Five Ways to Make a Distinction Between Verses 1 and 2

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Music ListenerIn general, listeners should perceive a build in energy over the length of  your song. That energy build is what keeps them interested, and keeps them listening. There can be a problem with song energy if you’re simply doing the same thing with verse 2 that you just did with verse 1. Replicating everything with just a change in lyrics may result in a lull in momentum. So here are five ideas for doing something different in verse 2, something that can cleverly build energy without being obvious about it.

  1. Use implied chords for Verse 1, and fuller chords for Verse 2. Implied chords usually means that the bass is playing the roots of chords, with a very sparse, or even non-existant, harmonization above it. It works really well as a verse 1 idea. Then in verse 2, add a chording instrument for something fuller.
  2. Add instruments to Verse 2. This goes hand-in-hand with the first point above. It works best if the instrumental addition is something subtle, something that just starts to fill in the empty sounds of verse 1.
  3. Use higher guitar/keyboard voicings, or a lower bass, in Verse 2. Usually, higher means more energetic, so moving one of your instruments upwards is usually a good idea. Keep in mind that a fuller, more energetic sound comes from a lower bass, so you may want to experiment with a higher bass for verse 1, and move it down an octave for verse 2.
  4. Add a rhythmic motif. You might think that a rhythmic hook works best if you introduce it more-or-less right away in your song, but try adding something new to the second verse. That new rhythmic idea can move front & centre for later parts of your song, such as during the bridge, or as a connector between the bridge and the final chorus repeats.
  5. Change key. This is a tricky one to get to work, but here’s one idea you might want to try: If your verses are comprised of two phrases that are basically repeats of each other, try a key change upward halfway through verse 2. With this sort of thing, moving up a semitone is an obvious choice, but try something like moving up a minor 3rd (from A major to C major, for example).

If your song has three or more verses, you may want to wait until the final verse to try modifications. Also, a 3rd verse can sometimes gain “implied energy” by suddenly quieting down, because it surprises listeners, and makes them anticipate the return to higher energy all the more.


Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website
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  1. All five good solid points, Gary!

    If I may add the things that I often do to create energy in songs:

    [1] Omit the bass and/or drums in Verse 1 – saving it for Verse 2
    [2] Adding vocal harmonies during Chorus 2
    [3] Add strings and vocal ad libs at the coda
    [4] Transpose one step for the coda
    [5] Silent middle 8 – usually only vocals and main chordal instrument after energetic bridge


    • Hi Endy – The silent middle-8 is a great option for songs that tend to be energetic throughout. Bringing energy levels down before the final set of choruses really creates an exciting sense of anticipation. Another good option is: when returning to the final choruses after the bridge, do the first of those final choruses with a subdued instrumentation before finishing with high energy. (A favourite of Taylor Swift, it seems.)

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