Skip to main content

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.”

Table 12.1.1. Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, “We Are The World” (1985)
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

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

Table 12.1.2. Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)
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, 12 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

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.”