #14
Lives for gear
 
initialsBB's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2002
Location: LA
Posts: 3,556

Yeah, I was kind of kidding about the mumbling. But honestly on a first listen it did sound pretty formless. I had to listen again and look at the lyric sheet to notice that the part repeated so I guess it's not really a grab-you-by-the-balls type of chorus.

His lyrics are so sparse that I think it's a bit deceiving. On paper that line doesn't look long enough to be it's own section but the way it's stretched out it feels more like a complete part to me. But maybe it makes more sense to consider that the refrain in a verse/refrain type of structure. I think I would have to look at the chords more closely to decide, but it's an interesting question. Cool song though and the overall effect is so dreamy and floaty that it does seem almost free of any structure.
T1M0N
Thread Starter
#15
5th January 2012
Old 5th January 2012
  #15
Gear nut
 
Joined: Jul 2007
Location: Bavaria / Germany
Posts: 90

Thread Starter
Thanks. More please
#16
5th January 2012
Old 5th January 2012
  #16
Gear maniac
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 288

Another favourite song of mine that I was listening to this morning and realised it had no chorus. At least I am having trouble locating a chorus.

The structure seems to be AABCABC. A should be the verse, but the B's and C's are really just bridges, or at least sound like it.

Just like in the Nude example above, the verses stand out because the first line of each verse is the title of the song. So as initialsBB said above, I guess this is the refrain?

It is an early Coldplay song from one of their pre-famous E.P.'s (or as I like to say pre-pants) - There is some really great songs among their early stuff, I will never understand why they felt they had to turn into a pop act.

#17
6th January 2012
Old 6th January 2012
  #17
Lives for gear
 
initialsBB's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2002
Location: LA
Posts: 3,556

That's a cool structure. It sounds like

A: Intro
B: Verse 1 "brothers & sisters -> spread it around"
B: Verse 2 "brothers & sisters -> feeling you found"
C: Chorus "Just stay down, etc."
D: Post chorus? "and it's me they're looking for"
B: Verse 1 repeated
C: Chorus
D: Post chorus
A: Outro is a variation on intro

It's an interesting example though. Does an experiment like that work? "Brothers and sisters unite" is the hook but then the chorus is less memorable, and the "it's me they're looking for" brings the energy back down.

It kind of feels like the whole structure is backwards. Would it have done better as a single if it were structured more conventionally so that the energy built up towards "brothers and sisters unite" in a stronger position at the peak of the chorus?
#18
6th January 2012
Old 6th January 2012
  #18
Gear maniac
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 288

Quote:
Originally Posted by initialsBB View Post
A: Intro
B: Verse 1 "brothers & sisters -> spread it around"
B: Verse 2 "brothers & sisters -> feeling you found"
C: Chorus "Just stay down, etc."
D: Post chorus? "and it's me they're looking for"
B: Verse 1 repeated
C: Chorus
D: Post chorus
A: Outro is a variation on intro
Interesting. I did flirt with the idea that the C was the chorus, but it is just too weak for me, but mainly because it is only repeated once I discounted it as being a chorus and just put it down as being a bridge.

But your "backwards" idea is a good one. If we did cut up this song and re-arranged it in backwards order then the A would actually be the chorus, and a decent one at that.

So maybe this is not a song without a chorus at all, but a song that begins with the chorus sung twice.
#19
6th January 2012
Old 6th January 2012
  #19
Lives for gear
 
initialsBB's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2002
Location: LA
Posts: 3,556

But that part is not really a chorus because the lyrics change. "brothers and sisters" is a refrain at the start of each verse. Which is also kind of backwards from the traditional ballad form which often has the refrain at the end of each verse (although sometimes at the beginning and end)

"Just stay down..." and "and it's me they're looking for" could both be contenders for the chorus because they repeat with no variation.

To me the repetition aspect is the only meaningful definition of chorus. Usually the chorus is also the hook but of course there are songs where the chorus doesn't have a strong hook (usually not very popular songs). So just for the sake of clarity and analysis I think it makes more sense to say this is a song with a weak chorus or a song where the chorus isn't the musical climax rather than saying it's a song with no chorus.
#20
6th January 2012
Old 6th January 2012
  #20
Gear maniac
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 288

Okay, just one more.

A - Intro
B - Verse 1 (Just as you...)
B - Verse 2 (The walls...)
C - Bridge
B - Verse 3 (Before your far away...)
B - Verse 4 (Come on and let it out..)
D - Bridge
E - ? (A Jigsaw falls into place...)

Can it be a chorus is it is only played once? Once again it is the title of the song.

