Think of your favorite song – it could be an instrumental or one with lyrics. You’ll notice certain similarities throughout.
There’s a section that’s always repeated and is catchy so the tune sticks in your head – this is known as a chorus. However, there’s also a section that comes before the chorus known as a verse.
In today’s post we’ll be looking at verses in songwriting. We’ll be looking at the definition of a verse, along with how it can be used and some examples.
What is the definition of a verse?
A verse is a group of lyric lines or musical notes (if it’s an instrumental) that expands on the idea portrayed in the chorus; it gives you the nitty gritty details of the story.
A verse is also known as a stanza, however this is a term more used in poetry.
A typical song structure is:
In most cases, songs have two verses, therefore two separate occasions to lay out the details.
How are verses used in songs?
As we’ve established, verses are used to add detail to the main idea in your chorus.
How is this achieved?
It depends on how you want your story to be told.
Before a songwriter even begins to write the lyrics for their next song, they plan out a story which is usually split into 4 sections:
- Scenario 1
- Scenario 2
- Main idea or purpose
- Revelation or change
Scenario 1 is our first verse, scenario 2 our second verse, our main idea or purpose is the chorus and lastly, the revelation or change is our bridge.
Let’s focus on the scenarios. These can be based on different:
- Fiction or reality
- Chapters in a book
- And so on…
Let’s take the idea of social anxiety. Your chorus may focus on how you are dealing with it. Here are a few examples of how your verses could tie in with your chorus:
- Each verse could focus on a different event such as being at a birthday party and being at a wedding, you’d explain how you felt during these events.
- The verses could focus on tenses such as how you felt in the past, and how you feel now.
- We could have how it has impacted those around you such as one verse focusing on your family and the next your friends.
You don’t have to choose just one from the above, mix ‘n’ match, e.g.:
- Verse 1 – Recalling a birthday party with your friends from the past
- Verse 2 – Commentating on a family wedding you’re currently at
The listener understands more and more about the story as the song plays.
Examples of verses
Example 1 – Having a different emotion in each verse
Our first example is a song I wrote in May 2020 called ‘Hollow Trees’ and the story is about someone who has the task to stay awake all night, but it’s something they’re not used to therefore they keep getting the urge to sleep.
Our verses focus on 2 different emotions.
Here are the lyrics for the 1st verse:
- Feeling sleepy
- Sun sets and hibernation calls me.
- Keep focus
- Don’t be anxious
- Feel the breeze as the clouds whisper.
Here the lyrics show that a person is having to stay awake, however they’re feeling sleepy and anxious.
Here are the lyrics for the 2nd verse:
- Take me in
- Feel alive again
- Sun sets and hibernation begs me.
- The Earth shake
- Don’t let it take
- The breeze, the clouds, the whispers.
In the 2nd verse the emotion changes, this person is determined and won’t give it to the slumber. Hibernation is begging them to give in, but they’re staying active to keep them alert.
Example 2 – Having your verses like chapters in a book
Our second example is a song I wrote in August 2019 called ‘Conviction’ and the story is about someone who has done hideous and forgivable things in the past, and it’s finally caught up with them – but they still try and defend their actions.
Here we have chapter 1 – The Discovery:
- You feel the ground collapsing
- An empty hand shakes,
- The guilty’s been slumbering
- On those hollow mistakes.
- The ashes are visible
- No hiding the marks,
- Deny the inevitable
- Whilst you’re breaking the parts.
Here the lyrics show that the truth has finally unveiled itself. A criminal act has now been detected, and there is no denying that it took place.
Here we have chapter 2 – The Culprit:
- You held your scriptures loosely
- Time makes pages fade,
- Interpret words precisely
- Just to show your true shade.
- Attack when you’re unprovoked
- Now who is on trial?
- Hidden agenda you cloaked
- Whilst you’re running the mile.
In the 2nd verse the person now has to face the consequences of their actions, yet they’re filled with excuses as an attempt to claim their actions were right but it is clear they weren’t.
It’s your turn
With this new knowledge about verses in songwriting and how you can create verses for your songs, go ahead and start creating some today!
It is as simple as writing down 2 different scenarios that both tie in with your main idea of the story which will be portrayed in your chorus.