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  • Writer's pictureHope Weaver

Songwriting Tips:Top 40's Song Structures

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

Bay Phoenix Studios

Don't write another song before reading these tips! Learn the elements of a song to maximize your

songwriting potential!




These are the most popular song structures since the 1960’s. The Billboard Top 40’s will almost always contain a variation of these song structures. You can use these song structures as a framework to write with. Part of this analysis was incorporating some of Dean Oliver's research on the 2018 Billboard Top 40's.

You can find more information on Dean Oliver's article at this link. For further information on the elements of a song. Follow this link to my previous blog to further maximize your potential.


Terms To Know:


Intros are one of the most important elements of your song. As most people listen to the first 5-10 seconds of a song to see if they’ll like it before they decide to change it.

Abbreviated as “I”.



This is where the story is told. This is where the body of details lies.

They typically contain AABB or ABAB rhyme scheme formats.

Abbreviated as “V”.

Example of AABB:

“Girls” - The Beastie Boys

A - I like the way that they walk

B - And it's chilly to hear them talk

A - And I can always make them smile

B- From White Castle to the Nile

Example of ABAB:

“She Will Be Loved” - Maroon 5

A - Beauty queen of only eighteen she

B - Had some trouble with herself

A - He was always there to help her, she

B- Always belonged to someone else


Transitional Bridge/Bridge:

A Bridge is a body in the song that is typically only 4 to 8 bars in length. This section is generally different lyrically and melodically from the rest of the song. A well-constructed Bridge will incorporate both elements.

You will find the Transitional Bridge/Bridge to be abbreviated as “T/B”.



This section of the song is meant to ensconce the connection between the Verse and Chorus/Hook elements. This can also be referred to as a “Channel”, or “Set-Up”.

Pre-Choruses are generally only 4 to 8 bars long.

You will find the Chorus/Hook abbreviated as “P”



The Chorus or Hook is the most memorable part of the song. The lyrics are generally repetitive

A Chorus/Hook is generally 8 or 16 bars. You will find the Chorus/Hook abbreviated as “C”.



Refrain is generally an interchangeable term with Chorus.

However this also refers to as a repetition of a Chorus. This is how you might find the second Chorus referred to as. You may also see “R”.



Post-Choruses/Hooks are additional hooks that can also be referred as “B Choruses”.

You will find the Chorus/Hook abbreviated as “PC”



This part of the song is meant to signal the end of the song.

You will find the Outro abbreviated as “O”.



Here are some of the most successful song structures that can be found in the Top 40’s since the 1960’s:





Additionally here are some analysis Dean Oliver did on 2018’s Billboard Top 40’s Song Structures:

"God's Plan" - Drake

Form: I – V – C – P – V2 – C2 – PC – O

Key: A

Weeks At Number 1: 11

Weeks On Top 5: 23

"Girls Like You" - Maroon 5 & Cardi B

Form: I – V – C – P – V – C – P2 – B – C – V2 – C – P – O

Key: C

Weeks At Number 1: 7

Weeks On Top 5: 24

"Thank You, Next" - Ariana Grande

Form: I – V – P – C – V – P – C2 – V – P – C3 – O

Key: Db

Weeks At Number 1: 6

Weeks On Top 5: 7

"Perfect" - Ed Sheeran & Beyonce

Form: V – P – C – I – V – P2 – C – I2 – C – O

Key: Ab

Weeks At Number 1: 4

Weeks On Top 5: 15

"This Is America" - Childish Gambino

Form: I – I2 – C – V – P – C – V – T – P2 – O

Key: F

Weeks At Number 1: 2

Weeks On Top 5: 4

"Psycho" - Post Malone & Ty Dolla $ign

Form: I – C – V – C – V2 – C – O

Key: Eb

Weeks At Number 1: 1

Weeks On Top 5: 17

"I Like It" - Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin

Form: I – V – C – V2 – P – C – V3 – P2 – C – O

Key: F

Weeks At Number 1: 1

Weeks On Top 5: 15

"Havana" - Camila Cabello & Young Thug

Form: I(4) – C(8) – V(8) – P(8) – C(8) – V2(16) – C(8) – B(16) – C(8) – O(8)

Key: G

Weeks At Number 1: 1

Weeks On Top 5: 11

"Sicko Mode" - Travis Scott & Drake

Form: I – V / I – V – C – V – C2 – T(2.5) / I – B – V –  B2 – V – O

Key: Bb

Weeks At Number 1: 1

Weeks On Top 5: 10

"Sad!" - XXXTentacion

Form: I – C – V – C – B – C – O

Key: C

Weeks At Number 1: 1

Weeks On Top 5: 2


What's Next?

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