Connecting Verse and Chorus Chord Progressions

Verses and choruses are often different, but it’s crucial that they sound connected. Chord progressions can do that for you.

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Electric BassSome songs use the same melody and chord progression for the verse and chorus. But those songs are in the minority; for most of the songs you write, you’ll be composing different melodies, and creating a different chord progression. In a way, it’s because of those differences that you’ll want to find ways to make those two major sections of your songs feel connected. In other words, though the chord progressions will often be different, they can’t be so different that they feel completely unrelated.

So here are some ideas for making a verse progression and chorus progression sound properly connected to each other.

  1. Opposite-moving bass lines. Create a chord progression for your verse that requires the bass to move in one direction (upward, for example), and a progression for the chorus that moves the bass line in the opposite direction. EX: VERSE: C  Dm7  C/E  F  G  Dm  F  C.  CHORUS: C  G/B  Am  G  F  C/E  Dm7  G  C
  2. Palindromic chord progression. Try creating a chord progression that works well in both directions, frontward and backward. Then use one for the verse and another for the chorus. EX: VERSE: C  F  Dm  Bb  Am  F  G  C. CHORUS: C  G  F  Am  Bb  Dm  F  C.
  3. Move the progression to a new key. This is a great solution for a song that uses an identical (or almost identical) progression for the verse and chorus. Simply move the chorus to a new key. Because the chord progression will still be the same, but starting on a new tonic, there’s a sense of recharged energy. EX: VERSE: C  F  C  F  Dm  Am  F  A. CHORUS:  D  G  D  G  Em  Gm  G  G7..
  4. Move from minor to major. Try creating a minor key progression for your verse, and switch to the equivalent (or almost equivalent) major progression for your chorus. EX: VERSE: Cm  Fm  Cm  Bb  Cm  Eb  Bb  G. CHORUS: C  F  C  G  C  C/E  F  G.
  5. Use identical progressions, but with pedal point bass in the verse. A pedal point bass simply means that the bass stays on the same note (usually the tonic note, but try experimenting). So try a simple verse progression that uses pedal bass, and then the same progression in the chorus that has the bass finally moving. It’s a great effect. EX: VERSE: C  Dm7/C  C  F/C  Bb/C  G/C  F/C  G/C. CHORUS: C  Dm7  C  F  Bb  G  F  G.

There are lots of other possibilities. What you’re trying to do with these progressions is create a sense that even when verse and chorus progressions are different, there’s something similar that makes them feel connected – that makes them sound like they each belong to the same song.

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

  1. Hello, Gary ! as with the question of the post below

    if you don’t mind me asking, can you give us an example of a song associated with the above theory?

    Perhaps are the example songs about the above theory explained in the
    “10 e-Books series ” I purchased?

    • I’ll give that some thought. I can think right away of songs where substitutions were made on a final verse, such as Eagles’ “Take It Easy”, where they replaced a IV chord with a ii chord. I’ll see what I can think of for substitutions between verse and chorus. This is an old post (2009), so I’ll need to get my head back into the topic. 🙂

      -Gary

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