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Writing a Great Verse

The Verse:
The verse is where you tell the story in the song. Each verse can be a micro-story and have it’s own theme united by the chorus, or the verses can continue the story throughout the song. Usually a good verse will need to be resolved or answered by the chorus. It is this feeling of anticipation that drives hit songs and makes you want to listen to what ‘s next. In the A/A/B/A song structure the verses are the “A” sections usually ending or starting with the hook or title, followed by the bridge or “B” section.

"With a lot of songs on this record, one verse doesn't relate to the next verse. I don't think that one day really relates to the next day in life". - Neil Young

Many hit producers now agree as well, start with a good story. Your story needs to draw the listener in and keep their attention on your story until the end. All the elements of good story telling apply (you remember English class don’t you?) your story needs a good opener, ask some questions, involve the listener and save a secret for the end. Don’t get sidetracked from your story, if you are confused about the message, your listener will not understand it either. Some songs are written from an emotional or political point of view but the same rules apply, stick to your message.

Find the story - Every one loves a good story (this is why the enquirer regularly outsell it’s serious competitors) and if you arouse the curiosity of the listener, they will stay with you for the pay off. The pay off is the climax of the story, the answer to the question. Sometimes this is also the hook, sometimes the hook asks the question. Don’t forget the rules of good writing; establish the characters and setting of your story.

"Who, What, Where, When, Why and How" are the questions that you can use to “hook” the listener in to your story. Your story will be incomplete and leave the audience feeling unfulfilled if you do not tell the whole story. Develop your song idea from verse to verse to make the chorus gain interest each time it is repeated. Give your final verse a "pay off" that rewards your listener for their attention, like the end of a good story. Saying all of this in an 8 bar verse can be difficult, never mind making it all rhyme. This is where visual story telling can be a big help.

A great hook - At the heart of a great song is a great hook. Most of the time this is a slightly different view on a common problem. Look around and think of an interesting or new way to say things that have been said already. Try to avoid the obvious clichés, or at least put a spin on it. The verse can be used to set up the hook at the end of the verse or in the choruses. It doesn’t hurt to have a few hooks in your song, but the main hook (in the chorus) should reflect the central theme or the title
of your song.

Natural Rhythms - Words tend to create their own rhythmical pattern according to how they are placed within a sentence or phrase. So, after you've collected some good ideas in your songwriting notebook, try to use the material to create a "hook" for your song. Be willing to experiment with different ways of saying something. Listen to the melodic structure as you speak. Take note of where your voice rises and falls. Try singing what you hear. Sing the lyric high, low, fast, and slow. Try it with a metal growl, or a soulful moan or spit it out in a rap. All these things can help spark the intuitive side of your brain.

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