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Good Chorus, Bad Verse: Some Ideas to Fix That Situation

It’s common with many songwriters to start the songwriting process by working out the chorus, if only because that’s the part that’s going to be most memorable to your audience. Once you’ve got a chorus that really works well, it acts as a kind of goal — a target, so to speak — for you to aim for as you work out the verse.

Sometimes, though, you’ll get a chorus that sounds great — really hooky, catchy, fun to sing, and loaded with promise. And then every time you try to create a verse that partners well with it, it sounds like aimless wandering, without much appeal. What can you do?

If that’s the situation you find yourself in, and you have no idea what the problem with your verse is, here are some tips that can help:

  1. MELODY: Check the connection between the verse and chorus. In particular, see if there’s any way you can make the end of your verse melody rise, and then begin your chorus at a higher pitch.
  2. MELODY: Make sure your chorus melody is higher than the verse. That way, you get a natural energy build between verse and chorus that makes a lot of musical sense to a listener.
  3. CHORDS: Join the verse properly to the chorus. If it sounds like too much of a jolt between verse and chorus, make sure the final chord of the verse moves logically toward the first chord of the chorus. Example: If your chorus starts with something like this: C  Dm  G  Am… you will want to be sure that the end of your verse moves nicely toward that C chord. So you might end your verse with: Bb  F  Gsus4  G.
  4. FORM: Your verse might be too short or too simple, failing to build sufficient musical energy for the chorus. So try inserting a pre-chorus. A short 4-bar or 8-bar section that provides the necessary lift, melodic interest and energy can allow the chorus to act as a better flag-waving section. If you need more info on how to write a pre-chorus, try this post.
  5. LYRICS: Your verse lyrics may not be focusing in on what the chorus lyric is all about. Your chorus lyric may sound fine on its own, but it needs the perfect set-up. A good verse lyric will make the chorus sound like a logical partner. In the verse, you’ll be setting up scenarios, and describing people and events in such a way as to allow for a good emotional release. As your verse moves toward the chorus, be sure that your final lines of lyric will be satisfied by the first lines of your chorus.

We know how important a good chorus is, but it would be a mistake to think that the verse isn’t all that important. It is, in the sense that a good verse will make a chorus sound even better. Verses may use melodies, chords and lyrics that differ from the chorus, but partnership is key.

If you want to read more about how to partner a verse chord progression with a chorus one, read this article from a few years back.

Gary Ewer

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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