So you finished your song, but the problem is, it became too short, and you have no idea how to make it longer. There are a lot of ways you can extend your song, but first, let’s talk about how long a song should be.
The average pop song is about 4 minutes or less. And there is a reason why certain things are working in songwriting. There are some examples where the songs are shorter or longer, for example, the song “Power” by Kanye West is 1:43, which is much shorter than the average, or the song “The Rise And Fall Of Bossanova” is an extreme 13 hours long song. But the more you move away from the average, the more “risk” you take with your song.
So let’s take a look at what you can do if your song is much shorter than the average.
1. Learn song structures
If your song is too short, it’s maybe because it’s missing some important parts. You can always experiment with different structures, but first, it’s always a good idea to learn what worked for other successful songwriters before. In order to do that, you need to write down a couple of song structures.
Just take a piece of paper, play some of your favorite songs, and write down all the sections on the paper. It’s always good to see these song structures visually. In fact, you should do the same with your own song – write down and make a plan for how you will structure your song.
In my songwriting course, I teach the most common song structures, so you can save a lot of time if you go through the course.
2. Create an intro
One of the ways of making your song longer is by creating an intro. However, the intro shouldn’t be too long, because your listener can lose interest, and they can skip your song if you don’t get to the “point” with your music. (for example, the chorus)
This is important if you are an unknown artist and your goal is to grow a fanbase. If people who don’t know you listen to your song, you need to get to the point relatively early. Because it’s really hard to convince people to listen to your song all the way through if they never heard of you.
If you are a well-established artist, you can be more flexible, because you already have a fanbase, tens of thousands of people who are WAITING to hear your new release. But if you are an unknown artist, and your goal is commercial success with your song, a shorter intro is better than a longer. The sweet spot if probably around 10 – 15 seconds or less.
Also, the length highly depends on your genre. If you make instrumental or jazz music, it’s OK to create longer intros. But the point is, the longer the intro, the more risk you take.
Here are a few examples for intro lengths for pop songs:
Pharrell Williams – Happy: 3 seconds
Justin Bieber – Sorry: 10 seconds
Shawn Mendez, Camila Cabello – Señorita: 15 seconds
Justin Timberlake – Cry Me a River: 26 seconds
How can you create an intro? Let me just tell you one example. The easiest way to create an intro is by playing the melody of the chorus on an instrument (for example, a guitar). This is also very effective because this way you already “teach” your chorus melody to your listener right at the beginning of the song. You can hear this in the song “Señorita”.
3. Add a bridge
The bridge usually comes after the second chorus. So when you already have the “verse – chorus – verse – chorus” repetition, you should consider adding a bridge section after the second chorus.
The bridge needs to be different from the chorus and the verse. You can make difference mostly with the chord progression – I explain this in more detail in the songwriting course here.
You can use the same chord progression in the bridge, but in that case, you need to find other ways to make a difference. For example, you can put rap in the bridge. You can hear this in the song “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. (from 2:18)
4. Instrumental Solo
Instead of a bridge, you can put an instrumental solo in the song. The solo can also come after the second chorus, and then you can continue with the chorus again.
Nowadays (for the past 5 or 10 years) there aren’t many songs using instrumental solos, especially in pop music. But it’s totally up to your genre and what your audience prefers, whether you should put a solo in your song or not.
An instrumental solo can be played on the same chord progression as the chorus, or it can be totally different, like an “instrumental bridge”. For example, listen to the song Englishman In New York by Sting, where the band goes to a swing rhythm and the saxophone plays a solo in that section.
Another solution for extending a song is adding a pre-chorus. A pre-chorus is a section right before the chorus – as you would probably guess from the name.
There are different kinds of pre-choruses, but here are the two most common solutions. Traditionally a pre-chorus has more tension in it, so it can build up the song before the chorus. For example, in this case, you wouldn’t use a tonic chord in the pre-chorus.
Another form is when the pre-chorus is almost like a chorus – sweet and catchy. For example, when the chord progression of all parts is the same. You can hear this in the pre-chorus of the song “Burn” by Ellie Goulding. (from 0:33)
A post-chorus is another possible solution to make a song loner. As you can guess, it comes after the chorus. So what’s the difference between a bridge and a post-chorus?
While the bridge is usually a total contrast, a totally different section in the song, the post-chorus is more like an extension of the chorus. Another difference is, that a post-chorus can be put after each chorus, but we usually have only one bridge in a song, after the second chorus.
However, there are certain songs, where they only use a post-chorus after the second chorus.
Creating a post-chorus is probably easier than creating a pre-chorus. A post-chorus needs to be on the same energy level as the chorus, or even higher. You can keep the chord progression of the chorus, and put some instrumental part or some simple vocal in it.
7. Third Verse
It’s not very common, but ultimately you can create a third verse, and put it after the second chorus. But keep in mind that this thirds verse has to be unique, not the same as the first two verses because it would make your song boring.
There is a reason why most songs don’t have a third verse, so keep in mind that creating a third verse can be risky. But this is not a rule, only a guideline. You can always experiment with your songs.
You can listen to an example in the song “End Game” by Taylor Swift. She put a third verse in this song (from 3:16), but you can hear that it’s very different from the other verses. And by the way, this extra verse makes her song more than 4 minutes, 4:10 to be exact.
So here is how you can make a song longer:
1. Learn the most common song structures so you will have a plan or a guideline to start with.
2. Create an intro, but it shouldn’t be too long.
3. Create a bridge after the second chorus OR
4. Put an instrumental solo after the second chorus.
5. Create a pre-chorus after the verse.
6. Create a post-chorus, which is an extension of the chorus.
7. If you are adventurous enough, you can create a third verse.
The secret pattern behind successful songs
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About the Author
Producer, songwriter at Bánhidy András, and Barrio Latino Hungría. Author of The Rhythm Code.