Song 3 – Song Structure – Verses, Choruses, and Bridges



So far, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time learning basics such as the major scale and chords and the minor scale and chords. These may often seem tedious, but they form the backbone behind which almost every song is made. If you want to compose your own music or play the music of others you need these essential skills.

You’ve also learned a song or two in the previous lessons. Now, we are going to tie together everything you’ve learned, as well as learn a new song that encompasses the concept of the verse, chorus, and bridge. These are three elements that comprise nearly every song with lyrics.

Song Structure Basics

Songs are very much like poetry, and they are also very different. Although there are plenty of songs that were first poems. Think about the songs that you like. What do you like about them? The beat? The melody? As you move through the rest of this section on song structure, think about these songs and try to think about the various components.

The Verse

There are usually multiple verses in a song and they usually have the same music and overall theme. However, the words will be different. Most songs start with the verse, but there are exceptions to this.

The Chorus

The chorus has different music and lyrics than the verse and it usually possesses a higher energy level. Where the music in a verse is often simple, the chorus take on an added level of complexity.

The Bridge

The bridge is often used to connect to very different parts of a song and create a transition between them that blends harmonically with both. For example, some songs may include a bridge after the verse and before the chorus. The bridge almost sets up the change and makes the overall song flow a lot better.


Apply What You Learned – Proud Mary


Proud Mary by Creedence Clearwater Revival is a great example of a song with all these elements. And, it is easy to learn based on the chords you’ve already been exposed to. The song is familiar which will help you learn it quickly. Here is the song, broken up by parts. Listen to the original version a few times both before you learn the song and during the learning process. This song has a certain strumming pattern that is worth replicating. In order to get a feel for it, you may need to listen to the clip a few times.


Verse 1

A Major


Left a good job in the city

Working for the man every night and day

But I never lost one minute of sleeping

Worrying about the way things might have been



E Major


Big wheels keep on turning


F # Major


Proud Mary keep on buring


Chorus - (repeat twice)


A Major


Rollin’ –

Rollin’ –

Rollin on a river



Verse 2

A Major


Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis

Pumped a lot of pain down in New Orleans

But I never saw the good side of the city

‘Til I hitched a ride on a riverboat Queen


Repeat Bridge


Repeat Chorus



Verse 3

A Major Chord


If you go down to the river

Bet you’re gonna find some people who live

You don’t have to worry if you got no money

People on the river are happy to give


Repeat Bridge

Repeat Chorus until end…


This song is a classic and since it only includes three unique chords, it is easy to learn. Notice how the bridge has two chord changes before the chorus returns to A Major. This helps set the mood and offer a unique sound. The bridge helps lead into the chorus.


Practicing the Song


Everyone has different learning styles when it comes to practicing songs. Some people like to use tabs, others prefer to see the chords with the lyrics, and still others almost completely rely on the sheet music. A lot of people benefit from playing along with the song while others don’t need to do that. Do you know what your learning style is? If not, try each of the methods outlined above until you find a way that works for you.

When you practice, pay special attention to the timing. Use the original song to help you gain an understanding for when to play and when to sing. And sing from the beginning, even if you feel as if your chord changing is a little awkward. Singing while strumming is harder than it looks and if you get used to it while you are still learning to play the guitar, you’ll get better at that skill fairly quickly.


Timing of the Song


Don’t feel as if you need to follow the exact strumming patterns of the song if you don’t want to. Part of what makes being a musician fun is the ability to take classic hits and make them your own. For example, Creedence Clearwater Revival originally wrote this tune, but Tina and Ike Turner’s rendition is almost as memorable. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing. In fact, embrace it. This is what will make you a unique musician, not your ability to play something verbatim.