60-Second Songwriting: Song Structure Basics—the Solo Section

60-Second Songwriting aims to offer quick, concise, song-craft tips, basics and blasts for the time-crunched and attention-challenged 21st-century musician.

Song structure is one of songwriting’s key elements or building blocks. As songwriters, we casually throw common structuring language around all the time—“Let’s double a chorus here. Why don’t we go to the bridge there?” But how often (if ever) do we really stop to think, beginner or advanced writer alike, about the nut-and-bolt concepts behind the everyday rudiments of our trade?

Case in point, every musician knows what a solo section is, right? Time to shred! But in addition to looking at the basic definition of a solo, let’s explore the structural function your instrumental break serves in terms of your song’s composition.

The Solo

So what is a solo section?

  • The function of the solo (or instrumental break) section of a tune is not unlike that of a bridge in that it too refreshes the ear and offers the listener a bit of a break from the repetition of the verse and chorus sections of your song.
  • A pop solo commonly (but not always) consists of a chord progression borrowed from either the song’s verse or chorus and features a top-line melody played above the progression performed on one or any number of a wide variety of instruments (guitar, horns, keyboards, etc.).
  • Many top-line, solo melodies are improvised (meaning the player makes them up on the spot) while many are planned out or composed, not unlike the top-line vocal melodies of your verse or chorus. As always in songwriting, there are no rules here.
  • Many times the solo will be used in a song’s timeline in place of a bridge section. Other times a solo may be used in addition to a bridge section and might appear just after the bridge in the timeline of a song. Again, no rules.

Mark Bacino is a singer/songwriter based in New York City. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists, composing for television/advertising and teaching songwriting via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark also is the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus, a website dedicated to exploring the art of songwriting. Visit Mark on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

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