Weeks 5–6: Form

Most pop songs are in verse-chorus form. Our readings this week will discuss all kinds of variations on that paradigm. Readings: Barna (2019), Nobile (2022), Shelley (2019), Neal (2007).

If you are unfamiliar with pop music, you may want to read quickly through these two chapters in the new version of Open Music Theory: AABA and Strophic Form and Verse-Chorus Form. Note that pop music terminology is used in a very precise and specific way in academic settings, which can differ a little from vernacular settings.

Here are some helpful abbreviations for verse-chorus form sections.

AbbreviationSection name

Feb 23

Readings due Thursday before class

  • (John discussion leading)

Special guest! Dr. Alyssa Barna will join us for class discussion.

Writing due Sunday at noon

Analyze the form of “CUFF IT” by Beyoncé (2022).

  1. Use the BriFormer web app to create a formal diagram.
  • Click “Create a new BriForm using a YouTube link”
  • Enter the YouTube link for the official video:
  • Make your diagram!
    • Use different arches to signify different sections.
    • Use at least two levels of groupings.
    • Color-code your sections: all verses should be Color A, choruses Color B, etc.
    • Add labels for your formal sections. You may want to use the abbreviations listed above.
  • Once you’re done, click “Share” and then “Create shareable link,” and copy the URL.

2. Paste the URL into a document so I can access it later. Write an explanatory paragraph that accounts for anything you couldn’t get into your formal diagram—ambiguities, important details, etc. Additionally, discuss how Nobile and Barna’s ideas informed your decision-making.

3. Save as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder.

March 2

Readings due Thursday before class

  • (Randy discussion leading)
  • (Naima discussion leading)

Writing due Sunday at noon

Write a brief reading response (~250 words is fine) about the readings from this unit. Some optional prompts:

  • How did your perception of pop form change after doing the readings?
  • What do you think of how genre intersects with form?


Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library (or both!).