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What is the standard length for verses?

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Are there any standards about how long the verse should be? Especially when compared to the chorus. My problem is that when I write lyrics, my verses are about the same size as the choruses, i.e. short. Is it okay to have short verses or should the verses be longer than choruses? Also, are there any other rules for verses?

Also, sorry if I am in the wrong thread. Point me to the right one.

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I'm on my phone so I can't see which thread  you posted to but it's a good question to ask.


As far as lyrics go, you need to look at the bigger picture really to get to your answer.  Imagine the song.  If you can hear the music, there is certain music for verse sections, and then  a change happens and we are hearing different music and  then another change back to verse music and then maybe a third and a fourth movement.  Add an introduction and a strum at the end wand you have a song's worth of music.  


Verse length is determined by what is happening, it could be 8 bars, but I've seen more.  I've seen songs that have no chorus at all, others that start with the chorus. If you want a patern to go by, you can do a standard song form of 8 bars, 8 bars, 8 bars, 8 bars,  where the first, second and fourth sections are written as verse sections but the third is written as bridge.  It's a common song form.  But you don't have to stick to the lyrics being 8 bars, you could think of there being only five bars of lyrics inside the 8 bars of music and you could see where there would be more atmosphere to set a mood musically.  And you can come around again with the third section again.  Normally the refrain will either be the first line of 1,2 and 4 section or the last line of them.  If you seperate the refrain out of the rest of the stanza, you may be be up with 6 lines of lyrics in what looks like a consistent verse structure, and a couple of lines for the refrain, which looks like a chorus now.  Do that for all the sections and it ends up as verse chorus verse chorus bridge verse chorus.  Line length, and stanza length will be derived from tempo and melody.  


For me, there is no set answer and I always think of the saying "there are no rules, only rules of thumb.



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This thread is in the ideal place, Nine90. :)


The answer to your question is not straightforward. The number of lines of lyrics is dependent on a number of musical factors relating to the melody. It doesn't hurt lyricists to learn some music theory basics. Assuming that music can always be fitted to lyrics, especially if you don't understand some music related issues. It's definitely worth the effort. It can be a great idea for lyricists to learn to play at least one instrument. You don't need to be an expert, but be able to play is definitely an advantage.


A lot of starting lyricists who don't play an instrument don't understand why their lyrics aren't working. Musicians they work with ask them to make changes all the time, or the melodies they come up with to fit the songs aren't that great. What the lyricists aren't getting is that what they do, as lyricists, impacts the melody. A song is a fusion of words and music. The balance may vary depending on genre, but both melody and lyrics are important, and both depend on each other to really shine. It's not there is not beauty in each part, more that together they are more than just the parts.


If a song is written lyrics first, what the lyricist produces can either make the music writer's job easy or more difficult. Very difficult. Almost impossible, if the lyricist is not prepared to make changes


Verses can vary greatly in length, as can chorus lyrics or the lyrics of other song sections. As a simplistic view. typically, most common would be 4 line and 8 line song sections. An even number of lines is more common than an odd number of lines. Some genres tend to work with longer verses, for good reason. For example, country songs are often ballads, and use "ballad song form" as a standard. The basic format for a ballad is that the verses tell a story. Instead of a chorus they work with a refrain line or lines. (you can find out about ballad form, song sections etc in the Songstuff songwriting articles. Those articles should help fill in quite a few gaps, but they are likely to also raise a few more questions... so don't hesitate to ask.




For lyricists who don't play, I would recommend starting with a melody and writing words to fit it. You can start with some existing songs, though it is a better exercise if you have something where you can hear melody without the words, otherwise they mihgt influence your song too much. The point is to use it to give you a framework to work with. Something that gives you rhythm, tempo and a sense of line lengths. If you can work with original melodies, even better.





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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, but, are they songs?  Are you singing them in other words.  There are a lot of different lengths for verses and a lot of different reasons to write songs.  I think of Alistairs songs while writing this.  He has some that have really long verses and they work just fine.  Rap music has long verses.  


Any way of writing works if the song works.  It's when the parts of the song arent working together that makes editing and changing how you write necessary.   Most lyrics get edited to clarify meaning or to fit the meter or clean up rhymes because and the number of lines usually varies little.  It seems we naturally write between certain parameters of tempo and songs seem to fall into the pattern of structure which suits them.  If you have a long story, you either have longer verses or more verse sections.  A shorter story may only be one verse long, so you write a few short stories that all tie into what your chorus means.  If you have a killer hook, all the verses could suffer in the desire to hurry and get to the hook again, this is a good time to consider how best to edit.  Taking into consideration the mood, or which direction to come from which best highlights the hook.  Sometimes, you may want to stretch out your verses to delay revealing the hook.  Build up anticipation, sometimes delaying it until the end of the song.


there are a lot of reasons to write this way or that way but I think it's about the song and not a criteria  checklist.  Except, without some of that checklist, all you have is a mess.  But, the songs you write come from within.  You give them rhythm, you give them words, you give them meaning.  

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  • 7 months later...

I would definitely encourage you to show us.  To a certain extent, rules are made to be broken. :)  These are but guidelines, "rules of thumb" that usually work and that are typically used.  But good songs don't have to be typical.


A song starts with a story and I think that the most-important thing of all for it to do is to "hook me with a headline."  Then, tell the story in an engaging way.  If you can make the tunesmith's task easier along the way, so much the better.  Think about the principles of storytelling, knowing that you'll be telling that story in verse (not prose) that's intended to be set to music.


As you write, don't throw anything away.  That means, don't highlight text and delete it to write something else: use the "strikethrough" button (you might have to customize a word-processor's toolbar to get it), or turn the page in your loose-leaf notebook with your #2 pencil.  Keep everything that you come up with as you work non-destructively to fit them all together into a final form that works.  There's no pre-set path through these woods, until you finally make one, and sometimes your explorations come up with material that can be used in several future tunes or variations.  (Even, "the songs that you think are pure crap" ... keep them, and, when your creative juices seem stuck, go back and listen again to a few of 'em. You never know. It might suddenly be perfect.)


It would be a shame if you threw-away something because it "didn't fit the form" when it did fit the story that you're trying to tell.

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  • 4 months later...


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