BOOM! The muse strikes: Out of nowhere, you get a new, inspired idea to write a song. As great as that initial moment often feels, reality hits home quickly: 99 times out of 100 our ideas lead us nowhere. The muse leaves as fast as she appeared and with her the idea for your hit.
But no worries! In this post I’ll break down 3 tried and tested songwriting templates for you to turn your initial idea into a fully-fledged song (that people actually want to listen to).
3 song structure templates to write a hit song
Think of your idea as the purpose of the song and the arrangement as the body.
A body without purpose just vegates (remind you of anyone you know?). A purpose without a body goes nowhere. Your song needs both purpose and body - an initial idea and a song structure.
Let’s give your great idea the body it needs!
The song structure template helps contain your initial idea and turn an inspired moment into a real song.
Plus, having these templates gives you the confidence to go full throttle, because you already know your idea will turn out great.
Let’s have a look at what exactly that means.
How these song structure templates work
Before we jump into the templates for your song, a quick primer:
In one of my most popular videos I break down the easiest, most popular songwriting template out there. Give it a watch here.
But since partnering with the beautiful people at DITTO, I had to give you something extra special:
3 more proven templates: Use them instantaneously and go from beginner to sounding like an expert in next to no time.
How to use the song structure templates
Now, let me say this here:
I don’t care which genre you’re working in - I highly encourage you to think as if you’re recording a band. It really helps.
What I mean is this:
Think of a typical band set-up:
2. Guitar or Synth,
3. Drums and
For now, that’s enough.
This helps you avoid a major temptation: Many songwriter-producers / artists hide their dull ideas behind adding another instrument and another unnecessary layer.
Don’t be like them.
Limit yourself in this early phase of the songwriting process. Nail the foundational parts of your song - including instruments and lyrics. This emphasis on quality is what will distinguish your song from 99% of the others being produced (and forgotten a month later) nowadays.
When every part your “band” plays is rock-solid, then feel free to layer in new elements and sounds and give those great ideas more expression and uniqueness.
OK, with that out of the way, let’s dive right into the templates now!
For your convenience you can download the templates (without explanation though, so make sure to bookmark this article) as well as the entire Holistic Songwriting Starterkit here.
Songwriting Template #1
This song structure is a classic. Don’t get hung up on the saxophone. It’s a stand-in for any instrument with a vocal touch in that range (roughly between 600 Hz and 880 Hz).
Make sure you don’t double your vocals 1:1. Have them play/sing at different intervals.
Let the sax play the hook of your song immediately. That way it introduces the main topic and makes your song insta-recognizable.
Then follow up with your verse with the main vocals, drums, bass and synths setting in. In the Pre-Chorus start building and lead into the Chorus.
Feel free to double the chorus and, if you like, add a short outro.
Remember, the templates are there to help you - but you’re not married to them and can change them to fit your specific situation.
Songwriting Template #2
This is a great funk-type template - or for any pop-style song focused on making people dance.
For that to work, start with the groove immediately.
FYI: About GROOVE
Legendary songs directly speak to three parts of being a human:
They touch our hearts, grab our minds and move our bodies.
Groove is about the body. Making it move as one with your song.
To find out how exactly groove works, I conducted my own scientific research (like, for real). I worked together with professional dancers and Germany’s biggest #1-Hit Songwriters. We identified 7 basic movement patterns that underlie every popular song out there.
When parts of your song work against the underlying movement pattern, that is when problems arise and songs die.
The secret to writing groovy songs consistently is understanding the basic movement pattern of your song - and getting your entire backing track to support that movement pattern.
If you want to find out more about that, feel free to check out Holistic Songwriting Academy, where we spend 3 months on building the skills to create a lifetime of legendary songs that move the body.
Be sure to develop the groove through the entire first part of the song.
As soon as the first chorus ends and you enter V2 with only the claps (or snares), your listener will be deep in the groove. A re-introduction of other drum elements in part two of V2 will be pure bliss and relief.
Also notice that even though the same instruments are present in Chorus 1 as in Chorus 2 and Chorus 3, additions are constantly being made.
That way the familiar and already established chorus stays exciting and a development through the story-ark of your song captures your audience’s attention.
TIP: Repetition is key, as well as novelty. Repeating a great part, while adding new layers will keep your listeners hooked.
Songwriting Template #3
This is a great, loop-based template. Here, small hinges swing large doors.
What I mean is this: Simply by adding two layers - the choir and the tambourine - in your chorus can completely set your choruses apart from your verses.
Then adding the falsetto to your vocals in the second part of verse 2 and the extra layer of organ in the following chorus, has a huge effect - without much additional work needed.
Another touch I really enjoy here is the introduction of the clap in the final chorus. That way, the song seems worthwhile, we get a sense of resolution and the song feels finally complete after the wild ride you took us on.
Definitely give this template a go, if you’ve got a great loop you want to build into a complete song.
An arrangement template can provide the framework and structure needed to transform your initial inspiration into a real song.
Choose your templates wisely. Practice them. Ingrain their structure into your songwriting-production process, so you can outgrow them and fully own them.
This article has given you three specific templates you can use to make great songs.
To make learning the songwriting ropes easier for you, make sure to get my free starter-kit here - complete with 143 chord progressions, the songwriting templates mentioned in this article, the lyric canvas and other great tools to kickstart your growth.