What is a Verse?

Even if you don’t know much about the world of music, you’ve probably at least heard people talking about verses before.

But what exactly is a verse, and how does it fit into a song?

That’s exactly what we’re going to look at in this article, so even if you don’t know a thing about verses right now, you’ll know all that there is to know afterward. Let’s dive in!

What Is A Verse

Song Structure

When you’re talking about verses, you’re talking about song structure. Song structure, interestingly enough, refers to the structure of songs.

Big surprise. But what does that mean exactly?

Well, in most cases, popular songs follow one of a few different common structures, and verses are parts that are repeated throughout the song, usually with some changes, to contrast with choruses.

Let’s use an example to demonstrate: the song Complicated by Avril Lavigne. After a brief intro section, the song starts with the following verse:

Chill out, what ya yellin' for?
Lay back, it's all been done before
And if, you could only let it be, you will see
I like you the way you are
When we're driving in your car
And you're talking to me one on one, but you become
Somebody else
'Round everyone else
You're watching your back
Like you can't relax
You try to be cool
You look like a fool to me
Tell me

This is the song’s first verse.

We’ll get a bit more into what that means in a moment, but the important thing to know is that verses usually contrast with choruses.

Right after this part in the song comes the first chorus, which is:

Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?
I see the way you're acting like you're somebody else
Gets me frustrated
Life's like this, you
And you fall, and you crawl, and you break
And you take what you get, and you turn it into
Honesty and promise me I'm never gonna find you faking
No, no, no

Aside from the fact that the words in the chorus and verse are different, if you listen to the song, you’ll find that the music is different as well.

This is because the verse usually contrasts with the chorus musically to add variety and interest to the song, as it can get a bit boring if the same thing gets repeated with no variation.

The chorus is usually the section that sums up the main idea of what the song is about, including the key emotion being expressed in the song.

In this song, Avril is upset with someone, maybe a romantic interest.

This is expressed directly in the chorus, but the verse is less straightforward. Instead, it gives clues and additional details that are relevant to the theme, building up to it.

We can see this again if we look at the second verse next:

You come over unannounced
Dressed up like you're somethin' else
Where you are and where it's at you see
You're making me
Laugh out when you strike your pose
Take off all your preppy clothes
You know you're not fooling anyone
When you become
Somebody else
'Round everyone else
You're watching your back
Like you can't relax
You try to be cool
You look like a fool to me
Tell me

Notice that the words in the second verse are not only different from the chorus, but they’re different from the first verse as well.

This is common with verses because this way they can add more details to the story of the song and give more variations on the theme.

Other Ways Of Using Verses

Other Ways Of Using Verses

Complicated and its structure are just one example of a very common way of writing a song.

Having a verse followed by a chorus that’s musically and lyrically different is called “contrasting verse-chorus form”.

However, there are several ways that you can switch things up if you don’t want to stick to the standard formula.

The history of songwriting is very long and there’s not a lot that hasn’t been tried at least once.

One thing you can do is to keep the same verse-chorus-verse structure, but without changing the words between verses.

This can be done to keep a song simple or to emphasize the content of that verse. Morning Glory by Oasis is an example of this in action.

Another way is to have the song so that the music is the same in the verses as in the chorus – this is unusual, but there are several examples, such as Louie Louie by the Kingsmen. This is called “simple verse-chorus form”.

There is also a form called “simple verse form”, which is similar to simple verse-chorus form, except that they don’t have a chorus.

Songs like this are often either blues songs or songs heavily based on blues music, though there are exceptions. Purple Haze by The Jimi Hendrix Experience is one of the most famous.

Think about your favorite song or more or less any song that you might hear being played on the radio, and you’ll probably be able to recognize something like some of these patterns going on.

There are songs that subvert these patterns in all kinds of ways, but there’s usually a pretty familiar pattern you can notice.

Final Thoughts

So, to put it briefly, verses are parts of most songs.

They are typically repeated throughout the song, and the words are usually different with each repetition.

Importantly, they also provide contrast to the chorus. As well as being musically different from the chorus, they have different words, too.

This allows them to develop the themes and details of the song’s story or idea in a different way to the chorus.

Now that you know all of this, you can try out using verses in a few different ways when you write songs, and you’ll also be able to notice the ways that songs you hear on the radio use them, too.