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Song Form – All you need to know

What is song form?

Alive Drumming considers song form to be simply the number and lengths of the sections of the song.

Song Rhythm Tracks uses this information to arrange the rhythm track around the sections, so it is important to get the number and length of the sections to match your song.

It is not essential, but additionally, any section can be identified as a ‘bridge’ section where the rhythm will be at a slightly different intensity. More of that later.

Variation among performers

Be aware that occasionally there might be a lack of agreement as to the musical form of a popular song.  So long as the way you play the song matches the number and lengths of the sections all will be well.

Alive Drumming’s Song Form Naming Scheme and “Stick Notation”

In the “Stick Notation,” column of the table below, sections of music are identified by their length in number-of-bars and separated by a ‘|’ character unless they are followed by a ‘bridge’ section in which case they are preceded by a ‘/’ instead.  So, for example,

Song Form Name Song Form Stick Notation (a sequence of section lengths in the number of bars)
32-bar A1A2 16|16
32-bar AABA 8|8/8|8
16-bar Tune 4|4|4|4
12-bar Blues 4|4|4
24-bar A1A2 12|12
68-bar AABC 16|16/16|20
no agreed name 4|6/8|4|6
no agreed name 10/4/8|10

This “Stick Notation” scheme is an alternative to traditional naming such as “32-bar AABA”.  Stick Notation additionally allows for forms that have no agreed traditional name.  Alive Drumming allows for both of these schemes so that users may use the one they prefer.

Example Songs with their Song Form

Here’s a short list of some songs with their Song Forms using Stick Notation.


Song NameSong Form
Fly Me To The Moon16|16
Blue Monk4|4|4
Almost Like Being In Love8|8/8|12
The Way You Look Tonight16|16/16|20
Alfie16|16
Angel Eyes16|16
All I Have To Do Is Dream8|8/8|8
All the Things You Are16/8|12
Autumn Leaves16|16
A White Sport Coat16|16
Are You Sincere16|18
Blanket On The Ground16|16/16|16
Black Coffee12|12/8|12
Black Orpheus16|16
Blue Bayou16|16
Blue Monk4|4|4|4|4|4
Blue Moon8|8/8|8
Blue Bossa4|4|4|4
Bye Bye Love/19|16
Bye Bye Blackbird8|16|16|3
Caravan16|16/16|16
Calculadoro20|8/8
Cemento, Ladrillo y Arena8|16/8
Chucho12|12
Cottonfields16|16
Cohen's Hallelujah8/5
Cripple Creek8|8
Darn That Dream8|8/8|8
Englishman In New York8|8/8
El Bodeguero16|16
El Guararey de Pastora8|8/10/10
El que Siembra su maiz20|20/8|13/8|13/8|13
El arroyo que murmura12|12|6
El Jamaiquino8|8/8
Every Time I Roll The Dice4|4|4
Guarina20|20
Hey Good Lookin'16|16
Hello Mary Lou8|8
Hotel California8|8/8
I'm Gonna Be A Country Girl Again4|4|4|4
I Get A Kick Out Of You8|8|16/8/8|16
Jambalaya16|16\16
Unforgettable16|16
Lamento Esclavo16|16
La Enganadora16|10|7
La Gloria eres tu4|8|8|8|12
Lagrimas Negras18|18/8/8
Leaving On A Jet Plane16|16
Love Hurts16|16|16
Lover Man8|8/8|8
Longina4|13|20
Mad About Him, Sad Without Him Blues4|4|4
Maria Cristina18|18/8/8
Mambo Inn8|8/8|8
Me recordaras8|8/8|8
Miss The Mississippi And You16|16
Misty8|8/8|8
Mujer ardiente16|16
My Foolish Heart16|16
Moonlight In Vermont6|6/8|8
My Favorite Things8|8|8|8/8/8/8/8/8
Marie8/8/3
Nature Boy16|16
Nica's Dream16|16/8/8|16
Pare Cochero8|10|8|10/4/4
Peace10|10
Nefertiti16
Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen8|8/8
The Way You Look Tonight16|16/16|20
One Day At A Time8|8|8|8|35
On Green Dolphin Street8/8|8/8
Once I Loved16|16/16
Oh, Lonesome Me8|8
Ol' Man River8|8/8|8
Raining In My Heart8|8/8|8
Samba for Carmen16|16|8
Somebody Else On Your Mind16|16|2
Song For Maura16|16
Song For My Father8|8/8
St. Thomas4|4|4|4
Summertime4|4|4|4
Take Five8/8|8
The Touch Of Your Lips16|16
Yo no Quiero Piedra en mi Camino8|8
Y'All Come16|16/16
You Never Can Tell4|4|4|4
You Are Too Beautiful8|8/8|8
You've Still Got A Place In My Heart16|16/16
Why You Been Gone So Long4|4|4|4
Well You Needn’t8|8/8|8
Over the Rainbow8|8/8|8
The Shadow of Your Smile16|16
Table of Song Forms for some popular Songs.

User Sharing of Song Form within the iOS Mobile App

The Apple iOS App, Song Rhythm Tracks, also allows for the sharing of a Song’s track definition which includes its Song Form.

Sharing Your Song’s Form with the community

From the iOS mobile App, Song Rhythm Tracks’  main table of tracks, press the track’s ‘Share‘ button to share your track definition with the Song Rhythm Tracks community.

Searching for a shared definition of a song’s form while defining your track

While entering a new track definition, first enter a name for your track and then press the magnifying glass search button.  If a definition has already been shared with this same exact name, the shared song form will automatically populate in that entry screen.  Try this with the track name, “Fly Me To The Moon“.

On the 4-bar phrases of 12-bar Blues and 16-bar Tunes

The 12 bars of a 12-Bar Blues are partitioned into 3 x 4-bar phrases.  Although this is generally not considered the same partitioning as musical sections in show tunes forms of, say, 32-Bar AABA, we may consider it so for the purposes of describing the song form as interpreted by a drummer.

So any 12-Bar Blues may either use the song form, “4|4|4”, or the song form “12”.  With the former form the 4-bar phrases will be more evident.  With the latter form, they are less likely to be so.   It is a similar situation for the 4 x 4-bar phrases of 16-Bar Tunes.

With Song Rhythm Tracks, if you use the song form names of “12-Bar Blues” and “16-bar Tune” you will get the former form with the 4-bar phrases treated similarly to musical sections.   If you prefer to have the latter form, use the stick notation instead, “12” for 12-Bar Blues and “16” for “16-Bar Tunes”.

Entry of user-defined Song Form