A Verse, a Chorus… And Then What?

Written by Gary Ewer, author of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-ebook Deluxe Bundle. Purchase today and get the DISCOUNT PRICERead more..

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Piano player singer-songwriterOnce you’ve got a great idea for a song (which often means that you’ve got a great idea for a chorus), you’ll find that the next big challenge is to create a verse that partners well with it. If you’ve read my last blog post, you’ll know the characteristics of a good verse.

And so now you’ve got a verse and a chorus. For many songwriters, it’s what happens next that’s the tricky part. Do you often get stuck at this point? How do you proceed beyond verse 1?

For most, it’s dealing with the lyrics that presents the biggest problem when trying to extend your song idea beyond that initial verse-chorus partnership. This is especially tricky if your lyric isn’t specifically a story, but really more of a “this is the way things are for me right now” kind of song. What do you do about verse 2?

For developing a verse 2 lyric, here are some suggestions:

For songs that mainly tell a story (Example: “The Boxer”, Paul Simon)

Verse 2 is relatively easy, because you’ll want to simply keep telling the story. In doing so, try to find some way (through word choice, imagery and description of situations) to slightly heighten the emotional content of your lyric.

For songs that mainly describe relationship issues (Example: “Single Ladies”, Beyoncé, and others)

Verse 2 becomes tricky for these kinds of songs, because you’ll likely have the feeling that you’ve already done this in verse 1. To write a successful verse 2, describe other aspects of the relationship that heighten the emotional level of the song. If verse 1 spoke about how things used to be good, but aren’t so good anymore, use verse 2 to become more specific. Dig down into the situation to find words and phrases that pull the listeners into your situation. The key to a good verse 2 is intensifying the emotion.

For songs that mainly address social justice issues  (Example: “Peace Train”, Cat Stevens)

This is a type of song that you’ll want to work to get listeners feeling the way you do. That’s often best done by using verse 1 to describe what you’re talking about, using the chorus to express your overall emotions about that, and then using verse 2 to perhaps describe what’s going to happen if we don’t all fix this situation.

For songs that mainly describe emotions (Example: “Happy”, Pharrell Williams)

The trickiest part about a song for which the topic is an emotion is: how to contour the emotional content of your song in a typical verse-chorus format, where verses are less emotional than the chorus. In Pharrell’s song “Happy”, he uses verse 1 to describe how happy he is. The chorus is simply an ode to the word “happy.” Verse 2 changes the focus and targets negativity, explaining that it doesn’t matter how negative the people around him are, he plans to be… happy! As with any other song, it’s a matter of increasing the emotional content of the lyric as the song progresses from verse 1 to verse 2.

As you scan through the different kinds of song lyrics you can write, you start to see a commonality: emotional content needs to increase in verse 2. This goes hand in hand with the songwriting principle that says that basic song energy needs to increase as well.

That means that you’ll want to be sure that instrumentation builds when you compare verses 1 and 2. You may also want to consider adding some backing vocals, a busier percussion layer, and possibly move instrumental voicings higher in order to give the lyrics a boost.

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Gary EwerWritten by GarEssential Secrets of Songwriting Bundley Ewer. Follow on Twitter“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle packages look at songwriting from every angle, and have been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. Read more..

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