The rhythmic structure of the song is primarily composed of the words or lyrics that tell a story. This pattern of the words is known as the verse.
However, what you need to understand is that the verse in a song is no different than that in a poem.
So then, how could one term the “verse” in a song as being different from the regular poetic one? What is the essential role and function of the verse, and how does it work to make a definite piece of music?
These are a few things that may feel a bit tricky for you to understand right now if you are just stepping into the world of music.
That’s why in the following sections of this guide, we have attempted to define and explain the significant role of the verse for you.
Simply read on to know what is a verse in a song.
What is a verse to begin with?
A verse can be termed as a series of lyrics which tell you the main story in the song, furthering the actions and thoughts with the song’s progression. Verses hold the central idea of any song, and there can be a single or multiple verses in a musical composition.
However, no matter how many verses are contained in a song, they will always retain the main idea and go on to explore it in many different ways.
A verse, in popular music, behaves like a poetic stanza as it keeps a rhyming scheme of AABB or ABAB for all its lyrics. Interestingly, if a song has two or more sections that have almost a similar-sounding melody with different lyrics, each section will be taken as one verse.
But, you must remember to not confuse this pattern with a pre-verse, which is an interlude, falling in between the introductory portion of the song and its opening verse. Although the pre-verse is not very popular anymore, it had garnered some serious fame in the surf music genre of the 1960s.
How does the verse work stylistically?
The verse is a unit that is responsible for “prolonging” the “tonic” of the music. And, the reason why we stressed these two words right now has got everything to do with your understanding of what is a verse in a song.
The “prolongation” is a process, specifically in tonal music, which allows an interval, a pitch, or a consonant triad to dominate different spans of music even when they aren’t physically sounding. The “tonic,” on the other hand, is what is identified as the first “scale degree” of the first note of a set scale, which is the diatonic scale.
In addition to that, the tonic is also the tonal center and the final resolution tone. This is extensively used in the final cadence in classical, traditional, and popular music on key-based devices.
Now, when we talk about the verse in relation to these two elements, it is to be understood that the musical structure of the verse almost always repeats at least once with any set of lyrics. The verse controls the rhythmic behavior of these two aspects in a musical composition.
Additionally, one of the biggest roles that the verse plays is that of supporting the refrain or chorus, lyrically, and musically. A verse is fundamentally an emotionally charged song which is woven with a repeatedly sung melody, where the words change depending on the use.
What is a bridge in a song?
The “bridge” in a musical composition can be perceived as two things. It can be called a “transition.” Or, more often in popular music, a bridge may be termed as a section which directly draws a distinction with the verse. It usually ceases at the dominant note, often leading up to an impactful re-transitional.
The bridge could be called a device which is used to split up the repetitive pattern in a song, helping to maintain the listener’s attention. Also, in a bridge, you will find the patterns of the music and words to be ever-changing.
The song “Country Roads” by John Denver is a clear example of a song containing a bridge. While, on the other hand, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” is a good example of a song without a bridge.
How is the pre-chorus associated with the verse?
The “pre-chorus” is defined as an optional section which may appear right after a verse. It is also known as a “channel,” a “build,” or a “transitional bridge.” The pre-chorus mainly serves to connect the verse and the chorus together, by using subdominant or similar transitional harmonies.
It so happens that a two-phrase verse which contains basic chords is followed by a passage, and often leads to a full chorus.
Also, when the chorus and the verse use the same harmonic structure, the pre-chorus creates a new harmonic pattern. This prepares the verse chords to transform into the chorus gradually.
The construction of the verse-chorus-bridge form
To put it simply, every song maintains a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus pattern. The theme of the composition is set by the first verse, and the last line of the piece offers a natural progression to this choric pattern.
The chorus is that part of the song that contains the central idea of the song. It contains the “hook” or the “title” of the song and foregrounds the idea of it. And, the verse, in this regard, working in close relation with the chorus, unveils new details which are enhanced and furthered by another choric fragment.
The bridge, coming right after this, is often, if not always, shorter than the overall structure of the verse. It must always be different from the form and structure of the verse, in both lyrical and musical ways. And, it should be noted that the bridge provides a reason and a purpose for the chorus to be repeated.
What’s a Verse-Chorus?
The verse-chorus is a definite musical form which is pretty common in popular music, and has been used in rock and roll as well as blues since the 1950s. The verse-chorus was a predominant element in rock music since the ’60s.
Unlike the 32-bar form, which concentrates on the verse, the verse-chorus highlights the chorus itself. While the 32-bar form is prepared by the B-section and is contrasted by it, the verse-chorus is developed and contrasted in the composition by the structure of the verse.
Some excellent examples of the verse-chorus are many Civil War songs which had been brought into popular culture by Foster. These were extensively imitated by his successors and peers, and had their choruses formed in a 4-part harmony.
While in both forms, A is usually the verse, and B is the chorus, in the AABA pattern, the verse takes the most time, and the chorus leaves to contrast and guide the verse back. Whereas, in the verse-chorus form, the chorus usually takes way more time proportionally, while the verse goes to lead it back in.
You could take “Be My Baby” as an example of the ABABB(B) scheme, rather than the 32-bar form AABA pattern.
The chorus usually contrasts the verse rhythmically, harmonically, and melodically, assuming a higher level of activity and dynamics, often accompanied by added instrumentation. This is, in fact, known as a “breakout chorus.”
Therefore, the verse chorus verse relationship is something that you will need to understand if you wanted to know how exactly they pair up together to create harmony.
How to create a verse?
Unlike a poem, which rarely requires a melody to go with, a verse in a song is comparatively more challenging to structure correctly. Being able to maintain the rhythmic pattern in a lyrical verse depends on how well you can balance out the different aspects of the structure.
To make it even simpler for you, here are a few things you should keep in mind while writing a song-verse.
1. Establish a central idea or theme for your verse, which is more focused on a specific topic, rather than a general or universal idea.
2. The visual imagery of your composition should clearly reflect through your choice of lyrics. A good verse should always open a point of relation for your listeners.
3. Set the rhyming scheme of the verse; you can start with the ABAB scheme, and then proceed to the more complex AABB pattern.
4. Measure and establish the length of your song’s verse-structure. Make sure it coordinates well with the tempo and could be sung comfortably within the least span of time.
5. Balance the rhythm with all the other elements in your composition. The opening pieces should connect seamlessly with the ending.
Understanding the verse and then creating one all by yourself are both equally challenging tasks. And, it could get increasingly difficult if you tried to compose one without understanding the vital roles played by all the other devices working in close association with it.
The versification of a song requires a delicate balance of such elements to function ideally, and it does take an in-depth knowledge of its workings to get it right.
And, that is precisely what we have tried to help you with, in this extensive guide on what is a verse in a song.
We hope you liked what you read.
Till next time!