Don’t be surprised if most of the time you start your songwriting process by working on getting the chorus happening first. For most of your listeners, your song will be defined by what’s happening in the chorus; it’s the chorus that really needs to shine.
Songwriters are very familiar with the chorus hook, but there are other kinds to experiment with, and you will want to discover the power of layering various kinds of hooks in the same song. “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base“ shows you how it’s done.
That’s certainly not to say that the verse is unimportant. And in fact, a well-written verse can make a chorus really step forward and grab necessary attention.
Another way of saying this is that the verse sets up the chorus. But there are important differences between what a verse does and what a chorus does. Here are some of the important ones:
- The chorus will have a more noticeable hook. Some have the idea that the chorus is where the hook is, but in fact most songs have several “hooky bits” (as I outline in my eBook “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base.”) And verses can and do have hook-like ideas that grab some attention. But a chorus hook will usually be more prominent, and more song-defining.
- The chorus’s instrumentation/production will typically be busier and more rhythmically active. The sound of your song will usually be demonstrated and defined by the sound of your chorus.
- The chorus melody will normally be more rhythmically locked-in and simpler than the verse melody’s rhythm. Verse words can use lots of syncopation and other rhythmic complexities, but chorus words should lock in to the main chorus hook. By doing so, the lyric is easier to sing and easier to remember.
- The chorus will take advantage of higher notes in the melody to build musical energy. Almost every hit song you can think of will do this: place the chorus melody higher. The human voice tends to convey a more intense energy when it’s higher, and that energy directly links to the musical energy and momentum we perceive from the song itself.
- The chorus lyric will be more emotion-filled than the verse lyric. It’s the verse’s job to lay out the story and explain what the song’s about. A good chorus will allow the singer to react to the story. And that means that when you move from verse to chorus and back to verse again, a song will display an ebb-and-flow pattern that allows emotions to build, subside, and then build again.
Sometimes it can be beneficial for a chorus to share some melodic characteristics and ideas with the verse so that we hear a connection. But in fact, this doesn’t happen all that often.
What is most important is that a verse prepare the listener for what’s about to happen in the chorus. And rather than worrying too much about connection of ideas, it’s better to think about ways to gradually build musical energy from verse to chorus, whether that energy comes from connected ideas or not.