Songwriting 101 – #5: Intro’s And Outro’s

This is a series of posts about song formatting and structure. All this week I’ll be writing about the different individual elements that make up a song.


Go to #1 – The Chorus

Go to #2 – The Verse

Go to #3 – The Melody

Go to #4 – The Bridge


Please bear in mind that these are my definitions and interpretations of the different parts of a song structure. There are no hard and fast rules determining which part of a song goes where.

However, there are generally accepted guidelines. Think of this Songwriting 101 series as the “nuts and bolts” of putting your songs together.

You’ve been refining your songwriting process and you’ve come up with some great ideas and now you are ready to put them all together.

Your journey starts now…


If you break a song down to it’s most basic structure you’ll find it’s just like any other type of writing. There is a beginning, a middle and an end.

How a song starts and finishes is just as important as what happens in the middle (especially if you’re performing your song live).

Today I want to write about INTRO’S and OUTRO’S. Let’s start off with the Introducton.

The introduction sets up the vocal melody and the primary musical arrangement of the song. It shouldn’t be too long otherwise it will ‘overstay it’s welcome’ with the listener.

An average song intro is four to eight bars in length.

There are of course exceptions to every rule. Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” has a sixteen bar introduction however, this is needed to map out the complex (and timeless) musical arrangement of this epic tune.

The introduction motif for your song can happen only once at the benning or can appear a number of times.

It can double as the breathing space between verse and chorus, it can form the basis of your bridge section or, it can be the bridge between a major and minor tonality.

For instance, your introduction maybe in A minor and your verse is in it’s relative major key which is C.

Now for the Outro.

An “outroduction” (not sure if this is a real word or not but I like it anyway) is a section that signifies the end of a song is approaching.

It can be as simple as a repeating of the chorus, of the hook-line or it can be just like a bridge, a departure giving the listener one last surprise before the end of the song is upon them.

An example of an outro would be the repeated “sending out an SOS” line at the end of “Message In A Bottle” by The Police.

It’s always good practise to let the listener know where the beginning, middle and the end of your songs are. Intro’s and outro’s are a good way to let the listener know where their ears are taking them.

Do you have any other examples of really good intro’s and outro’s? Feel free to let me know.

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

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