Not sure of too many bands that can pull of a structure like this, but this is just a stunning song.


#21
6th January 2012
Old 6th January 2012
  #21
Lives for gear
 
uncle duncan's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 3,996

Lotta Beatles songs are AABA:

8 Days a Week
Hard Day's Night
And I Love Her
Just to Dance With You
Lady Madonna (couple of extra B's and A's)
Let it Be (extra...)
Love Me Do
Michelle
Norwegian Wood
Oh Darling
Something
Yesterday
You Can't Do That
#22
6th January 2012
Old 6th January 2012
  #22
Lives for gear
 
Swurveman's Avatar
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: USA
Posts: 984
My Studio

I think its a shame that the AABAB , with the title of the song at the beginning of each A section, hasn't been adapted well into contemporary songs. Songs like "Over The Rainbow" and "Hey Jude" were so coherent.



#23
6th January 2012
Old 6th January 2012
  #23
Lives for gear
 
pinkheadedbug's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2011
Posts: 1,556



(Written by Willie Nelson, of course. And how about that reverb on the vocal?)
#24
6th January 2012
Old 6th January 2012
  #24
Lives for gear
 
pinkheadedbug's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2011
Posts: 1,556

Here's another odd one. The lyric actually refers to the la-di-da bit as the chorus, but it's barely there at all.

#25
6th January 2012
Old 6th January 2012
  #25
Gear maniac
 
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 295

I like to come busting out of the gate with the chorus, but I don't like choruses to have any words so I usually just sing stuff like blah, blah, blah or nah, nah, nah.

Then I use the exact same music for the verse, changing only the melody line.

Then I do something that really should be the verse, but it's not, which leads to the part that would be a middle 8, except it's 24 and is more like a bridge. After that the song marches inexorably to the part that *should* be the chorus but isn't.

I repeat this pattern EXACTLY three times and then abruptly end the song.

It's a formula I love that works PERFECTLY for me, and I use it almost exclusively. Unfortunately it hasn't gained acceptance with listeners, critics, music publishers or labels.
T1M0N
Thread Starter
#26
8th January 2012
Old 8th January 2012
  #26
Gear nut
 
Joined: Jul 2007
Location: Bavaria / Germany
Posts: 90

Thread Starter
Thanks. But still the question remains:
Any songs from recently top selling pop albums, like rihanna, beyonce, etc.?
I know a lot of folk and singer/songwriter artist do that. I remembered one again:
Morning Sun from Robbie Williams
#27
8th January 2012
Old 8th January 2012
  #27
Gear interested
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Clifton, NJ
Posts: 20

Through-composed songs are great. Common in classical styles by Schubert. "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" by the Beatles is an example. "Stairway to Heaven" has a similar structure as the song continues build upon each verse. Also, "It's Over" has a through-composed vibe to it.
#28
8th January 2012
Old 8th January 2012
  #28
Gear interested
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Clifton, NJ
Posts: 20

by The Smiths
#29
9th January 2012
Old 9th January 2012
  #29
Gear addict
 
Joined: May 2005
Location: Michigan
Posts: 404

One form that does work is verse with words connected by an instrumental bridge.

Sent from my HTC EVO.
#30
9th January 2012
Old 9th January 2012
  #30
Lives for gear
 
pinkheadedbug's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2011
Posts: 1,556

True through-writing is FRIGGIN' HARD.

Ballad form has a bunch of verses with the same (or subtly altered) melody on each.

Through-writing means start at the beginning and end at the end and don't repeat yourself, unless you really have to, honey.

SO fricken' hard.

Something I've always wanted to do though.

I think that one of the reasons you have not seen this form recently in the charts is that electronic/dance/pop music relies on very simple repetition -- get to the chorus, get to it fast, and hammer it home. Black Eyed Peas "I Gotta Feeling" probably the reductio ad absurdum of this idea. Narrative pop ("By the time I get to Phoenix") is pretty much dead. But I think this is all part of the split between mainstream pop and, y'know, everything else.
New Reply Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook  Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter  Submit Thread to LinkedIn LinkedIn  Submit Thread to Google+ Google+ 
 
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread
Thread Starter / Forum
Replies
drockfresh / Electronic Music Instruments & Electronic Music Production
24
mattianlaseppia / Music Computers
15
celerysux / Electronic Music Instruments & Electronic Music Production
32
quietdrive / So much gear, so little time!
131
cynic one / Rap + Hip Hop engineering & production
11

Forum Jump
 
Register FAQ Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

SEO by vBSEO ©2011, Crawlability, Inc.