60-Second Songwriting: Song Structure Basics—the Outro

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(Image: © Damian Fanelli)

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?

For example, take the  “outro” section of a song. Sure, its purpose is to guide the listener to  song’s end, but how does it actually do that? 

The Outro

So what is an outro section?

  • An  outro (also sometimes referred to as the coda) of a song is, as one  might think, the inverse of an intro section. It’s a structural element  designed to wrap things up and ease the listener toward the song’s  conclusion.
  • While some intros recur at points  throughout a song, the outro is not a recurring section and only appears  at the end of a song’s timeline.
  • Similar to  the intro, the outro can take multiple forms. It can present itself as  solely instrumental in nature, with a chord progression backing and a  top-line melody played by an instrument or instruments. The outro can  also present itself as a chord progression covered by a top-line melody  that’s sung with a lyric or in nonsense syllables.
  • An  outro can run the gamut, from full-band arrangement to singular element  (a solo instrument, an a cappella vocal, a string section, a drum beat,  etc.)
  • Like the intro, dynamics also come into  play with the outro. For example, the outro can be used to gently back  down the intensity built up over a song’s timeline, leading the listener  to an organic, soothing song conclusion. Or conversely, the outro can  take that built up intensity and ratchet it up even further, pushing the  listener to an exciting song conclusion. The possibilities are only  limited by your imagination.

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.