One of the defining features of house music is its arrangement and structure, which follows a specific pattern that has become a staple of the genre.
In this guide, I’ll break down the seven key elements that make up the arrangement and structure of house music based on what I’ve learned writing and releasing over 50 house music songs.
House music typically follows a very simple arrangement structure, consisting of an introduction, 1-2 verses, 2-3 choruses (sometimes called drops), 2-3 breakdowns, and an outro.
Most house music follows a simple pattern of smaller changes happening every 8 or 16 bars (ie: fills or instruments being added or subtracted) with larger changes happening every 32 or 64 bars (ie: new song sections).
Here is a breakdown of each section that makes up a standard house music song structure:
This is the opening section of the song, typically lasting around 16 to 32 bars. In most cases, the first 8 to 16 bars are very stripped back (ie: just drums) so that DJs can easily mix into the song in a live setting.
The introduction sets the tone for the track and often includes the main elements that will be used throughout the song, such as the drums, the mid-range of bass, and melodic elements like chords, pads, and samples.
In pop/rock/rap songs, the verse section is usually where lyrics and melody are introduced to the listener. However, in house and electronic music, this can be quite different.
Because there are often fewer vocals and lyrics in house music, the verse section tends to be where the sub of the bass is introduced and more melodic elements (ie: chords, pads, samples, etc) are introduced.
The idea here is to really show off the groove of the track but not reveal every single element yet as to save that for the bigger chorus or “drop” that is soon to follow.
Most house music verses are made up of 16 to 32 bars of music followed by 8 to 32 bars of a “mini-breakdown” where the kick and sub-bass are taken away to add tension before leading into the first chorus or drop.
3. Chorus / Drop
The chorus is the section of the song that is designed to be catchy and memorable. It typically features a repeated melody or hook and often includes a more prominent use of vocals.
The chorus in house music usually lasts around 8 to 16 bars and includes most (if not all) of the elements/instruments/sounds that are meant to appear in the song.
It’s also common to still hold back a few elements so that they can be slowly introduced in future choruses and drops so that the listener has something to look forward to and keep their interest.
The breakdown is a section of the song where the intensity and energy of the track are temporarily reduced.
This section can include a breakdown of the drums and other elements, and often features a new melody or sound effect.
The breakdown typically lasts around 8 to 16 bars and is often immediately followed by a buildup section.
The buildup section is where the energy and intensity of the song start to increase again after the breakdown.
This section often includes a gradual increase in the volume, and complexity of the track over the course of 8 to 16 bars, leading up to the final climax of the song.
The climax is the peak of the song, where all the elements come together in a powerful and energetic way.
This section usually includes a high-energy beat and prominent use of vocals or the hook of the song and can last anywhere from 16 to 64 bars.
In most cases, the climax is essentially the chorus of the song with extra elements to increase the energy level of the song.
The outro is the final section of the song, where the energy and intensity gradually wind down.
This section can be similar to the introduction or a variation of it, and typically lasts around 8 to 16 bars.
Similar to the intro, there are often 8 to 16 bars of very stripped-back elements (ie: just drums) so that a DJ can mix out of this song and into a new one.