Verse 2 is typically a repeat of verse 1’s melody and chords, but there are things you should be doing that differ.
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Verse-chorus formats are the most common ones in modern day popular song. In many cases, the most significant difference between verses is the lyric. Melody and chordal accompaniment will typically stay the same. So there’s an easy answer to what you should be doing in verse 2: develop your lyric. In other words, continue the story and expand your descriptions. But beyond that, there are things you could and possibly should be doing to make verse 2 work better.
It’s worth the time to do a bit of hit song analysis to see what professional songwriters do with verse 2. And it often depends on how many verses your song has. In Gotye’s current hit, “Somebody That I Used To Know”, there are three verses, so the first two verses basically run together as if they’re one long verse. The third verse does a rather unique thing of switching viewpoint, and giving us a version of the story from someone else’s eyes.
When writing chorus lyrics, you should be answering the question, “So how did that make you feel?” For verse 2 and/or 3 lyrics, you should be answering one of several possible questions or statements:
- “So then what happened?”
- “Tell me more about him/her.”
- “Describe your beliefs/convictions more fully.”
It’s normal to wait until the chorus to describe emotional responses to your verse lyric. But that doesn’t mean that you verse can or should be completely devoid of emotional expression. And in fact, verse 2 or 3 can be making statements that will make the emotional lyric of the chorus even more poignant. That way, the chorus lyric, even though it usually stays the same, can have an even deeper impact on the listener.
In some songs, you can use verse 2 and/or 3 to simply reword what you said in verse 1. In other words, lyrical development will simply mean providing a new way to say the same thing. In such songs, there is a simple relationship between verse and chorus: Let the verse describe something or someone, and let the chorus tell your audience how you feel.
In that sense, it then doesn’t really matter how many verses you use. Each verse simply re-describes a situation or person using slightly different terminology.
In those kinds of songs, you’ll do more to enhance the emotion of your lyric, and create the appropriate energy build if you try any of the following:
- Build the instrumentation of verse 2. If your verse 1 uses guitar-bass-drums accompaniment, use verse 2 to bring in some new instrument, or add extra percussion. (e.g., hi-hat/bass drum for verse 1, then add snare for verse 2).
- Use “implied chords” in verse 1, fuller chords in verse 2. An implied chord simply means that you’ll play the bass line as your basic accompaniment, with light (or even non-existent) chords over it. Then in verse 2, allow fuller chords to join the mix.
- Build the backing rhythmic intensity in verse 2. Let rhythm guitar or keyboard become more rhythmically active.
- Raise the basic range of your instruments in verse 2. We typically do this in the chorus, but verses after verse 1 can also benefit from allowing guitars and keyboard to explore higher ranges as a way to build energy.
There are probably other things you can be doing, but building the energy of verse 2 by making these accompaniment modifications can make your lyric sound like it is similarly developing, even though it may be a simple rewording of verse 1.
A classic example to listen to that demonstrates clear differences between verse 1 and verse 2: Heart’s “Dreamboat Annie“. A really nice tune, as well as a great lyric to analyze.
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