“Simply making Verse 2 louder than Verse 1 isn’t the answer. Simply making things louder doesn’t give you the natural energy build you’re looking for.”
Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website
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I’ve mentioned recently in several postings that the basic energy level of your song should rise as the song progresses. It’s this increasing of song energy that keeps a listener’s attention and makes them want to hear more. But what do you do in a song with several verses? What things can you do to build energy in a natural way?
The volume or level of loudness (called “dynamics” in music circles) is one way to increase the power of your music. It explains why people often turn their music up too loudly: they perceive the power that comes from volume, and want more of it!
But simply making Verse 2 louder than Verse 1 isn’t the answer. Simply making things louder doesn’t give you the natural energy build you’re looking for. An increase in dynamics needs to be joined to the modification of other musical elements. In verses where the musical material is essentially identical, the changes need to be subtle.
So here are some hints for making subtle differences in energy between two otherwise identical verses:
- Use implied chords for Verse 1, and fuller chords for Verse 2. An implied chord uses one or two chord tones, and the easiest way of achieving this is to simply use bass in Verse 1, then add a chording instrument in Verse 2.
- Add instruments to Verse 2. And it doesn’t need to be much (and in fact shouldn’t be much). Depending on the genre, we’re talking about adding a hi-hat cymbal or other light percussion, a second chording instrument if one was already in use, or even some background vocals. (Be careful with the background vocals… they work best in the chorus, so perhaps an upper harmony in occasional spots is all that’s needed.)
- Using higher guitar/keyboard voicings in Verse 2.
- Add a rhythmic motif. Similar to a hook, find a rhythmic fragment or idea that can work in the background, then add it to Verse 2 in an inobtrusive way. Used well, listeners often don’t even know it’s there, but that little rhythm will subtly add to the energy of the song.
- Change key (but usually later in a song). Changing key between Verse 1 and Verse 2 (i.e., at the end of the first chorus) may be too early, so you need to let your ears be your guide. It’s far better to consider a half-tone rise in key between the second chorus and Verse 3. That rise in key will build a considerable amount of energy, so be careful how you use it. (Also can become quite corny if done more than once or twice in your repertoire of songs.)
And one more thing to consider: there are some things that you can do with reverb and the basic backing rhythm, but that needs to be carefully assessed. And if you do a song where these elements are changed (i.e., you add reverb, or go into what’s calleddouble time, it makes it very difficult for you to use again in a different song. Those modifications are so distinctive that they will become trite and overused very quickly.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” shows you how to write great songs. It’s just one of a suite of 6 songwriting e-books written by Gary Ewer. (His newest e-book, “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting- Chord Progression Formulas” is being offered for free when you purchase any other of his songwriting e-books.) Let these six e-books show you every aspect of how to write great songs! Read more..