Some suggestions for making a verse-only progression sound like a complete musical journey.
Thousands of songwriters are now using “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle to improve their technique. Includes two volumes of chord progressions, plus the very popular “Chord Progression Formulas”, and now comes with a free eBook, “Creative Chord Progressions“. Read more..
Chord progression partners are ones that work well together in the same song. For songs that use the verse-chorus-bridge format, we’re talking about a verse progression that connects well to a chorus progression, and then a bridge progression that sounds like a creative answer to that chorus.
Verse-only songs are sometimes a bit different, because a song without a chorus needs to feel more-or-less complete once the verse is done — even if it includes a bridge.
You may wonder why it’s important to think about chord progression partners in a verse-only song. After all, since the progression is complete at the end of the verse, where is the partner? The fact is that for verse-only songs, the progression spends the first part of the verse journeying away from the tonic (key) chord, and then the second part journeying back.
In that sense, you can think of a verse-only progression as being one longer progression made up of two sections: the away-from-the-tonic one, and then the back-to-the tonic one.
That journey can be a simple one, such as what you’d find in The Beatles’ “Should Have Known Better,” a verse-bridge song. The verse itself is short and to the point:
G D G D G D Em |C D G D G
The first part is an uncomplicated journey to the Em, and then the second half brings it back to G.
In Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love,” it’s the same idea, even if the progression is slightly more adventurous:
D A/C# D/C G/B |Gm/Bb D/A E7/G# A11 D
It starts on D (the tonic), and makes a short trip to the subdominant (IV) chord (G) before returning quickly to the tonic chord.
In both those cases, the chord that happens at the half-way point of the verse is the chord that’s the “farthest away from” the tonic chord. It provides a nice sense of balance, and makes the verse-only aspect of the song’s structure work well.
Here are some suggestions for you to try. They’ll work in any key, in any time signature, and in most pop music genres.
- C F Dm G Am Dm Esus4 E | F Dm C/E F Am G C
- C Bb/C F C/E F D/F# D G | Am G Em Am Dm G C
- C Am C Dm Am Bb G Asus A | Dm G/B C F Dm G F C
- C F/C C/E Cm/Eb Dm G Am E| Am F G Am F G Dm C
- C F Am G Am D7 Gsus4 G | F G G7/F C/E Dm G C
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics.