Is Your Verse Doing What It’s Supposed to Be Doing?

There is a lot of attention paid to song choruses, and for good reason. A chorus is where the catchy bit is either going to do its job and pull in an audience, or it’s not. So there’s a lot riding on the success of a chorus.

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But how do you know if your verse is actually doing what it’s supposed to do?

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. A verse melody should generally sit lower in pitch than a chorus. There can be a lot of overlapping, of course. But in general, keeping your verse low, even just slightly, allows the chorus more potential to shine.
  2. A verse melody can use quicker, more interesting rhythms when compared to the chorus. By the time you get to the chorus, the rhythms of the melody should be strong and predictable, making that chorus hook more memorable and easy to sing.
  3. A verse lyric should lay out a scenario, or describe the basic story of your song. Even for songs that aren’t specifically “story songs”, we should get a sense of what it’s about before we get to the chorus.
  4. A verse lyric should pose questions or leave things unsolved so that the chorus can answer those questions, or make things sound resolved. This is either done literally or figuratively, but in most songs the verse should “beg for” the chorus.
  5. Verse chords can wander, and can actually be the most interesting chords of the song. Chorus chord progressions are typically short and tonally strong. But verses can be more creative as they seek to support the mood of the story in general.
  6. A verse melody should connect somewhat smoothly to the chorus. You often hear a melody rising to connect to the chorus. And if it’s too far away, one good solution is to follow the verse with a pre-chorus. (Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” is a textbook example.)

In a very real way, the most important job of a song’s verse is to set up the chorus for success. In that regard, song verses can fail, not because they aren’t good verses, but more because they fail to make the chorus sound strong and inviting.

So if you’ve written a song and you find that the chorus just isn’t sounding as exciting or attractive as you’re hoping, you might find the best solutions by first looking at the verse that comes before, and ask yourself:

“Is this verse making me want to wait to hear the chorus.”

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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