What's the term for this in music?

What is it called when a song changes drastically, so that it’s almost like two or more songs pasted together? My musical knowledge is at about infant level, so that’s the best I can describe it. Let’s have examples instead, that I can do.

Stay by Shakespeare’s Sister.

First singer sings two verses, the second one ending…
When your pride is on the floor
I’ll make you beg for more

Switch, and second singer enters…
You’d better hope and pray
That you make it safe

Another example, Skid Row from Little Shop of Horrors. There are a few in this song, like this one:

Audrey: Where the guys are drips.
Where they rip your slips.
Where relationships are no go.
Down on skid row
Down on skid row
Down on skid row
Down on skid row!

Seymour: Poor! All my life I’ve always been poor.
I keep asking God what I’m for,
and he tells me “Gee, I’m not sure
sweep that floor, kid.”

Third example, Strange Thing Mystifying from Jesus Christ Superstar:

Judas: It doesn’t help us if you’re inconsistent.
they only need a small excuse to put us all away.

Jesus: Who are you to criticise her?
Who are you to despise her?

Finally, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody has about a million of these.

What’s the technical term for what I’ve called a “switch” above?

Bridge? :confused:

Call and response maybe?

It’s kind of like a bridge, but a bridge is just one part of the song; the bulk of the song is uniform. The thing I’m looking for is more of a permanent change of the song.

Call-and-response is different, a rhythmic pairing of phrases. Bohemian Rhapsody has that too (“We will not let you go!” “Let me go!”), but it’s not what I’m thinking of.

CODA? Not sure what that means…but I see it in song lyrics.

I am curious too - I am inclined to simply refer to the different parts of each piece as a *section * or a movement. Many classical pieces have sections or movements that vary widely in pacing, tone, etc., of course - and while it is less common with pop music, it does happen, as cited…

I know what you’re thinking of, but I don’t know what it’s called.

David Bowie’s song Station to Station does this, although it might not be as radical as some of the others. Here’s a good performance on YouTube.
The first big change is the place where he sings the line “once there were mountains and mountains”, which is at about 2:45 in the video. It changes again at the part where he sings the line in my sig, which is at about 3:20 in the video.

I just thought of another good example. Happiness is a Warm Gun by the Beatles. That goes through a few changes.

isn’t the classic example the original Derrick and the Dominoes Layla

Maybe the term you’re looking for is “segue.”

From Wikipedia: “For written music it therefore implies a transition from one section to the next without any break. In improvisation it is often used for transitions created as a part of the performance, leading from one area to another.
For example, in live performance the Grateful Dead would often splice together several songs, as part of their jamming style. A striking example occurs on the Live/Dead album, with the transition from “St. Stephen” to “The Eleven” requiring a seamless change of time signature. Green Day’s Songs Jesus of Suburbia and Homecoming are both examples of five minisongs segued together.”

Transitioning from the “chorus” to the “refrain,” or vice-versa?

Modulation- when the music changes slightly to a related melody, perhaps a different tempo

Movement - like two songs pasted together as the OP suggests. The first song is the first movement; second song is the second movement.

Coda - The ending to a song which varies slightly from the norm. For example, if the chorus ends a song, the chorus may have a slightly different ending to mark the end of the song.

  • Jinx

Modulation is specifically a shift to a new key, not just a different melody.

What you’re describing doesn’t have any single specific term. All of the above, plus many others, may be applicable in some cases, but they depend on the role of these sections and changes in the overall structure of the song.


I think you were right initially to agree with Zabali in the sense that it is a modulated bridge. I find it commonly referred to as a “dissonant bridge”, one which doesn’t build a transitional harmonic relationship between two passages of a song. Most consanant bridges will stay in the same key as the beginning verses and use the commonly accepted 32-bar verse-chorus form (AABA/ABAB), whereas a dissonant bridge will often change key/time signature, cadence, and tempo, and may not necessarily bridge back to the beginning passage(s) as you suggested.

I’m sure you were probably looking for a different term besides ‘bridge’ though … try looking up ‘chord modulation’ for a better explanation.

“Movement” seems a bit high-falutin’ to be used for rock songs. I would simply refer to the different parts of a song as, well…the first part, the middle part, the last part etc. Not particularly imaginative but it gets the job done.

Then though I know this isn’t a poll, I can offer some very well known examples:

*A Day in the Life * – The Beatles
*Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey * – McCartney
*Band on the Run * – McCartney
*Stairway to Heaven * – Zeppelin
*Scenes from an Italian Restaurant * – Billy Joel

I’ve asked the same question and while people also thought I was referring to a segue or a bridge, “movement” seemed more appropriate for what I was thinking of, too.

The one example I can think of that hasn’t been mentioned yet is “Hands Down” by Dashboard Confessional.

Okay then movement seems to be getting a bit of…movement (sorry!) as the classical-music phrase that applies, and the movements are connected via some sort of segue.

::dusts off college diploma which included a music appreciation class::

Well, seein’ how I forgot to read music after 7th grade and play guitar in a band (You know how you get a guitarist to stop playing? Put sheet music in front of him!) I am rather pleased that I chimed in with the word!

Funny, though - we all seem to squirm a bit about using a fancy-shmancy word like *movement * for rock tunes, even though the songs cited are constructed in a way that mimics classical tunes that have different movements. It is curious that modern rock/pop music doesn’t have a simpler slang word that represents the same concept…

::resists urge to make some bad pun about bowel movements::

I call it a “change up” or a “switch up.” That’s rather a rap and pop term, however. For instance, note the switch up in the beat when Three 6 Mafia start rapping on Justin Timberlake’s “Chop Me Up.”

I think actually it might be a medley. Chicago has a song like that. It is so different that djs dont play the whole thing.

Best example I can think of is Bjork’s It’s Oh So Quiet.

::dusts off diploma in which i received a bachelor’s in music::

I honestly don’t think that there is a name for it. In classical movement, such wild style changes often happen within a single movement, so the term would definitely not be “movement.” (See Sibelius’s 2nd Symphony, 2nd movement for an extreme example.) The closest term I can think of is “section”, and that is a woefully inadequate term.