~ start / form in music ~

'feeling the balance of ideas to shape a form '

'10 feet of language creates the phrase ...'

i v c h b m e s l e o coda

make anything into a 12 bar blues

make anything into an 8 / 16 bar song

~ silent song ~

~ strophic form ~

~ count measures ~

~ motions to Four ~

~ listening to form ~

~ 8 bars and the top ~

~ make an 8 bar song ~

~ 12 bars and the top ~

~ extra curricular studies ~

~ Form In Music ~

~ 1 2 4 8 12 16 24 32 ~

~ and lastly in our core curriculum, we shape our ideas into a closed 'form' of musical elements for creating songs, stories that have a beginning and end ~

~ ace the match quiz of ten words and forever after know of the looping natures of all things in music and the songs that tell our stories ~

In a nutshell. Just like with the pitches, there's a 'silent' part of a song that's in every song. It is the form of the song. The song, its story and melody, decides the form, which is like a formula of sorts, of components, that too remain silent for the most part, to all but those of us in the know.

When we hear a song all the way through, hear its story told, we can feel this 'silent' form too, as the story unfolds. The better we get at this, the more we can 'hear' where a song and its form might be going. So we're the sleuths, discovering this 'silent form' found in all songs.

Historically, over the last 100 years or so in Americana musics, Americana musical forms have evolved as the media and tech has unfolded. An example of this would be Hollywood movies. Where composers adapted the Euro / opera forms into moving pictures with sound. From these necessities, new ways come about, which are then borrowed for other songs.

Author's note. Please know the study of form in music is semester length, BA college level courses. So it's not easy and there's a LOT to it. That there are probably countless master's level and countless minus a few PhD papers researching the evolutions of form in music, over the last 3000 years or so, attest to form's central role. And more is discovered every day it seems, scholars digging through archives of piles of old stuff in dusty basements when 'what to their wondering eyes do appear ..." But now we're bumping into musicology so ... better back on task :)

12. Like the 12 pitches, we've a dozen 'parts of form', associated with a song, to be acquainted with starting out. Thus empowered, when we bump into these terms, and how they are used in writing and sharing songs, we've a spark of intellect to begin to sort out what music we're learning. Using mostly a few pure Americana gospel songs included in this e-book, plus some other top 10 hits just for references, here's a dozen or so components to start our book learning, formal studies of musical form.


Introduction. Usually a couple of pitches, a chord or two, to set the key center of the song, in pop music, often a catchy phrase that catches attention, so that whenever or wherever we hear the intro, we know the song that's coming next. This play big with songs on the radio.

"When wireless radio is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into one huge brain."
wiki ~ Nickola Tesla

The riff. Depending on like a zillion factors, hopefully there's a riff' in the intro that kicks a tune off and 'sets the mood' for the way the story of the song is going to be told. So, the riff and the way it's played, helps define the style of the arrangement of the song. Top riff for we theory minded cats ? Leaning country rock here try this formula from low open 'E' string.

riff ... 1 1 3 5 b7 in 'E'

Cool with the numbers ? And nine times out of 10, the bass player gets the riff too, which often becomes the basis of the 'bass line story.' Once we learn that, we're well on our way to knowing the song.


The verse is usually the words that tell the story of a song. Often they are called the lyrics too, that tell the tale often captured in the title of the song.

verse: ' ... I looked over yonder, and what did I see ...'

wiki ~ Swig Low Sweet Chariot


Chorus. Since most songs have a story, there's often a 'moral to the story.' And the poetry words of the chorus is often this moral of the story, the 'capture of emotions' takeaway of a composer's intent ? Maybe. Regardless, as the term implies, everyone gets to sing the chorus, as in, being in the chorus :)

chorus: ' ... So hoist up the John B sail ...'


'Hooks' are designed to catch things yes ? In top 40 radio land good hooks can become grande paydays. Got one or two lying around extra ? Looking for a song ? And, sometimes the hook is the same as the chorus. Hooks are most often created by Muse, who comes along and taps the hard working composer on the shoulder and drop them a line that near everyone knows and ... if they don't, can learn it in like two seconds :)

hook ... "Swing Low ... Sweet Chariot ..."


