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The successful song is, quite simply, the one that entices the listener to keep listening. In other words, songs that work are ones that cause us to think that something great is about to happen: you don’t want to stop listening in case you miss it! That power of keeping us listening goes by several terms: momentum, energy, forward motion, and so on. When you write a verse melody, it’s not enough to create one that sounds great on its own. You need to write it in such a way that it begs for the chorus. By doing so, you keep your audience hooked and listening.
You’ll notice, if you analyze pop songs, that the tonic note (the note that represents the key of your song) shows up a lot more in a chorus than in a verse. That’s because the tonic note creates a sense of finality – a sense that a musical phrase has come to a conclusion.
So the tonic note and tonic chord need to be used carefully in a verse. Use it too much, and you give the impression that things are ending, and it can impede forward motion. If you end your verse melody on the tonic note, accompanied by a tonic chord, you’ve lessened the need for a chorus melody, and your audience may lose interest.
But that’s certainly not to say that the tonic note can’t be used. Here are some things you can do in a verse melody that increases the likelihood that a listener will keep listening for the chorus.
- Avoid using tonic notes at the end of musical phrases in your verse melody. Melodies that end on the tonic note can usually successfully end on the 3rd or 5th of the key.
- If your verse melody seems to feel lacklustre, and lacks that sense of begging for the chorus, try ending the verse on a IV-chord or a vi-chord. (Ex: Change this: C F G F G C to C F G F G Am).
- Melodies that seem to be boring usually need a bit of upward movement. Once your melody passes the midway point, look for ways to have the melody move upward in pitch, and start your chorus near where the verse melody leaves off.
- Save an emotional response for your chorus, and let the verse concentrate on describing situations, telling stories, or depicting personalities. Let lyrics intensify in the chorus and bridge. By doing so, your verse can describe what’s going on, and listeners will instinctively wait for the chorus to hear how you feel about things. It keeps people listening.
- To add intensity to a song, begin adding instruments and using higher chord voicings as a verse gets close to the chorus. Those instrumental changes will generate energy that grabs listener attention.
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