What is a Song Verse? Do You Really Know?

Whenever I look back to when I first started writing a song verse I can remember being more concerned with rhyming words than I was about what the sections of a song were called, or their function. I didn’t completely comprehend what a song verse was.

What is a song verse? A song verse, which normally occurs at the beginning of a song, is the songwriter’s first opportunity to introduce the listener to the subject matter. The verse typically contains specific details and its message should support what the chorus’ main theme of the song is about.

There are instances where a song begins with the chorus but for this article, I’m going to approach the discussion of the verse as if it is placed first.

Detail is Vital in Song Verses

The verse is the place to get specific with your details. You are setting the scene with a snapshot of what the overall theme of the song is about. These details support what the chorus is going to be communicating. The chorus is where the general message of the song resides.

Think about how you can involve as many of our human senses as possible and do it with imagery. Paint the story image into your listener’s mind with your words, don’t just tell it.

You need to grab the listener’s attention and curiosity from the very first line. If you give them a boring opening line or two the only thing left listening to the rest of the song will be crickets. You don’t want a cricket song, trust me. I’ve written plenty of them!

First Verse Example

I want you to examine the first verse of a song I co-wrote called, “Love Shining Through”.  But first, I’ve written the chorus below so you can see what the theme of the song is.

That’s a picture of love, an image that won’t fade away

A light that shines in the darkness, turning the night into day

More than just words so easily spoken but lacking the power of truth

Putting yourself at the end of the line, that’s LOVE SHINING THROUGH

OK, you get the basic theme of the song.. putting other people’s interests above your own. Now let’s look at the verses beginning with verse one and see how they lead to the main theme of the song.

Verse 1

3am the baby’s cryin’, up for the third time tonight

You know mama won’t quit tryin’ to make sure that her little girl’s alright

Another sleepless night together, and lately there’s been quite a few

A soft lullaby and whisper “goodnight”, that’s LOVE SHINING THROUGH

Do you see how there are specifics given that support what the main theme of the song is? The setting is established with the first line .. it’s deep into the night, and there’s a fussy baby that has woken up multiple times. Then I describe how the mother reacts to that situation. She is gently singing a song and quietly talking to her baby to calm her down.

I hope I’ve helped you begin to understand the role of a song verse. It is crucial that you nail it with the opening verse. It needs to be as detailed as possible and lead the listener into the chorus where the theme of the song will be revealed.

Writing a Second Verse

Now I want to discuss the writing of a second verse (and subsequent ones). This verse continues to support the theme of the song. It should also include detailed descriptions but come from a different angle. That angle can either further the story initiated in the first verse or introduce a brand new angle but still be related to the song theme. Below is an example of introducing new details not necessarily related to the first verse but still representing the main theme of the song.

The second verse of “Love Shining Through”.

Doctors say she won’t get better, her mind is drifting away

Her husband promised her forever, so right by her side he’s gonna stay

A promise made and never broken, that started when they said “I do”

Till death do we part he meant from the heart, that’s LOVE SHINING THROUGH

The second verse in this song tells a completely different story than the first verse. However, it still reinforces what the theme of the song is and leads up to that point with each line. I want to stress that last point I made. The verses should be detailed and specific and relate to the theme of the song as a whole.

You can listen to the song here

Verses and Rhyme Pattern

One more point about the verses.. whichever rhyme pattern you use in verse 1 needs to be replicated in each verse thereafter. The listener will get confused if you switch it up. They are conditioned by the time verse 1 is finished as to what to expect to hear. You can read my article Types of Rhymes in Songs.

Each Line Pointing to the Title

Sometimes you can pull off having each line of the verse point to the hook or title. A test of that is to read each line then say the title of the song right after. Let’s try that with another song I wrote called, “I’m Wishing You Were Here”

Silent night, lonely night  (I’m Wishing You Were Here)

All’s too calm it’s just not right (I”m Wishing You Were Here)

One less stocking hung this year, I’M WISHING YOU WERE HERE

Silent night, lonely night  (I’m Wishing You Were Here)

My heart breaks at the sight (I’m Wishing You Were Here)

Christmas eve without you near, I’M WISHING YOU WERE HERE

Do you see how saying the title (in parenthesis)  reveals that the line is pointing to that hook? Then the hook/title is sung at the end of the last line of each section.

Here is the chorus to that song so you can see how the verses paint the details that support the main theme found in the chorus

Christmas ain’t Christmas if you’re not with me

Just one more reminder of what used to be

I’ll be brave and fight these tears

I’m wishing you were here

You can listen to the song here

Point, Point, Point to the Hook!

The whole point here, and I want to drive this home, is to use the verse to lead the listener along the path to the hook/theme of the song. I’ve stated this multiple times because it is that important. Creating interest and curiosity is key to keeping the ear of your listeners. Make your opening lines unique, memorable, and interesting enough to accomplish that. If you can place the hook/title in the verse as well as the chorus, and make it not sound forced, you are on your way to crafting a memorable song. I have an entire article dedicated to writing hooks. What is the Hook in a Song?

Final Thoughts

I trust I’ve answered the question, “what is a song verse”. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the role that the verse plays in a song. Keep these tips in mind as you start to craft your song. Read as much as you can on the subject. Most of all, keep writing, keep writing, and keep writing. That is the only way to improve your craft. If you’re still reading this I have no doubt you’re serious about getting better. Thanks for hanging here this far. I can’t wait to hear the hit you will write someday!


Ronnie Lee Hurst

Hello! I've been a singer/songwriter for years and have a passion for crafting a new song. I also want to help teach the craft to new songwriters coming along.

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