Learn Song Structure From Your Favourite Song

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Learn Song Structure From Your Favourite Song

When you first start building and arranging your own song, One thing you may struggle with is song structure.


You know, you’ll ask yourself things like:

  • How long should the intro be?
  • Where should I put the breakdown?
  • How do I know what, when and where things happen?

Although there’s technically no real rules to song structure, there are universal patterns that seem work and that listeners enjoy. Of course, every genre is going to have slightly different variations, but they will all pretty much follow the “rules” in that particular genre.

It’s the reason why, when you introduce someone to a style of music, that they don’t know (ie dance music), you’ll hear them say something like “It all sounds the same to me”.

But I don’t want to get too far deep into the psychology because I want to give you some practical advice you can walk away with and apply to your music – RIGHT AWAY!

Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal

The answer is right in the music, literally! The easiest solution to this problem is to take your favorite song (in the same genre as the music you want to make) and use that song structure like a reference guide. Simply follow along with the song, keeping notes of what happens where.

I’m not saying to copy the melody or other song ideas (though that can be another good learning exercise), rather I’m talking about using the song as an example of what good song structure looks like in your chosen genre.

When doing this, it gives you an idea of where you can take your arrangement. Once you start working with it, you may come up with some of your own cool arrangement ideas as well.

And in this tutorial, I will show you exactly how to do this using FL Studio.

Note: You can do this in any DAW, so don’t let FL scare you away.

How to Breakdown Song Structure in FL Studio

First, you need to import the reference-song (MP3 or WAV) to the FL Studio Playlist. It’s easy, just drag the song file (from explorer view, your computer desktop or wherever else) to the Playlist view.

Note: Click the images below for a larger view

Drag The Song To The Playlist

Next, you need to prepare the reference-song. Cut off the silence from the start of the song. Use the tools in the FL Studio Playlist to do this.

Prepare The Song

Now, find the tempo of the reference-song and sync it with the bars in the playlist. 1 bar = 4 beats, so if the reference song is a four-to-the-floor style dance music, you should tweak the tempo so that there are 4 beats in one bar.

In other words, if the first kick starts at bar 9, there are four kicks after that and fifth kick lines up with bar 10 and so on..

This is important! If it’s not done right, the reference song won’t stay in sync with the playlist bars. If the song isn’t in sync with the playlist bars, you won’t be able to see where the structure changes are happening.

Find The Tempo

Assign the song to an empty mixer track (double click the song file to bring up the Channel Settings box to do the assigning) for easier volume control. You can also quickly mute the track by clicking that little green dot, before the song, in the playlist track.

Assign The Song To A Mixer Track For Volume Control

Now when everything is set, follow the reference-song structure as you build your own song.

Start Building Your Song

That’s it. And remember, I’m not encouraging to copy other producers musical ideas or anything like that. The idea of this method is to learn by example.

See and hear how the pros are doing it, learn and apply. 🙂

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About Author

HowToMakeElectronicMusic.com (HTMEM) – A music production website with plenty FL Studio tutorials, interviews, news, free music production tips, and free downloads.

14 Comments

  1. Man this is a great idea! I’ve been listening to songs to try and hear the structure but never even thought of this!!! It would help so much just to see the the wave format or whatever its called 😀

    Are you a music teacher…? lol. If not you should be!!!! and if so then come to America 😀

  2. Good way to match the tempo is to use the “tap” fuction by right clicking on the BPM meter.
    Tap with the beat on the original song and whoila.

    I’m using FL for a year now and I know how to create a good structure song, but still learning from your tutorials, keep up the good work 😉

  3. Systematic Mechanic on

    Here is one of Rammstein’s more popular songs Feuer Frei.
    You’ll notice that in many of their songs they do what I call recycle riffing.
    They use about 2 -4 rhythms and add and subtract sounds from them.
    The Build Up music at the beginning is the same as the music for the vocals.

    It also has a really interesting 2 bar Chorus / 1 bar Hook then a 3 bar
    Chorus / 1 bar Hook. There is also a 6 bar Break that leads to a 2 bar
    Build Up that leads to the Chorus. Hope I got all that right. 🙂

    Rammstein – Feuer Frei
    ==========================================
    Intro = 4 bars
    Buildup = 4 bars
    Verse 1 = 8 bars
    Chorus = 8 bars
    Verse 2 = 8 bars
    Chorus =2 bars
    Hook = 1 bar
    Chorus = 3 bars
    Hook = 1 bar
    Guitar Solo = 5 bars
    Verse 3 = 8 bars
    Break = 6 bars
    Build Up = 2 bars
    Chorus =2 bars
    Hook = 1 bar
    Chorus = 3 bars
    Hook = 1 bar
    Chorus = 3 bars
    Hook = 3 bars
    End = 2 bars
    ==========================================

  4. For some reason dragging and dropping the files (ogg, mp3 and even wav) into the Playlist view just doesn’t work… I’m probably just forgetting about something really stupid.

    • Turns out it was something stupid. It won’t load vorbis files or V0 mp3. No idea why wav didn’t work though.

      • Hmm.. that is strange. Have you tried to copy the .wav or .mp3 file to a FL Studio browser folder (i.e “Image-Line\FL Studio *\Data\Patches\User”) and then drag and drop it from there?

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