Song Forms

analysis of pop music song forms

Above you can see just a few of the student handouts designed to help learners to understand popular music song-forms and their variations

Song Forms

Helping students to understand the existence of, and correctly identify song forms and structure in popular music

Fun music classroom sessions with lots of directed listening helps develop a useful skill that assists with the study of existing tracks and with the composition of original music

The vast majority of "hit" singles over the last seventy years or so have been based on one of the following three song forms

No matter what stage a student is at with regard to a knowledge of music theory they will benefit from being able to understand common popular music song forms (AAA, AABA and AB)

How to analyse song structure

analysis of pop music song forms and structure with worksheets

Part of our download is made up of handouts (featured on the graphics on this page) which introduce the idea of analysing songform as well as individual sheets covering each of the three main song-forms and common variations to those forms

Below you can see one of the documents which sets out to provide students with an "overview" of the standard method of analysing the structure of songs

song form explained the aaa song structure explained

The AAA Song Form

The AAA song form is the least used of the three forms and has its origins in Folk Music and usually features a "hook" either at the beginning or the end of the A section and these type of songs do not have a chorus or "middle eight"

Even though this form is hardly ever used these days explaining how it works and allowing your students to hear a couple of examples of it is a great an effective and simple way of introducing them to the idea of song forms

There are very few successful examples of this form but a few that you could play to your students are "By The Time I get To Phoenix" By Glen Campbell

The song features the hook ("By the time I get to.....") at the beginning of each A section After you have played them the song it can be a good idea to count them into what they hear as the hook and I find it fun to tell them the hook is the part of a song that drunks would sing on the way home from a bar (obviously this may not be suitable in your situation)

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AAA Song Form Example:
"By The Time I Get To Phoenix"

AAA Song Form Example:
"I Walk The Line"

Another AAA song that you may like to play your students is "I Walk The Line" by Johnny Cash

This time the hook ("Because You're Mine I Walk The Line") comes at the end of each A section

the aaba song form explained

The AABA Song Form"

The AABA song structure is more popular than the AAA form although it still trails well behind the AB songform covered further down this page in terms of how many recent hits have conformed to it The form is often used for ballads and is derived from stage shows and musicals as we will see the songform (two A sections followed by a B section and then another A section) did not need to take up a lot of time. There is no chorus in the AABA form

AABA Song Form Example:
"Saving All My Love For You" by Whitney Houston

In the song below the hook is at the end of the A section Like just about all other AABA songs once the song-form has been established (when it has progressed through the AABA form to the end of the third A section) the arrangement provides a (sax) solo and then the "roll out" of the song combines material drawn from the A and B sections with some development of the vocal hook ("saving all my love for you")

AABA Song Form Example:
"Great Balls Of Fire"
by Jerry Lee Lewis

Although the vast majority of AABA songs are ballads here is a (short!) uptempo Rock and Roll classic from Jerry Lee Lewis that follows the AABA form before featuring the common arranging device of a solo followed by a repeat of the B section of the song

the ab song form explained

The AB Song Form"

This songform (often wrongly referred to as the "verse-chorus" song-form) is by far the most popular and successful song form of the last seventy years. It is worth making your students aware of the fact that although this is the most common song-form there are many variations of it and that it is as well to remember this "general rule"

AB songs tend to start with combinations of A and B sections (most commonly but not always verses followed by choruses) until about two thirds of the way through the arrangement when "something happens" That "something" can be a solo, a C section (often featuring a key change), a "breakdown" oe a bridge

Following on from this the song resumes with combinations of A and B sections that often feature the "hook" of the song heavily but presented in different ways to how it was heard in the early part of the arrangement

the aaa song form explained

Below you can see one of the handouts that students can use to gain insight into the structure of this (perhaps the most) common song form

the ab song form explained

AB Song Form Example:
"Perfect" by Fairground Attraction

The Fairground attraction song "Perfect" is a nice simple AB song to get your students started

AB Song Form Example:
"Don't Dream Its Over"
by Crowded House

Variations to The AB Song Form Example:
by Hall And Oates

A common variation to the AB Song Form can be found in tracks such as this one where there are two A sections (verses in this case) before the first B section (chorus)

Variations to The AB Song Form Example:
"Lyin Eyes"
by The Eagles

A much less common variation can be found in the (very long for a single!) Eagles hit "Lyin Eyes" where there are three verses before the chorus kicks in

Our "one click" download consists of more than 300 professionally prepared handouts that can be printed over and over again for less than the price of a single paper textbook!

Variations to The AB Song Form Example:
"That'll Be the Day"
by Buddy Holly

This song features the chorus as the A section (the first thing you hear) This is a very common variation and it can be useful to ask your class group to identify other songs which feature the same device

These resources are especially designed to make life easier for classroom music or instrumental teachers who need to get theoretical ideas over to students.

The handouts have been put together so that the same basic ground can be covered with differing levels of graphic support (some handouts feature keyboards and have space for letter names while others aimed at more advanced students rely on a more conventional musical stave approach).

They are designed so that a single music educator might work with all ability levels within a single session. challenging the more able learners whilst supporting those who are not so familiar with the concepts and material under study is a new sister site of the already well established guitar and bass teacher's resources website

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