Break it Down: The Verse

Within the songwriter’s universe much attention is given to the chorus section or “hook” of a tune, but perhaps of equal, if not obvious, importance is a song’s verse section.

When you really think about it, it’s pretty crucial to have strong verses. Most popular song structures feature a verse on their song’s timeline before their venerable chorus makes its grand entrance. As such, the verse is usually the primary musical statement that a listener experiences. First impressions being what they are, as songwriters, shouldn’t we be giving our verses the same creative attention as our choruses?

Musically speaking, a verse should reel the audience in with a unique hook of its own. A hook powerful enough to engage the listener and propel the track forward, yet subtle enough as to not outdo the chorus that’s soon to come.

Lyrically, a verse can serve many functions; it can set the stage, it can tell a detailed story, it may impart an abstract mood or play straight-man to the chorus’ punch line. The possibilities are endless.

Follow along with the break-out below and listen to some well-crafted verses in action via this Fleetwood Mac classic, “The Chain”:

(Can’t see the vid? Click here)
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INTRO
VERSE
CHORUS
INTRO
VERSE
CHORUS

BRIDGE
SOLO

CODA
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Did you notice how the quiet sparseness of the kick drum and Dobro on the first verse subtly draws you in while simultaneously setting the ominous tone of the track? Did you catch how the lush, vocal harmonies add a sugary counterbalance and hook to the dark verses but never truly overshadow the catchy choruses that follow?

Next time you find yourself writing a new tune, give your verses a second look. Are you treating them like place-holding, red-headed stepchildren or are you giving them the love and nurturing they deserve?

As always, build it (well) and they will come…

-Posted by Mark

A recurring feature on IVC, “Break it Down” tries its hand at demystifying song structure by deconstructing popular tunes in various styles.



Mark Bacino
is a singer/songwriter based in New York City with three album releases to his credit as an artist. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists or composing for television/advertising via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark is also a contributing writer for Guitar World as well as the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus.

www.introversechorus.com

Break it Down: Chorus First

With this installment of “Break it Down”, I thought I’d discuss an option sadly underutilized in contemporary composition: ‘chorus first’ song structuring. Before taking in The Beatles’ “She Loves You” (below) as a stellar example of the form, let’s have a closer look at this classic structure.

The ‘chorus first’ construct (not an official title, just my label), simply put, begins a song not with a typical intro or verse, but with what would traditionally be considered a tune’s chorus or refrain.

Conventional composition generally dictates that we view the chorus, usually the richest and most memorable part of the song, as a sacred section best introduced later in the timeline; a section that should be grown into, with the writer organically ratcheting up a song’s intensity and the listener’s interest through the gradual addition of “lesser” structural elements (the aforementioned intro, verses, etc). ‘Chorus first’ challenges this slow-burn approach by alternately offering a fully formed refrain straight out of the gate, grabbing the audience and pulling them in from the get-go.

Let’s listen to ‘chorus first’ in action and follow along with the break-out below.

(Can’t see the vid? Click here)
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CHORUS
VERSE
PRE-CHORUS
VERSE
PRE-CHORUS

CHORUS
VERSE
PRE-CHORUS

CHORUS (w/ turnaround)
CODA
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As masterfully illustrated by The Beatles above, ‘chorus first’ structuring is most definitely a powerful device and one worth exploring within one’s own writing. It offers your listener the catchiest, most lyrically concise part of your song, right from the start, as a statement of both topical intent and super-melodic invitation. As they say, you only get one chance at making a first impression; why not make it a great one by using the ‘chorus first’ form.

As always, build it (well) and they will come…

-Posted by Mark

A recurring feature on IVC, “Break it Down” tries its hand at demystifying song structure by deconstructing popular tunes in various styles.



Mark Bacino
is a singer/songwriter based in New York City with three album releases to his credit as an artist. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists or composing for television/advertising via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark is also a contributing writer for Guitar World as well as the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus.

www.introversechorus.com

Break it Down: Take Me to the Bridge

Ok, so your song has a catchy verse and a killer hook of a chorus. Now what? Throw in a solo section and call it a day? Maybe, but how about adding a bridge?

What is This Confounded Bridge?

Revered by experienced tunesmiths but often overlooked by novice writers, “the bridge”, or the “middle-eight” as some call it (derived from its typical, but not set in stone, 8-bar length), is a songwriting device/song section that’s traditionally used to change things up mid-tune, breathing new life into the structure of a song.

