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Sometimes the Problem with a Song’s Chorus Is Its Verse

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This blog post is a kind of “part 2” for the previous article on this blog, “Moving Melodies Up an Octave to Deal With Verse-Chorus Sameness.” Let’s look at ways in which a bad verse might make a song sound like it’s got a bad chorus.

It’s pretty much instinctive for songwriters: a chorus is going to be more intense and energetic than a verse. There’s other things about a chorus that are usually instinctive as well: a chorus melody will typically use simpler, more rhythmically patterned ideas that go a long way to creating a catchy hook.

So if a song’s chorus seems to be missing the mark and not actually giving you the thrill that you thought should be there, your natural inclination would be to take a closer look at the chorus to see what you can do to improve it.

But there’s one other thing you could and should be doing, which is to take a closer look at the verse that precedes it, and make sure that it’s doing what a verse should be doing. Because if the verse is lacking in some way or another, the symptom could be a chorus that’s not working well.

The main way this might happen is if the verse is acting too much like a chorus, possibly in these ways:

  1. Your verse lyric is too emotional, trying to draw out an emotional response from listeners without doing what it should be doing: telling a story or describing a situation.
  2. Your verse melody is too high in pitch. A high melody makes for a more intense vocal performance, and it may simply be too much, too soon for your song.
  3. Your instrumental approach might be too intense and loud, meaning that the chorus is missing the opportunity to “pop”.

There are probably other ways that a verse might be doing too good a job of impersonating a chorus, but those three are probably the most common weaknesses in songs that seem to be lacking musical energy at the crucial moment: the chorus.

If your song sounds like it’s lacking in musical energy when it gets to the chorus, it may simply require you to stop looking at the chorus, and take a look back at the verse, and make sure that it’s not upstaging what should be the more flag-waving part of your song.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

Hooks and RiffsFor most good songs in the pop genres, getting a hook working properly is vital. “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how hooks have made the world’s top songs successful.

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  1. Hi Garry I definitely agree with #3, however, the wording for #2 might need to be specified as the average pitch or tones that the verse are centered around? Most of the enduring songs over time have quite a high range (counting lowest to highest pitch) right at the outset (no more than 10-15 seconds of the vocal starting depending on tempo) such as:

    Marvin Gaye – I Heard It Through The Grapevine
    The Beatles – Yesterday, In My Life, Eleanor Rigby
    Dolly Parton – Jolene (chorus is front loaded, so highest note is within 5 seconds of the melody start!)
    Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
    Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years
    Seal – Kiss From A Rose

    Hundreds of these timeless songs demonstrate that it is actually more advantageous to front-load a higher span of at least 9-12 semitones (which may be a tone or slightly lower than the chorus, but not always. Many even have the same climactic high point throughout the song such as Grapevine).

  2. Thanks for this one, Gary. I think I may have run across this problem in the past and didn’t realize it.

    BTW – You wrote “if the chorus is acting too much like a chorus” when I think you meant “if the verse is acting …”

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