AAA Song Form

This is the simplest of song forms.  It doesn’t have to be called “AAA.” It could be called

AA

or

AAAAAAAAA

What the A’s represent is that there is a single melody and chord pattern that repeats itself. In other words, there is no other section that could be called “B” (or “C” or “D”, etc).  Many church hymns are written in this form. Take, for example, Amazing Grace. Understand that each verse is almost identical as the next, musically that is, and the only difference being the words.

A Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
A T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
A Through many dangers, toils and snares
Etc…

NOTE: When talking about music, sometimes letters are used in different contexts. The use of the letter “A” here might get confused with other ways “A” can be used, as in “the key of A major”, or “an A note,” or an ABAB rhyme scheme. Look at the way the first verse rhymes:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, (A)
That saved a wretch like me. (B)
I once was lost but now am found, (A)
Was blind, but now I see. (B)

The words “sound” and “found” rhyme so we call them “A,” while the words “me” and “see” are the next rhyme so we call them “B.”

So just remember that when we use letters to organize a song form, it is important to keep the context of the way the letters are being used straight.

The Refrain

One technique that is often found within the AAA song form is the refrain. A refrain is a phrase or line that is repeated at the end of every verse.

On of the great masters of the refrain is Bob Dylan.  Take, for example, Shelter from the Storm.

Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
Come in, she said I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I’ll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm
Come in, she said I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved
Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
Come in, she said I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Notice the way the last two lines are sung at the end of every verse. This is a very useful device if you have a long story song and don’t want to lose the flow of the story while also tying all of the verses together with a common thread.

NOTE: In many hymnals and in classical music, sometimes what is called a “refrain” is what in popular music is known as a “chorus.” Please know on this website that a refrain is just a singe line or two that repeats at the end of each verse as a part of the verse, and a chorus is a new section altogether.