For most songwriters, it’s a lot easier to come up with a hook or chorus as a first step than it is to come up with verse. That’s because the hook acts as a kind of musical target; it essentially tells the audience what the song’s about.
To start with a verse means that you should already have a pretty good idea where it’s heading, and that may be tricky.
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So what do you do if you’ve written what you think is a catchy chorus, but you don’t know what you should do for a verse that leads into it? If you’re trying to improvise something that works, here are some tips to help:
1. Get a good sense of what your chorus (and therefore your song) is about.
Song topics don’t need to be epic or even unique. There are countless songs about love, and we still all want to hear them!
2. Ask yourself, “What should my verse be saying that would lead me to say the things I’ve said in the chorus?”
At least in virtual sense, verses will pose questions that the chorus will answer. So you need to look through your chorus and then say, “What could I say that would cause those chorus words to be a proper answer? This may seem like a no-brainer, but you need to be sure that your verse and chorus are “on the same page.”
3. Don’t overly worry about making a melodic connection between verse and chorus; they can be very different from each other.
It’s time well spent for songwriters to listen to songs and make note of how similar or different a verse melody is from the chorus melody that follows it. For most songs, I think you’ll notice that there is little similarity, though the chords that are used do tend to draw from the same pool.
4. Keep the verse melody lower in pitch than the chorus melody.
This is a standard songwriting principle. So if you’re stumped for what to do for your verse melody, and you wind up improvising a bit, just be sure that your improvisations are lower in pitch than what you came up for in the chorus.
And on that topic, you may need to raise the pitch of your chorus if it’s a bit low to the point where a lower verse is hard to do.
5. A verse doesn’t need a big hook, but it’s good if there’s something about it that pulls listeners in. Repetition should be noticeable.
In writing a verse, it’s a good idea to find a short, catchy melodic bit that sounds good when you repeat it. You might consider repeating it using a different chord to harmonize it. Think of the verse melody for “Just the Way You Are” (Bruno Mars et al) to see the power of repetition in a song verse.
There are some other aspects of verse melodies that will help you as you create something to work with your verse, and an important one is melodic rhythm. You’ll notice that the rhythms of a verse melody tend to busier than rhythms of a chorus melody, and “Just the Way You Are” demonstrates this principle.
And one other piece of advice: You may find that you’ve written a song chorus in the past that might actually work as a verse for your new song. Since choruses tend to be higher in pitch, you may need to transpose your old chorus down, or change some of the notes to get it lower.
As long as your old chorus hook doesn’t upstage your new chorus hook, you may find that they work well as a verse-chorus partnership.
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