Why Should I Take Anyone There?

After having given your listeners a few healthy doses of your song’s verse and chorus sections, your bridge provides you, the writer, with an opportunity to introduce your audience to a totally new chord progression, top-line melody and/or lyrical slant. This fresh, left-field addition to your tune’s architecture serves to recapture your listener’s attention while also giving them a bit of a break from your song’s main motifs. Thanks to the bridge, your audience’s ears are now refreshed, their sonic palates are cleansed and they’re ready for one last go-around as you serve up that final helping of your tune’s verse, refrain, etc.

Many Bridges to Cross

In addition to changing up your chord structure, melody line or lyrical content, there are many other ways one can craft a bridge; How about switching time signatures or keys? What if you used a solely instrumental passage as a bridge in a song with lyrics? The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination.

Try It, It’s Easy

So, new writers, if you haven’t as of yet, try adding a bridge section to one of your latest tunes and see if it has a positive effect on your composition. Also, check out this example of a classic bridge in action, courtesy of the retro-tastic Commodores (Bridge section begins at 2:16 in. Lyrics listed below).

As always, build it (well) and they will come…

(Can’t see the vid? Click here)

Bridge Lyrics:

I wanna be high, so high
I wanna be free to know the things I do are right
I wanna be free, just me…

-Posted by Mark

A recurring feature on IVC, “Break it Down” tries its hand at demystifying song structure by deconstructing popular tunes in various styles.



Mark Bacino
is a singer/songwriter based in New York City with three album releases to his credit as an artist. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists or composing for television/advertising via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark is also a contributing writer for Guitar World as well as the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus.

www.introversechorus.com

Break it Down

A recurring feature on IVC, “Break it Down” will try its hand at demystifying song structure by deconstructing various popular tunes in various styles, taking a peak under the hood so to speak, to see what makes them tick.

Song structure (or lack thereof) can definitely prove to be a source of considerable frustration, especially for new writers. You might have a great collection of hooks or parts but how you string them together can really make or break a tune. 

While there’s certainly no “rules” as to how a writer should structure their tunes, there are however some tried and true classic structures (especially in the pop tradition) and variations on the like that just plain work, build excitement and keep the listener’s attention. Why not look at these workhorse structures from songs past, incorporate them into our own work or at least use them as a springboard for our own variations on the theme?

For our first song, I thought it apropos to kick things off with something from the masters - Check out this iconic Beatles’ cut for one example of classic pop song structure. As you listen, follow along with the break-out below.
On the surface this may seem like a simple song with a seemingly simple structure but don’t be fooled, there’s a lot going on within its streamlined frame -

(Can’t see the vid? Click here)
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INTRO

The tune kicks off with an instrumental melodic figure for an intro that eases us into the song but piques our interest.
VERSE
CHORUS
Vocals make their first entrance in the verse slightly upping the ante then a powerful, building first chorus grabs us and seals the deal.
INTRO
Now this is where things get a little sneaky. The instrumental intro is brought back into play to bring the dynamics down a hair from the high of the chorus and to help set up verse two BUTnotice this intro is half the length of the original at the head of the song. It’s like they want to take things down and vent off a little steam from that chorus but not for too long as to loose our attention.
VERSE
CHORUS
INTRO
The previous three-section pattern repeats itself to really reinforce the hooks and then just when you think you know all there is to know about this jam…
BRIDGE
A totally fresh, palate-cleansing musical section makes its entrance into the song, giving us a bit of a sonic vacation before sending us back to the main motifs.
INTRO
VERSE
CHORUS
OUTRO
The tune barrels its way home here with a chorus that turns around on its tail as the original intro figure weaves itself back into the picture, raising the excitement level before morphing into a totally unique little coda.
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Two minutes and five seconds of lean, mean pop song structure perfection.

So… next time you finish a new tune, take a few minutes and really zero in on its structure. Try listing the sections down on paper like above. Sometimes this simple visualization of your construct will lend you some perspective. Ask yourself if the structure you’ve created is helping to build the song in a concise and exciting way or are some sections just weighing things down.

Build it (well) and they will come…

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts/ideas/questions on song structure. Leave a comment or drop us an email.

-Posted by Mark


Mark Bacino
is a singer/songwriter based in New York City with three album releases to his credit as an artist. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists or composing for television/advertising via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark is also the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus.

www.introversechorus.com