5 Main Differences Between Verse and Chorus Melodies

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Lorde - RoyalsAudiences tend to hear verse melodies as being somehow different from chorus ones, but they aren’t often able to say exactly what that difference is. As a songwriter, you need to be clear on those main differences if you hope to create a song that really connects with the listener.

Here’s a short list of five main differences that you should keep in mind as you write your songs:

  1. Verse melodies have more of a wandering quality than chorus melodies. A verse melody’s tendency to wander has to do with it’s main responsibility of telling a story. So you’ll find that verse melodies move up and down in a bid to generate or diminish vocal energy to match the ups and downs of that story.
  2. Verse melodies tend to be lower in pitch than chorus melodies. That’s because as a voice moves higher, it generates more emotional energy. Emotion is a quality you find more in choruses than in verses.
  3. Chorus melodies use simpler rhythms. If you compare the rhythms of a verse melody to those of a chorus melody, you’ll find verses use more syncopation, quicker rhythms, and other rhythmic devices. Chorus melodies usually show a simplifying of rhythm.
  4. Verse melodies often work their way upward as they reach the chorus. A verse melody will do this to facilitate the connection to the chorus, which is often pitched higher.
  5. Chorus melodies are built around an important hook that often incorporates the song title. That’s certainly not to say that verses don’t use hooks, but it’s during the chorus that the hook serves its most useful purpose. (Hand-in-hand with the hook is the fact that chorus chord progressions also become much simpler and tonally stronger than what you often see with a verse.)

In songs that use verse and chorus structure, a meandering verse melody that uses many notes and has several twists and turns, is fine, as long as the chorus melody tightens up, uses a good amount of repetition, and is catchy and fun to sing.

For some good examples of songs that show these five characteristics to varying degrees, check out the following list:

  1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
  2. Royals (Lorde)
  3. Follow Your Arrow (Kacey Musgraves)
  4. Be My Baby (The Ronettes)
  5. Rolling in the Deep (Adele)


Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter 

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  1. Of course this all irrelevant. Never before has been that fuss,composer compose do way they want.
    The only they describe is 1 parts or 2 parts or third party to identify pieces!

  2. Hi, I would like to ask you this question :Can a part in a song which is repeated 5 times and everytime has different lyrics , be considered as a chorus? .
    Is it unbreakable rule that chorus has always the same lyrics ?
    Thanks !

    • I can’t recall a song where the chorus features different lyrics each time, but that should not stop you from doing it! Good music doesn’t happen because of adherence to rules, it’s more that a good song is guided by certain principles. If it makes sense in your song to modify the lyrics each time the chorus comes around, that’s completely fine.


  3. Pingback: Writing Songs By Working Out the Chords, then Layering Ideas | The Essential Secrets of Songwriting Blog

  4. The singer in my band has a hard time hearing the difference between the chorus and a verse melody while writing. Is this normal ? I can’t seem to explain it in a way that he understands!

    • If he’s the singer, and not a songwriter, it may not be an important issue, as long as he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing: singing.

      It reminds me of a story, possibly apocryphal, regarding the German composer Anton Webern. To paraphrase, a pianist who was performing one of his works said to him, “Herr Webern, I’m not quite sure I understand the structure of this piece. Could you explain it to me?” To which Webern apparently said, “It’s none of your business.” His belief was that composers should study the craft of composition, and performers should study how to be better performers.


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