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Verse-chorus form: Map

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Verse-chorus form is a musical form common in popular music and predominant in rock since the 1960s. In contrast to AABA form, which is focused on the verse (contrasted and prepared by the bridge), in verse-chorus form the chorus is highlighted (prepared and contrasted with the verse). (Covach 2005, p.71)

The chorus often sharply contrasts the verse melodically, rhythmically, and harmonically, and assumes a higher level of dynamics and activity, often with added instrumentation. See: arrangement.

Contrasting verse-chorus form

Songs which use different music for the verse and chorus are in contrasting verse-chorus form. Examples include:

Simple verse-chorus form

Songs that use the same music for the verse and chorus (also known as 'Strophic'), such as the twelve bar blues, though the lyrics feature different verses and a repeated chorus, are in simple verse-chorus form. Examples include:

Simple verse form

Songs which feature only a repeated verse are in simple verse form (verse-chorus form without the chorus). Examples include: and with a contrasting bridge: Both simple verse-chorus form and simple verse form are strophic forms.

Source

  • Covach, John. "Form in Rock Music: A Primer", in Stein, Deborah (2005). Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-517010-5.


The terms "verse" and "chorus" arose out of musical theatre going back to the early part of the twentieth century. Originally, and this definition is still used by many in music theatre or those whose repertoire is derived largely from theatre and standards ( older jazz musicians, whose repertoire is largely derived from American Standards from the theatre, use the earlier definition of the terms), the verse was the vocal introduction and the chorus is the refrain, the familiar body of the song we identify as the song. You can find old piano/vocal music which still use these terms accordingly -- where the refrain, i.e., the chorus, is the song that we are all familiar with. For example, we often hear Tony Bennett sing the verse ( a vocal introduction in rubato tempo ) to the song, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco". The song is the chorus. Sometimes the music will use the term "refrain", in lieu of the term "chorus". In the late sixties, the terms changed in pop music probably the result of young musicians misundertanding old sheet music they had seen when they were children taking lessons. In later years musicians, learning about songwriting, probably pulled the terms from memory to denote the various parts of a song, which is to say, making assumptions about their meaning ( and it is primarily because the assumptions are logical ). So the meaning of these terms have evolved. It is also notable that most songwriters in pop and rock music are unaware of the terms' original meaning.

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