The Basics of the Melody- Verse, Pre-chorus, Chorus and Beyond

Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.

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Melodic StructureA great melody is hard to define; no melody operates independently of the lyric or accompanying harmonies. We know some things for sure: A good melody needs repeating elements, that it’s usually constructed of stepwise motion to make it singable, and so on. But beyond that, you need to know that melodies exhibit different characteristics depending on where they are in the song.

A melody that makes a good verse does not necessarily make a good chorus melody. But what are the basic differences? Here’s what you need to know:

MELODIC RANGE:

  1. Of all the various melodies that exist within a song (verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge), the verse melody is usually the lowest in basic pitch range (also known as tessitura).
  2. The pre-chorus is a section of some songs that sits between the verse and chorus. The pre-chorus melody usually begins in the same basic pitch range as the verse, and moves upward to connect smoothly to the chorus.
  3. The chorus melodic range is generally higher than the verse by an interval of a 3rd to a 5th.
  4. The bridge (which usually builds song energy) needs a higher melodic range than the chorus.

MELODIC STRUCTURE:

  1. Verse melodies often dwell in and around the 3rd and 5th notes of the key of your song, frequently avoiding prominent use of the tonic (key) note. This suits the more “narrative” characteristic of verse lyrics.
  2. Chorus melodies will use the tonic note and the tonic chord more often. Harmonies will typically begin and especially end with the tonic chord, which suits the more “conclusive” nature of the lyrics.

If you’ve done all of that, and still feel that your melodies are lacking in something, take a closer look at your lyrics. Verse lyrics need to describe situations, while chorus lyrics need to describe emotions and reactions to those situations. It’s a natural progression that listeners expect.
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4 Comments

    • Most of the time a verse an chorus will be in the same key. However, if you want to try a key change, you could try Db major. Though it’s more common to have the verse in minor and switch to major for the chorus. Other closely related keys are: Fm, Ab, and though it may be a bit of a stretch, you could try F (major).

      -Gary

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