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Section 12.1 Verse–Chorus Form

The Verse–Chorus form is arguably the most common musical form of present day popular music and is probably familiar to most readers of this text. In Verse–Chorus form, the chorus contains the “hook,” the memorable refrain, while the verse typically contains less memorable melodic material. A clear example can be found in the 1985 song “We Are the World.”

0:00–0:26 Introduction, 6 bars
0:26–0:53 Verse 1, 8 bars
0:53–1:18 Verse 2, 8 bars
1:18–1:49 Chorus, 9 bars
1:49–2:14 Verse 3, 8 bars
2:14–2:41 Chorus, 8 bars
2:41–3:08 Bridge, 8 bars
3:08–3:35 Chorus, 8 bars
3:35–4:02 Chorus, 8 bars ending with key change
4:02–end Chorus, 7 times in F major with fade out
Table 12.1.1 Jackson and Richie, “We Are The World”

Common additions to the Verse–Chorus form, beside the bridge, are the pre–chorus and post–chorus.

0:00–0:25 Introduction, 12 bars
0:25–0:42 Verse 1, 8 bars
0:42–0:58 Pre–chorus, 8 bars
0:58–1:23 Chorus, 9 bars
1:23–1:31 Post–chorus, 4 bars
1:31–1:39 Interlude, 4 bars
1:39–1:56 Verse 2, 8 bars
1:56–2:12 Pre–chorus, 8 bars
2:12–2:37 Chorus, 12 bars
2:37–2:45 Post–chorus, 4 bars
2:45–3:02 Guitar solo, 8 bars
3:02–3:10 Interlude, 4 bars
3:10–3:26 Verse 3, 8 bars
3:26–3:42 Pre–chorus, 8 bars
3:42–4:37 Chorus, 21 bars
Table 12.1.2 Cobain, Novoselic, and Grohl, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

It is worth noting that there may disagreement about labeling sections in a form. One person may call a section a “pre–chorus,” another may call it a “first chorus,” while another may call it “verse part b.” There is ambiguity in naming sections and disagreement is to be expected.

There are “simple” and “contrasting” verse–chorus forms. A simple verse–chorus form has the same harmonic progression for the verse and chorus (e.g., “All About That Bass”). The chord progressions for the verse and chorus are different in a contrasting verse–chorus form like “We Are the World.”