What role do your song verses play?

Hi Songwriters, 

This week we are going to review song verses. What is a verse and what role does it play in your song? The verse is what sets up the rest of your song for success. It sets a scene, and becomes the narrative explanation of the emotions of the chorus. Another way to look at it, is it puts the emotions of the song into a physical setting that your listener can experience.  

Most of the time verses are going to be full of “Showing” language. Imagery words that come from sensory writing. Verses tell your story through pictures that lead to emotions.  

Verses also usually have the lowest note ranges of any section of your song. They are usually 4 to 6 lines. Each verse will have the same melody (rhythm and pitch), but different lyrics from the other verses in the song.  

The info your verses will usually build on are Who, When, and Where the story is happening. Almost all verses will establish at least 2 of those 3. The cool thing about your first verse is that if you set it up right, you don’t need to keep re-explaining in future verses, details run down. When you are writing, pay attention to how you are setting up the Who, When, Where.  

What about your second Verse? This is a common question. Where do you go next? You can ask that about your story, “Now what happens.” You can also advance any of the Who, When, or Where. Maybe your 1st verse is in the past, your second could be present, or future. You could also change the location, or the person that is being sung about. The old You, Me, Us trick. Your verses can color what your chorus means. If you set up the verse correctly, your chorus will be the emotional payoff.  

Writing great verses is not an easy task, but if you practice focusing on painting word pictures and setting the scene, you will get better over time. Your homework should be to write one verse each day for the next 5 days. Where is a good place to get verse material? Object writing! Write from your senses and pull lines into a rhyme scheme. See what unique verses you can write.  

I hope you are finding these tips and info helpful. Please let me know if there are topics you would like me to cover.  

Chad Shank 

Education Director - MN Association of Songwriters 


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