Bridge. Songs sometimes have two themes, a main melody usually sounded first, then a contrasting theme that brings a new focus point, which then works its way on back to the original idea, very often with a modulation, a pivot chord and words that bring the original story line on back, often to end the tale. If this sounds like longer song, it is. Commonly called 'song form', it's mostly 32 bars long, four eight bar phrases so 32, that 4 x 8 = 32, generally wins the sonata allegro day.


bridge ...'Greensleeves is my one true love ...'

Makes a heck of a hook too !

middle 8'

The 'middle 8' is the same as the bridge mostly, but its name is special and comes to us from London, via the Beatles. Most famous middle eight ... ?

middle 8 ...'Why she had to go ... '

wiki Yesterday song
wiki ~ The Beatles

solos / improv

Solo / improvisation. Usually somewhere along in the story, one of the instruments takes a solo, does a bit of extra fancy to spark some additional interest. In Americana musics, our early musical ancestors had to improvise a lot of their day to day lives, so no wonder it ends up in the music too.


last verse

Last verse / head and out. To end the tale, the words of our story bring the adventure to a close. Good lyrics usually decide their own melodies and a nice melodic idea will inspire its lyrics :)

last verse ' ... from out of nowhere Selena has found me ...'

Performing instrumentaly, play the song's melody, the head a time or two depending, then take it out, ending the song.

wiki ~ El Paso song
mystery bridge
repeat three times

Three times and out. Once the tale is told, it's usually time to end the song. And while there's a lot of ways to do this, style dependent of course, repeating the song's hook or riff three times, to make sure everyone's got is, is super common. It also gives the band a 100% chance of ending together, much to the appreciation of the dancers and club owners, that the band ends together :)

3 x's and out ... "She'll be coming round the mountain ...'

The outro too is often the same intro, just jazzed up a bit. Here's the riff from up top, now with a bit more verve.

outro ~ 1 1 3 5 b7 9 8 b7 out

wiki ~ Verve records


Coda means 'tail' in Italian. So, our coda in music, like the caboose car for a train, is a 'something' tacked on at the end to balance the whole tamale. Or more. The piano coda in the rockin' iconic love song of "Layla", is probably the most famous on our radio dials.

wiki ~ "Layla"

tag ~ cadenza

Tag / cadenza for the star. And sometimes, when the band is feeling frisky, someone will tag a song's ending with a totally cliche lick that ends all doubt, that yes, this song is officially over. Might even be break time for the hard working lads and Lasses :) Here's the classic blues tag from wayback when.

tag: 8 b7 6 b6 5 ...

final hold

The final hold is when everyone in the band is furiously jamming on whatever they gots, except for the drummer. The drummer is now in total showcase mode. All the practice is done and now they get to 'bring it' unimpeded. In this final hold, the drummer also has the responsibility to set up the last hit, and depending on a zillion things, it can be tricky to do. Surely up to the band to 'feel' the lick the drummer sets up to end a final hold.

~ intro riff verse chorus hook bridge middle eight solo last repeat outro coda tag hold ~

1 2 4 8 12 16 32

How many measures ? In following our numerical philosophy or EMG, that it's the number of pitches, chords, rhythms and such that help place a musical component along our music style spectrum. And once thus empowered, it's just easier to know what any puzzle piece is, and where we might fit it in to jazz up whatever we've got cookin.'

So with the way we form up ideas into songs, our 'formal' forms, the ones we learn at school, follow along this numeric scheme too; we simply double up our number of measures and watch how our musical forms evolve.

Here's the sequence of numbers that represents the evolution of the number of measures in our most common musical forms for making songs. Can you figure out how it rolls ?

1 2 4 8 12 16 32

Goes like this, thinking 4 / 4 time;

1 measure heartbeat doubles to 2

2 measure vamp doubles to 4

4 measure phrase doubles to 8

4 measures three times becomes 12

8 doubles to 16 bars

16 doubles to 32

32 bars of "Sweet Georgia Brown"


Review. Cool ? Cool. Now ready for the second semester studies for 'form in music?'

"Music is the voice of the heart."
wiki ~ Garth Brooks

References. References for this page's information comes from school, books and the bandstand and made way easier by the folks along the way.

References academia Alaska. And when you need university level answers to your questions and musings, and especially if you are considering a career in music and looking to continue your formal studies, begin to e-reach out to the Alaska University Music Campus communities and begin a dialogue with some of Alaska's own and finest resident maestros !