Traditional Song Structure vs EDM Song Structure: What's the Difference?

Songwriter experimenting with song structure

Music and songs have always been an important part of human development. From the very earliest of times, people have used rhythm and melodies to express feelings in new ways, from a spiritual sense to more functional ones as well. Today, we find a wide variety of different types of music in just about every culture on the planet. Some cultures have music that is performed for ceremonies and rituals, while others have genres that are only meant to be listened to at home or over headphones.

With the rise of electronic dance music (EDM), many songwriters and composers have noticed that the industry’s standard approach to songwriting has become increasingly inadequate. Traditional pop songs—those which follow the standardized song structure outlined below—have long been frowned upon by many “serious” musicians. Electronic artists are beginning to see things differently and they’re starting to experiment with new song structures in order to produce better results than what came before. Let’s take a look at what you need to know if you want to write songs using an EDM-inspired structure instead of a traditional one…



What is Song Structure? 

Song structure is an aspect of the arrangement of a song. It's a sequence of identifiable sections along the song's timeline. The song structure can determine the mood and pace of a song, and can also affect how memorable a song is. ABC song form is the most basic way to look at song structure by naming each unique section as A, B, C, etc. A is the verse, B is the chorus and C is the bridge. These 3 sections are the most common building blocks of most songs.

Verse: The verse provides a setting and tells the main story of the song. Usually with lyrics in the form of singing or rapping. 

Chorus: The chorus is when everything comes together—the rhythm pattern, vocals, and lyrics. It’s the most important part of any song because it creates a foundational climax and makes people want to keep listening to hear what happens next.

Bridge: A bridge usually follows the 2nd chorus and shifts the tone or perspective of the song. It often provides a big change or contrast and typically happens only once.

Typical ABC song form: ABABCB


Pop Song Structure

Traditional pop song structure is typically broken up into the three main parts: verse, chorus, and bridge but there are also some popular variations to these three sections, like intro, pre-chorus and outro. 

Intro: This is where the song begins. It has a simple, catchy melody that builds up until the chorus, or starts with an instrumental version of the chorus or a broken down verse. 

Pre-chorus: This section typically adds tension to build up to the chorus and has a slightly different melody from the one found in the intro or verse. The pre-chorus usually consists of two phrases repeated twice with some variation in between each phrase and then moves into the chorus. 

Outro: The final part of your song where you sequentially break down all of the parts, fade out or end with a bang.

Typical Pop Song Structure: Intro, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Re-Intro, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus (x2), Outro



EDM Song Structure 

EDM songs are typically structured in a way that makes it easy for people who aren’t very familiar with electronic music to understand. This makes it easy for the DJ and songwriter to build maximum tension and release. In addition to using traditional music structures like pop songs as a template, EDM artists also use genre-defining basslines and other electronic sounds to create new atmospheric dynamics that don’t always follow traditional music structures. EDM songs often follow the same basic formula of an intro, breakdown, build up, and drop. 

Intro: Usually short and contains a repeating looped sound or rhythm.

Breakdown: This is where the sounds and parts are introduced that set the stage for the next sections. 

Build up: Typically slightly longer than the breakdown with a more varied range of beat divisions. 

Drop: The main section of the song that often climaxes with a sequence of loud and memorable sounds.

Typical EDM Song Structure: Intro, Breakdown, Build Up, Drop, Breakdown, Build Up, Drop, Outro 



Beatmaking Song Structure

The typical hip hop beat song structure consists of four parts: an intro, two or three 8-bar or 16-bar verses, a 16-bar chorus (or hook), and an outro. The intro of a hip hop song is typically 8 bars in length and serves to introduce the song's main theme. The first verse is typically devoted to the song's main artist, while the second verse is typically devoted to a featured artist. The chorus (hook) is typically 16 bars in length and is the song's main catchy refrain. The outro is typically 8 bars in length and serves to conclude the song.

Typical Song Structure of a Beat: Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, (Verse, Chorus) Outro


Song Structure Similarities

When comparing song structure elements, the drop is most like a chorus, the breakdown is similar to a verse or re-intro, and the build up is most like the pre-chorus. Beatmaking follows more of a traditional song structure approach. All song structure types have intros and outros that take the listener in and out of the song.

Experimenting with Song Structure

As a songwriter, it's important to experiment with different song structures to find what works best for your song. Try playing around with the length of your verses and choruses, and see how it affects the overall feel of the song. You may also want to experiment with the placement of your bridges and solos, to see how they can add interest and variety to your song.


Conclusion: Song structure is the roadmap for the shape of the story your song takes the listener on. There are formulas that have been proven to work but with a bit of experimenting you should be able to find something new and exciting for your audience.


Futch - Music Production Coach, Ableton Certified Trainer


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