• How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
  • Started by Bill from November Sound
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....when you are writing the song that is.

I keep coming with these fragments. Words and melodies come together and then I think "okay, now, do make a chorus to go with this? ... or, do I need to write a verse for this swell new chorus of mine?"

Some of the new songwriting teachers are saying resist the urge to write any melody whatsoever until the words are completely done. Maybe that's my problem right there?

How do you deal with this? How do you know if you just wrote a verse or a chorus? Is it always obvious for you?
Bill
Songwriter, Keyboards, Arranger, Producer & Engineer for November Sound

November Sound is based on the Mother, Father & Son musical trio of Melissa, Bill & Will. I'm the father so anything I post will have my wife singing and/or my son playing percussion.


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Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #1 on: July 29, 2018, 23:29:20
« Last Edit: July 29, 2018, 23:37:32 by MichaelA »
Great question @Bill from November Sound , if only I knew the answer then I would be very rich!  ;)

Given that we all kind of know that the chorus:

a) should be the most memorable and dynamic aspect of the song
b) that is consolidates the whole concept of the song
c) at their best, are the melodies we all instantly recall...

Then no wonder choruses are the hardest of all to write.

Two personal examples from my last two songs. On my fun song 'AI Bunny Boiler' I had the chorus first. After that it seemed so easy to writes the verses. I actually enjoy writing verses more as they develop the narrative and seem to be more interesting (from a writing point of view) than the choruses, which have to be more repetitive and perhaps more obvious. Although getting this just right is a 'holy grail' type challenge for sure.

On my latest song 'Sleepyhead', written in a more serious style, I had the verses first - and I really enjoyed that story I was creating. On my DAW I have three different choruses - set on the same chord structure - before I went for the one you can hear now. It was a real struggle to do the chorus last.


I find that if I get a catchy chorus in place first, then the rest of the song is far easier to compose. If I work in a linear way, verse then chorus, the whole thing's alwaysharder to glue together seamlessly. Like you Bill, I have several fragments swimming around my head or on my recorder at any point. Most are verse fragments, but when I think I have got something that is hooky or memorable enough to be a chorus, then that would be the favoured fragment I would choose to develop next. Far easier for me at any rate.


But I would love to know how others approach this too. Good topic Bill!  ::thumb::

PS: As the main writer for November Sound I would say you have an innate understanding of what makes a great chorus, even if articulating this makes you ask such a question. You do write some fab choruses Bill, hats off to you! Maybe it should be you sharing the tips! ;)
If you like novels with a musical theme, why not try 'Sixth Beatle - When Music Changed The World', easily found on Amazon and Google. It is amazing, although as the author I may be biased!


Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #2 on: July 30, 2018, 05:46:40
Thanks @MichaelA .... that's very nice of you.
What you write makes a lot of sense. I can certainly understand that difficulty with "verse first" songwriting.
Anyway, it's almost as if I have any inkling whatsoever that what I'm writing is actually a verse then I should: stop, put it on hold and come up with a chorus right quick. You think so? Maybe? Otherwise, the song will be much more difficult to write ... :-\
Or I guess I could keep writing with the knowledge that it's only a verse. Then, again, I'm back to that same question.   ::)
I wonder if something could be either or? Imagine a song fragment that could be a verse melody or chorus melody.
More questions than answers, I guess.


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Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #3 on: July 30, 2018, 11:02:35
I love questions about things that I don’t think about much, as a rule.
So @Bill from November Sound a great idea to come up with this.

So usually I have:
- verse/couplet
- bridge/hook
- chorus/refrain

When I travel, I jot down ideas, generally these ideas are completed choruses.
I use a chorus as the central ‘hub’ of the song. The story centers round this central idea.

When I am not traveling there are many moments when I am waiting. Waiting for my daughter for some reason or other, or my wife. One and a half hour next week for the car to be serviced. More than enough time to drink water, dream on and write four or five lyrics. And each lyric has a chorus as a starting point.

Like @smajor , I have a huge pile of lyrics. And these I glue to a melody. Each day a new song.

And a bit long winded of course, but this is how I distinguish the different part of a song.
I never start off to write a verse out of the blue.
So the verses lead up to the bridge and the bridge leads up to the chorus.

There is a poetry form in England, generally called a ‘hickeldy pickeldy’. This is, I think, rather funny. It’s considered to be light verse. Which suits me fine.
The crux is a single word of six syllables (if I use the right word - I mean individual parts of one word).
And this central word must be placed on the second line of the second part of the poem.

