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Audiences tend to hear verse melodies as being somehow different from chorus ones, but they aren’t often able to say exactly what that difference is. As a songwriter, you need to be clear on those main differences if you hope to create a song that really connects with the listener.
Here’s a short list of five main differences that you should keep in mind as you write your songs:
- Verse melodies have more of a wandering quality than chorus melodies. A verse melody’s tendency to wander has to do with it’s main responsibility of telling a story. So you’ll find that verse melodies move up and down in a bid to generate or diminish vocal energy to match the ups and downs of that story.
- Verse melodies tend to be lower in pitch than chorus melodies. That’s because as a voice moves higher, it generates more emotional energy. Emotion is a quality you find more in choruses than in verses.
- Chorus melodies use simpler rhythms. If you compare the rhythms of a verse melody to those of a chorus melody, you’ll find verses use more syncopation, quicker rhythms, and other rhythmic devices. Chorus melodies usually show a simplifying of rhythm.
- Verse melodies often work their way upward as they reach the chorus. A verse melody will do this to facilitate the connection to the chorus, which is often pitched higher.
- Chorus melodies are built around an important hook that often incorporates the song title. That’s certainly not to say that verses don’t use hooks, but it’s during the chorus that the hook serves its most useful purpose. (Hand-in-hand with the hook is the fact that chorus chord progressions also become much simpler and tonally stronger than what you often see with a verse.)
In songs that use verse and chorus structure, a meandering verse melody that uses many notes and has several twists and turns, is fine, as long as the chorus melody tightens up, uses a good amount of repetition, and is catchy and fun to sing.
For some good examples of songs that show these five characteristics to varying degrees, check out the following list:
- (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
- Royals (Lorde)
- Follow Your Arrow (Kacey Musgraves)
- Be My Baby (The Ronettes)
- Rolling in the Deep (Adele)
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Gary is also the author of “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music“, published in hardcopy by Backbeat Books, and available from Amazon and any other online bookseller.