For many songwriters, writing a chorus is a logical first step. It’s the part with the hook, and you can make great use of repetition to come up with something that’s catchy and memorable.
If you’ve started your song with the chorus, the next section you’ll work on is verse 1. That’s because whatever emotions you’re expressing in the chorus need to have circumstances that lead to them. In that respect, it’s not all that difficult to come up with something that leads sensibly and easily to your chorus.
Where a lot of songwriters get stuck is coming up with a verse 2. It’s particularly hard if your song isn’t so much describing a story as it is describing a state of mind, or a circumstance you find yourself in. In those songs, what should a verse 2 look like?
Here are some tips that can help you get the most out of your song’s second verse:
- Come up with a second scenario. In other words, let’s say that your verse 1 lyric describes a situation where you always feel left out of your group of friends, with the chorus describing your resolve that you don’t really need them to feel good about yourself. In that case, use verse 2 to describe an entirely new scenario that can be answered by the chorus. So perhaps verse 2 will describe a situation where your best friend is hanging around less. A verse 2 that describes a second scenario increases the audience’s insight into what has led to the chorus.
- Ramp up the emotional content. Whatever verse 2 is about, you should opt for using words and phrases that display a bit more emotion. Keep in mind that the chorus is where emotional reactions really belong, but verse 2 needs to play off the emotional content of the chorus that the audience just heard. “Stitches“, (Danny Parker, Teddy Geiger, Daniel Kyriakides, recorded by Shawn Mendes) is a great example of this. Verse 1 describes being hurt by a lover (Ex: “…no one’s ever left me quite this sore”). Verse 2 does the same thing, but uses words and phrases that are intended to go a bit deeper, emotionally (“…Your bitter heart, cold to the touch.”).
- Build up instrumentation and production. Verse 2 can be elevated simply by increasing instrumental activity. And it doesn’t take much. Even just adding a percussion instrument, or making the backing guitar lines a bit busier will do it.
- Find a new way to say what you said in verse 1. A good example might be “A Thousand Years” (Christina Perri, David Hodges). Both verses 1 and 2 describe the singer’s feelings of vulnerability. Verse 2 simply describes it in a different way.
- Write from a new point of view. I think “Somebody That I Used To Know” (Gotye) is the best recent example of this. In this case Gotye sings verse 1 and 2, giving his perspective on a troubled relationship. Verse 3 is sung by Kimbra, and we get to hear her point of view. It’s very effective, and distinctive enough that you’ll want to be careful about using this technique too much.
You’ll notice with Tip #1 above, it often plays directly into Tip # 2. The second verse doesn’t just add a scenario — it increases the emotion by making it more personal. In verse 1, the suggestion was that your lyric might be about feeling left out of your group. Verse 2 makes it more personal by suggesting that you describe feeling ignored by a best friend.
Whatever you choose to do with verse 2, raising the emotions is always going to be a good idea.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
It’s part of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Deluxe Bundle”.