Formally it is not intended to be used as part of lyrics. For me it’s chorus number one.
For instance:
Sentence number one
Sustainability
Sentence number three
Sentence number four rhymes on number two

In my lyrics I use 2 choruses
Sentence number one
Sentence number two rhyming on number four
Sentence number three
Sustainability

All sentences are 6 syllables, with the accent on syllable one and four.
But I cheat now and then.

Ok, I say long winded but do not hesitate to begin another subject.
Be plea: be a bauhaus lyrics writer. Let form follow function.
And if you have a strong dialogue, observation, idea or whatever, it’s a bit a pity not to use that for your chorus.

I am very interested in how others tackle these subjects.
Nice topic Bill, thank you!
Kind regards, Gus


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Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #4 on: July 30, 2018, 12:42:20
Some of the new songwriting teachers are saying resist the urge to write any melody whatsoever until the words are completely done.

That is exactly the opposite of how I have always written. I can honestly say that I have never written a real song....that is to say I have never written out a set of lyrics to be put to music. I always start with a guitar riff that resonates somehow and then I let it spark some lyrics.

When those first lyrics do come I generally know if they are a verse of the chorus. If it feels like a hook that is repeatable I'll know that's its the chorus. Generally my choruses come late in the process, though, because I use them to tie together the lyrical story in a way that will hopefully draw my listeners in and hold them.

This past weekend, though.....they came out of the blue as a definite hook chorus. I was playing an upbeat guitar thing....tracked it to hold it.....and found myself singing Would a dime make a difference? Would a dollar make you stay? I knew it was a chorus and I knew it would be about an ex-wife.  ;)

"The main thing is to have a gutsy approach....but use your head." Julia Child

 "In a world of robotic conformity, the only originality left in music is the imperfections" Eric Craptone

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Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #5 on: July 30, 2018, 13:27:08
Funny you should quote the line where I balked, but not quite enough to repeat it.
My thought was: ‘resist the urge to listen to teachers’  but didn’t because it sort of felt like a nihilist hippie statement.
Obviously another way of working suits you fine and delivers great songs. What more can we ask for?

And let’s not forget, many of my heroes haven’t been able to write anything significant after they were 50, and we’re still in full swing. So luckily we found a way to do what we like in a productive way.
I (for one) can only be grateful for that.
Kind regards, Gus


Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #6 on: July 30, 2018, 18:52:04
Chorus always comes first for me, then the guitar riffs, verse and pre-chorus are written around that.

If I can't dream about the chorus being sung back to me on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, it's not good enough!  ;D


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Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #7 on: July 30, 2018, 19:09:57
ha, never mind those youngsters @Bill from November Sound  ...  to seriously answer your question, Bill

the chorus lines, lyrically, always arise from one or two lines that already have been used in the verses

only the chords change in the chorus, and one or two identical lyrical lines that were already in the verses, are the best to use to start the chorus

that way a hook is created instantly  :o :o :o :o, and it is even a double hook  :o :o :o :o :o :o

and! it is clear right away, what the title of the song is!  ::) 8) 8) 8)

no really, it works! try it....and also notice how often this happens in hits songs...from now on  ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

 
me, myself, and Pie


Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #8 on: July 30, 2018, 20:04:59
Interesting thread... I have no set way to be honest - sometimes words come first, sometimes a chord progression then a melody with temporary lyrics, which sometimes become the real lyrics .. In my last song the verse came first, the one I'm working on now, the chorus came first.. Sometimes I write a complete lyric and then put it to music - the lyrics will also be adapted once I get into the music, and actually right up to when I finish tracking the vocal.

Your thread did remind me of a quote by Shay Healey, writer of one of the Irish Eurovision winners "What's another year" by @Jambrains ' favourite singer, Johnny Logan  ;D ;D  - excuse the cursing, we Irish do that a lot :) !:

"Write a verse and a chorus, then f*** away the verse and make the chorus the verse, and write a chorus for the chorus.”

Not something I do but it did stick with me...
K


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Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #9 on: July 30, 2018, 20:36:01
How do you know if you just wrote a verse or a chorus?
Does it even matter? To me it mainly just a tool to describe/communicate and/or memorize the structure of a song, not something I think about very much when writing.
It's just names we designate to different structural parts of a song, like I go to my band mates: "Guys, I got a new song, the verse is a I-IV-V progression, the chorus is a bla-bla-bla progression, it's intro, double verse, chorus, verse, M8, guitar solo and double chorus." And they all get it but it would have worked just as well with ABBCBMSCC.

