Songwriter’s Challenge: Write a Standard Form Song

Beginners Guide To Song Form Part 2

After receiving such great feedback from you guys, we’ve decided to continue the songwriting form series. Last time we touched on the AABA format using Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” as an example, and today I want to focus on the most popular song structure-ABABCB.

Understanding Song Structure Basics: ABABCB Song Form

The ABABCB Song Form:

The most common song form is the ABABCB form, which is a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus song. The “A” section is the verse, where the story is told. The “B” section is the chorus, which is the hook and the highlight of the song. A standard verse chorus can often become tiresome, so adding a “C” section, also known as the bridge, adds variation. The bridge is a musical departure from the expected-often summing up the song-thus supplying new momentum to the final chorus. Some popular examples for ABABCB songs are “What’s Love Got To Do With it” by Tina Turner, “Girl” by The Beatles, and “Hot N Cold” by Katy Perry.

Today let’s talk about “Hot N Cold”: listen below:

Todays “Top 40” songs are a collaboration between heavy production and simple songwriting. The driving force in this song, as well as the majority of songs on pop radio, is the beat/production and the simple melody. Katy, who writes primarily on guitar, had help from production superstar, Dr. Luke, to help create the hooky track you hear on the radio today. If you are going for the Top 40 production sound, it’s important to consider that the instrumentation you choose is also contemporary and appeals to the audience you are trying to target. Today, a very popular choice of pop instrumentation would be a combination of live drums with additional electronic drum programming to give that song a driving groove and edge with a combination of pop synth instruments, synth bass, electric guitars and vocal production to really fine tune the vocals and get that polished pop sounds.

The lyrics in “Hot N Cold” are simple yet effective. In the first verse the issue of the song, her significant other is difficult, is stated.The movement of the song is propelled forward in the second verse where we learn more about the relationship; specifically how it was in the beginning. It’s key to not say the same thing twice with the movement of the 1st and 2nd verse. Try to find creative ways to let the story unfold without being monotonous with the lyrical content. Katy sums up the song in the bridge with “got a case of love bipolar.” Bipolar being a metaphor for going back and forth in a relationship.


 Here are some tips for ABABCB Songwriting: iStock_000000222357XSmall

1.  Move the story forward through the verses. Keep the listener interested by introducing new subject matter in your verses. 

2. Use a rhyme scheme to support the song. This will help create a flow and memorability for the listener.

3. Use a bridge to take a musical departure.  Some ways to go about this are: changing keys (trying going to the minor in you are in major, or the major key if you are in minor), summing up the song as Katy did,  or go to half time!

4. If you are working towards a pop radio sound don’t be afraid to collaborate! It’s important to understand your strengths as a songwriter and find the right team of session musicians to develop your sound.


What are the next steps once your song is written?

The next step after you have come up with your song idea and lyrics, is to get started on the production! I would love to hear what you’ve come up with and help you transform it into a fully produced recording. Contact our production team today to get started on taking the next steps to get your song professionally produced with our team!

To listen to samples of our music productions, and read more about how it works:

I look forward to hearing what you come up with and helping you produce your new songs! Contact one of our available producers: Keeley Bumford, Kati O’Toole or myself Natalie Smith at: 1-310-928-7776 M-F from 7am-5pm PST or contact us via email at:

Happy Songwriting,

-Natalie Smith




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