In Listening To Songs – Parts 1, 2 and 3, we learned how to listen for the PRE-CHORUS lifting into a CHORUS that included the HOOK. Hearing this combination of song parts is key to knowing the structure of a song. But structure doesn’t tell you what the song is about. What the song is about, the subject of a song, is found in the lyric which is emotionalized by the music. This lyric is found in the VERSE.
The VERSE gives backstory, describes character traits, indicates time and the world your song lives in. It also indicates who is singing to whom. And if done successfully, the VERSE points to the message contained in the CHORUS and HOOK. It is the glue that holds all the song parts together.
There is no limit to how many VERSES a song can have. In a standard pop song, there are usually two. VERSE 1 is where we hear about the story, character description, time and place. We learn who is speaking to whom. VERSE 2 continues the story while keeping a consistent through line from VERSE 1 to VERSE 2. Both VERSES point to the CHORUS.
Listening to a VERSE differs greatly from listening to a CHORUS. A CHORUS repeats multiple times, while a VERSE is heard one time. You have to hear it and absorb its meaning as it passes through your ears. A song with a poorly written VERSE is hard to hear. When this happens, your listening is interrupted, your attention drifts away. Listening to VERSES takes deep concentration which sometimes means that you have to listen to a VERSE more than once to get what it’s about.
Here’s a way to improve your VERSE listening skills. Find a song where you are familiar with the CHORUS. You will be listening to only the VERSEs. Play VERSE 1, stop the recording, think about what it is saying and then listen to it again. You will be amazed at how much more you hear the second time through. Repeat this for VERSE 2. Listen to it, stop the recording. This time, you will now notice that you are hearing even more the first time through. Focused listening of VERSES helps you comprehend the meaning more quickly. The focused listening allows you to hear if the VERSE is pointing to the message of the song in the CHORUS.
VERSE listening should be done in a quiet place. Focusing on hearing the VERSE is a very powerful and important skill to have as a songwriter. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. Listen to VERSES.
The art of writing is rewriting and listening.