Let man's petty nations tear themselves apart
My land's only borders lie around my heart


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Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #10 on: July 30, 2018, 22:06:36
« Last Edit: July 30, 2018, 22:19:21 by LePlongeur »
Interesting thread... I have no set way to be honest - sometimes words come first, sometimes a chord progression then a melody with temporary lyrics, which sometimes become the real lyrics .. In my last song the verse came first, the one I'm working on now, the chorus came first.. Sometimes I write a complete lyric and then put it to music - the lyrics will also be adapted once I get into the music, and actually right up to when I finish tracking the vocal.

Your thread did remind me of a quote by Shay Healey, writer of one of the Irish Eurovision winners "What's another year" by @Jambrains ' favourite singer, Johnny Logan  ;D ;D  - excuse the cursing, we Irish do that a lot :) !:

"Write a verse and a chorus, then f*** away the verse and make the chorus the verse, and write a chorus for the chorus.”

Not something I do but it did stick with me...
K


I was tempted to erase away (?) part of your post @Zedd , just to get more attention to some part of it. But reading it (again and again) I wondered why some parts are more important than other parts.

So I didn’t erase, there is a need for all the words in the post.

Having said this, I wonder what the reason could be to throw away part of the lyrics.

The guy who wrote the curse, did’t tell us why we would succumb to his choice. Or maybe I looked across the reasons.

I hesitate to admit this, but I experimented with this chorus for verse swap. Or swop.
I’m used to writing more than I can use, so after three or four years I shredder the excess.
The thought that we all can wipe our bums with it is a consolation. And a great example of Amsterdam self mockery.
At some point I discovered writing six or seven times as much than I could use.

So I experimented with matching choruses, and using them as verses or bridges/hooks.
And I ‘glued’ together a couple of hundreds of lyrics. And, frankly, I am still not convinced. I was happy with the thought that I didn’t use one out of six choruses, but I think these lyrics have less focus than my normal lyrics would have had.

So it’s a devilish choice.
And I don’t know how to solve this.
But, if all goes well, I still stand by my priorities:
- chorus
- bridge
And these two define the rest of the story.

What a topic!!!
Kind regards, Gus


Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #11 on: July 30, 2018, 22:18:06
@Bill from November Sound   I saw this video on songwriting a while ago and this thread brought it to mind, it gets into the chorus a little after the 1 minute  mark. In my own stuff - I know a song needs or requires a chorus but I've written some with none at all (of course no one listens at all)




Vince


Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #12 on: August 01, 2018, 15:24:54
LOL  :D  @Vince  .... No way I'm going to get Melissa to sing stuff like that!  :D  "Write your songs like a bumper sticker" -- Ha,ha!


Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #13 on: August 01, 2018, 21:39:10

@MichaelA  really got me thinking about chorus and verse and song structure in different way with his "Sleepyhead" song. 
https://www.songwriter-forum-kitchen.com/forum/songs-for-review/2/sleepyhead-a-little-more-serious/4631/

It's funny though, what @Zedd is saying with ( I'll paraphrase here) "screw up that second verse" ... it's so true. Anybody else have trouble coming up with that second verse?

I often end up making a "place holder" as such to get through it and then come back to it over and over until I come up with something that is acceptable.  I read that the Ashes For Dreams song "I Am Perfect" was a jokey holder lyric .... and then they just went with it! Too funny! 
https://www.songwriter-forum-kitchen.com/forum/songs-for-review/2/i-am-perfect-ashes-for-dreams-jambrains-zedd/4586/


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Re: How do you know if it's the verse or the chorus?
Reply #14 on: August 01, 2018, 21:59:51
My weaker one often is the third verse.
Grabbing back attention with the fourth.
And then back to the bridge and chorus.

The chorus and bridge are repeated as a whole.
Individual lines are not repeated. Almost never.
I had enough of that at school:
I am not allowed to talk during geography (write that a 100 times and you are cured for all repetition).
I was a huge James Brown fan untill he started ‘take it to the bridge’ rep rep rep rep ad nausea.....

So, to quote Sandy Denny: ‘no more sad refrains’, being the reason why I called them refrains untill I came to the Kitchen.
News, you weren’t waiting for? Definitely!
Kind regards, Gus



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