The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum


Many high school students do not recognize the use of repetitive song form in rock and roll music. This lesson will introduce concepts for identifying musical structure and, more specifically, song form. A comparison of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Around the World” and Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te Partiro’ (I’ll Go with You)” will demonstrate the use of form. The introduction of the Bocelli piece will also give students a musical link to classical opera music, a style with which they might not identify or be familiar.


The student will be able to identify song structure and form by using the following musical concepts and differential learning. 

  1. Texture: Students will identify the differences in musical texture in relationship to form (i.e. verse in contrast to chorus, “what is a verse?, what is a chorus?” verse or chorus in contrast to “bridge” or guitar solo)
  2. Rhythm: Students will identify the differences in rhythmic complexity in relationship to the differences in the musical instruments and their usage in the sections and form of the musical selections.
  3. Melodic Construction: Students will identify the differences in the melody of the song in relation to the relative smoothness or irregularity of the melodic movement.
  4. Lyrics: Students will use this example to understand the usage of chorus in contrast to a verse (repeat of texture vs. changing text).


high school music history/music appreciation class, grades 9-12 (general track, non-musician).

Time Frame

2-3 class periods.


CD recordings of the two selections; CD player/stereo system; copies of lyrics.


Through discussion following the playing of “Around the World” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the students will be led through a series of questions which will help them to identify the structure of the song by isolating the: 

  1. Lyrics: where are the lyrics different and where are they the same?
  2. Texture: how does the texture change with the lyrics, i.e. is the texture the same for each repetition of the “chorus”?
  3. Rhythm: what is different in the rhythmic flow of the music supporting the lyrics and general melodic structure (short and choppy, rap-like vs. the smooth lyrical flow of the chorus).

Layout song form on the board using a simple structure: 
Introduction - guitar solo/bass solo 
Intro-like section - guitar feature, conclusion, ending section with bass solo

Then play the “Con Te Partiro’” with the students using lyric sheets and an overhead of the translation, again identifying the different sections and the repetition of the chorus.

Have students raise their hands on the chorus of the Bocelli. Again, identify the sections using the board and overhead of the lyrics.

Go back to the Chili Peppers, repeating the process of the students identifying the chorus and verse by raising their hands on the chorus.


Students are assigned to find a selection from their own music collection and identify the sections or form of the selection.

Students will be asked to map or sketch the form of a short classical selection chosen by the instructor.

Students will be asked to describe in a short essay, the musical elements (texture, rhythm, or melodic construction) of a popular tune that define the form of the selection.

Selected Recordings

“Around The World” Red Hot Chili Peppers (Californication, WEA/Warner, 1999)

“Con te Partiro” Andrea Bocelli (Romanza, UNI/Polygram, 1997)

Enrichment/Additional Resources

Listen to other popular tunes. Identify the differences in structure and stress the length of sections in relationship to the overall structure. Example questions: 

  1. Are all popular songs the same length?
  2. Are the sections repeated the same number of times in top hits; is there a formula to success for a pop tune? Are verses and choruses always the same length?
  3. Are the formulas similar to classical musical “hits”?

Have students bring other recordings of tune that do not follow the example song form.

Describe in class the need to develop discrimination in the listening process to develop better listening skills.

Have students describe the complexity of sections and layers of instruments in those sections which tend to interest the students.

Example questions: Why is this song so important to you as far as a musical setting?

What musical elements draw you to this song?

Contributed by

Mark Robertson, Kirtland, OH