What is a song form?

What is a song form and how can it help me play drums in a band?

Song form is the arrangement or the flow of the song from section to section. For many, we just count off the song and hope for the best. We are not sure how the song goes but we figure we can watch the other musicians and know when to stop playing.  This is fine when you first begin playing but to really improve your ability to play in the band … learn the form of the song.  There are many benefits to this approach.

Sections of a song are …

  1. the intro
  2. the verse or verses [most songs have multiple verses]
  3. the chorus
  4. the bridge
  5. the solos [any instrumental sections]
  6. the tag or ending

As a drummer, knowing the song form can help you in many ways. Think of it as your road map. In some settings, the other musicians will call the song form the road map. And just like a map, it can help you get to your destination.  

Benefits of knowing the song form

  1. It gives you a vision for how the song goes.
  2. It eliminates the guessing.  Is this next section another verse or does it go to the bridge?
  3. It will allow you to help the other musicians . As the drummer you will be able to setup sections of the song with your drum parts. The other musicians will recognize this and be able know where they are in the song.
  4. It will allow you to build the song dynamically and emotionally.  If you know the sections you create an arc of sound to build to the next section.
  5. It builds confidence in your playing.

When you have the basic song form in place, look at each section in detail.  Break each section down by measures or bars. What is a bar or measure?  This can take practice if you have to listen to an original recording and create your own part. If you have music already written out, think of it in sections. Is the section 4 measures,  or 8 or 16 or more?

Most popular music flows in even measures of 4, 8, or 16 measures.  However, many times the song writer will add or delete measure for the purposes of the song. As the drummer, you will look like a genius if you are able to explain this to the band … and set them up to succeed when you play the song live.

With practice, you will be able to naturally feel 4 or 8 measure phrases. Are you able to count and be aware of where you are in the song?  Do you know when you are on measure 3 or 7 of an 8 bar verse?

Let me know your challenges with this and I can offer some suggestions.

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