As we discussed earlier, a typical song can be split up into various sections. (see "Basic Song Structure")
By learning how to dissect a song into various sections you can make learning other artists songs much easier on the guitar. In addition, you can use that knowledge and apply it to your own songwriting.
Today we will discuss the "verse" of a song.
The verse is the part of the song that tells the "story" of what the song is about. In the verses the main "character(s)", the song setting, the song time and place, or the theme is laid for the listener. It is the place for describing what the song is about.
The events or scenes in the verse should lead up to the big "payoff" which is the chorus. (see "Songwriting - Chorus")
The theme of the song should be clear from beginning to end and make sense to a listener without taking too many detours and confusing them.
A great song starts out with a great opening verse. Within a line or two the listener has a pretty good feel for what the song is about. The opening verse does not have to give away any "surprises" that may come up in the chorus, but it should be clear from the beginning what the topic matter or theme of the song is.
Great verses will describe what is going on using images and details. "The click of the quarter rolling down the coin slot" draws the listener in more than, "he played a song on the jukebox".
The use of metaphors and simile in verse lyrics can be very effective in describing every day events in a fresh way.
Second Verse "Hell"
Let's say that you have written a great first verse. Everything is perfect. You have described the scene in a new and exciting way that is sure to get a listeners attention. The first verse leads naturally and seamlessly into the big chorus.
Everything is coming together, but then you make an attempt at writing the second first and, suddenly, you've hit a brick wall. No matter what you try, nothing seems to fit right.
This is what's known in Nashville as "second verse hell". What was once on the way to becoming a great song, gets stopped dead in its tracks. What do you do?
One common thing that pro writers do, if the first verse does not seem to be going forward, is to work backwards. Take the first verse and make it your second verse, then write a new first verse that leads up to the second verse.
The Theme Test
A common theme throughout the course of a song is essential for keeping the listener's attention. One popular way to check your song for continuity of theme is to check each line of the verses against the "hook".
Read the first line of the first verse and then say your hook all in one sentence. Does that one line mesh with what you are saying with the hook? When spoken out loud does that one sentence (verse line to hook) make sense? Do they all tie in together?
If not, if there is a break in the connection, it might be time to tweak your verse.
Then do the same process for each individual line of each verse. Put them all to the continuity of theme test.
If you discover that there is not one continuous theme throughout the whole song it will be hard to expect a listener to stick with you for three or four minutes.
Next time you sit down to write try to keep some of these things in mind. By making sure that your verses are doing their job, your chances of writing good songs will increase dramatically. Here are some great songwriting resources you may want to check out.
Nashville Songwriters Association International
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