How To Write A Second Verse

Sep 04, 2021

How do I write a good second verse?

Why is writing a good second verse so hard?

What is the purpose of a second verse?

Let’s talk about it.

 

What Is The Purpose Of A Second Verse?

Fundamentally, the purpose of a second verse is to advance the story.

Your first verse should have set the stage for the story. The listener already knows the song’s situation and characters.

Your second verse is what should contain the next steps in the story. Stories are generally in the 3 act format. The second verse will generally fit the role of the second act.

A story’s second act is also known as the “rising action”. This is the part of the story when the character often struggles and fails to resolve their problem. 

The second act also contains the midpoint of the story. This is usually when the protagonist goes from reacting to becoming proactive. 

No longer do they say “Woe is me! My lady has left me!”. Now they move to “And I’m going to get her back”, or “I’m going to move on and forget her”.

What can we take from this?

We can understand that the fundamental job of the second verse is to add to the story by raising the stakes and advancing the story.

This also shows us that the middle of the second verse is a good point for our song’s protagonist to go from reacting to acting.

Overall, your second verse shouldn’t have the same information as the first verse. 

If I already know you’re grieving over someone you lost, the second verse should explore that further, not just re-state the same thing.

More pragmatically, the purpose of your second verse is to keep the listener hooked and pull them into the next chorus.

 

What makes a second verse a good second verse?

A good second verse changes the game either by continuing the story or adding developments that somewhat change the song.

Some songs don’t have a traditional “storyline” as there is no apparent advancement in time. 

Sure, some breakup songs take you through the story of love to heartbreak. They have an actual timeline present.

But another breakup song might talk about all the emotions and thoughts you’re struggling with. In this case, there really isn’t any timeline. 

It’s all emotions and thoughts you’re struggling with in a nebulous series of moments.

The song is time agnostic.

This is where it’s important to add developments to your song that change things.

If your first verse could be summarized as “you left and I’m consumed with sorrow”, your second verse should at least explore a different side of that emotion. 

Maybe the second verse explores the more bitter side of your emotions. Maybe it explores your regret. Whatever it is, it needs to be something other than “you left and I’m consumed with sorrow”

A good second verse doesn’t feel like the let-down of a song.

Instead, it adds depth to the song while accelerating back to the chorus.

How can we actually accomplish this?

The second verse is the most difficult part of the song to write. We’re constrained to the syllables and rhyme scheme of the first verse. 

In a Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus structure, the only part that has to change lyrics while repeating music is the second verse.

Overall, the best way to escape second verse hell is to simply spend more time writing your second verse.

It’s not uncommon for me to spend twice as much time on a second verse than any other part of the song. It’s usually the hardest part to get right, and the best way to overcome that is simply by working at it longer.

I know it seems simplistic, but a part of why so many songwriters have terrible second verses is they don’t spend enough time on them. 

You need a good chorus to have a solid song. You need a good first verse to even have a chance at a good song. But you can’t stop there. If you want a great song, you need to get the bridge and second verse right too.

Don’t call it “good enough” once you have a good first verse and chorus that you love. Every part of your song is important.

So spend the extra time to get it right. Embrace the challenge.

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