Making Verse Melodies Sound Better By Thinking Ahead to the Chorus

If one of your songwriting struggles is to get the verse and chorus melodies to sound like good musical partners, you may be surprised to find that the answer may not be to make them similar. Sometimes good verse-chorus partnerships happen when those two melodies have very different structural qualities.

When it comes to making the verse and chorus melodies work really well together, my mind always jumps to Paul Simon’s “My Little Town” as a great example. What I find so instructional about that song is how radically different the verse melody is from the chorus, and yet how excellently they act as musical partners.

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More specifically, the verse is a long, meandering line of ups and downs, with many chords, and changing time signatures. Just when you think your brain can’t process more information, the chorus kicks in. By comparison, the progression is short and strong, the musical phrases are short, and the melody is repetitive and tremendously catchy.

Dissimilarity is a great quality, and of course, it’s only one solution. Some songs use the same (or practically the same) melody for the verse and chorus, like “Born in the U.S.A.”

The real question is: how do you know when a song is better when verse and chorus are dissimilar? If you focus on the structure of the verse melody itself, you start to see the answer. If the verse melody is comprised of short, tonally strong phrases, with predictable chords, you’ve got a verse melody probably also works well as a chorus.

In other words, if the verse sounds like it’s a good chorus, you can use the same melody for both sections quite successfully. But the opposite does not usually work: a long meandering verse melody makes for a lousy chorus melody.

As a final bit of advice, consider this: if you opt to use the same melody for both your verse and chorus, you’ll want to find other ways to create a sense of contrast within your song. That usually means:

  1. Think about verse lyrics. They’ll usually tell a story or recount some situation, but things need to tighten up and become rhythmically simpler and more hook-like in the chorus.
  2. Think about instrumentation and production. A verse benefits from a sparse, more transparent sound, which will contrast nicely with a chorus that sounds fuller.
  3. Think about backing vocals. Adding some backing vocals to your song’s chorus is a great way to make an immediate distinction between verse and chorus.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook bundle includes“Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process”. Discover the secrets of making the lyrics-first songwriting process work for you. The bundle comes with the all-important STUDY GUIDE.

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