The Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, and Vocal Harmonies

Sugarland- Stuck Like GlueThere are many songs that use the same or similar melody for the chorus as is used for the verse. It works if you’ve come up with a good, hooky sort of melody. But using a similar melody presents you with a problem: how do you make sure that you don’t simply bore your listeners and have them feel that by the time the chorus happens, they’ve heard all they want or need to hear? Current hit song “Stuck Like Glue”, by country duo Sugarland, demonstrates how you can make a clear distinction between verse and chorus through the use of a pre-chorus, and simple vocal harmonies.

The verse melody dwells on three notes from Db major: Db-Eb-F, and three chords: Db Ab and Gb. The pre-chorus (0′ 40″) is the first element that offers melodic contrast, moving up to Gb, and giving us a new harmony: Ebm.

The chorus does what good choruses should do: reaches up and gives us our highest notes of the song, raising the melodic plateau to Bb. But the melodic structure of the chorus is rather similar to the verse. After giving us that high Bb, the melody descends and plays around with those same three notes we heard in the verse.

This is where vocal harmonies become such a crucial part of song structure. Not only do vocal harmonies offer you the opportunity to help build overall sound and song energy for your chorus, they can help create a distinction between verse and chorus where very little exists.

And as “Stuck Like Glue” demonstrates, it takes very little to create that distinction. The lower harmony line, sung by Kristian Bush, is a simple line consisting mainly of the roots of the tonic and dominant chords. In later choruses, a third (upper) harmony line is added to continue the building of song energy. But the point here is that vocal harmonies need not be complicated or intricate.

As you know, it’s a basic principle of songwriting that song energy should build as the song progresses. So all songwriters need to be looking for ways to build energy throughout the course of a song, no matter what the melodic structure is. When your verse and chorus melody are very similar, “Stuck Like Glue” beautifully demonstrates the two ways you can be sure to make a clear distinction:

  1. Allow the pre-chorus to offer a contrasting melodic shape; and
  2. Use simple vocal harmonies in the chorus to build energy and offer something new.

Written by Gary Ewer, Senior Instructor, Dalhousie University, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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