In the process of songwriting, many songwriters actually start with the chorus. That’s because the chorus tends to use shorter, stronger (and simpler) chord progressions, hooky melodies that use repeating ideas, and emotional lyrics. By comparison, the verse can be a bit more of a challenge. You need lyrics that describe people and/or situations, and then create a melody with accompanying chords that support those lyrics. A verse melody, and the chords supporting it, tend to have a more complex structure than what we find in the chorus.
But for most, the biggest problem isn’t coming up with a good verse — it’s deciding what to do about Verse 2.
Since a chorus is a commentary on the verse, it makes coming up with verse 2 a bit of a challenge. If your song is the telling of a story, it’s somewhat easy: keep telling the story. But songs that tell stories are somewhat rare. In many songs, the verse describes a state of mind. So then what do you do?
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Here are some tips to follow when trying to create a Verse 2 for your song. Not all these ideas will work for your song, but they’ll at least hopefully stimulate your imagination and help you create something that works.
- Build instrumentation. You know that a chorus will use a relatively full instrumentation when compared to Verse 1. Most of the time, Verse 2 will use an identical, or almost identical instrumentation to Verse 1. But a long, gradual build in instrumentation can help to create energy and momentum. To hear this kind of thing in action, listen to Phillip Phillips’ “Home” and Ellie Goulding’s “Lights”.
- Build vocals. Verse 2 is a great place to introduce some vocal harmonies. The chorus is a great place to use harmonies, but Verse 2 can use vocal harmonies as a way of increasing the emotional impact of your song’s message.
- Reword Verse 1. It’s surprising how many songs do a simple rewording of the ideas and situations in Verse 1 to create a Verse 2. Or use Verse 2 to restate the philosophy or opinion you stated in Verse 1.
- Build from using implied chords to fuller ones. An implied chord means giving a very sparse accompaniment that doesn’t include the full chord. So you could sing Verse 1 with just a bass and very light, transparent chords on guitar, and switch to something fuller in Verse 2.
In any case, it’s quite acceptable to have Verse 1 sound pretty much identical to Verse 2 (with the exception of lyrics, of course), as long as you follow the important songwriting principle that song energy should generally increase as a song proceeds, resulting in higher energy at the end than at the beginning. So if you don’t do that with your verse structure, you’ll need to do it in other ways, but building energy through the repeat of your choruses and/or in the bridge.
Written by Gary Ewer
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