Verse–chorus form is a musical form common in popular music, used in blues and rock and roll since the 1950s, and predominant in rock music since the 1960s. In contrast to thirty-two-bar form, which is focused on the verse (contrasted and prepared by the B section), in verse–chorus form the chorus is highlighted (prepared and contrasted with the verse). "Many popular songs, particularly from early in the 20th century, are in a verse and a chorus (refrain) form. Most popular songs from the middle of the [20th] century consist only of a chorus."
"Musically, most Civil War songs were cast in the verse–chorus patterns that had been popularized by Foster and widely imitated by his peers and successors, with their choruses set in four-part harmony."
Thus, while in both forms A is the verse and B is the chorus, in AABA the verse takes up most of the time and the chorus exists to contrast and lead back into the return of the verse, in verse–chorus form the chorus often takes much more time proportionally and the verse exists to lead into it. For example: ABABB(B) [approximates: "Be My Baby"], rather than thirty-two-bar form's AABA.
The chorus often sharply contrasts the verse melodically, rhythmically, and harmonically, and assumes a higher level of dynamics and activity, often with added instrumentation. This is referred to as a "breakout chorus." See: arrangement.
Contrasting verse–chorus form
Songs that use different music for the verse and chorus are in contrasting verse–chorus form. Examples include:
- "That'll Be the Day" by Buddy Holly (1957)
- "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes (1963)
- "California Girls" by The Beach Boys (1965)
- "Penny Lane" & "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles (1967)
- "Foxy Lady" by Jimi Hendrix (1967)
- "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple (1973)
- "Can't Get Enough" by Bad Company (1974)
Simple verse–chorus form
Songs that use the same harmony (chords) for the verse and chorus, such as the twelve bar blues, though the melody is different and the lyrics feature different verses and a repeated chorus, are in simple verse–chorus form. Examples include:
- "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" by Big Joe Turner (1954)
- "Louie, Louie" by The Kingsmen (1963 cover), example not using blues form
- "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens (1959)
Simple verse form
Songs which feature only a repeated verse are in simple verse form (verse–chorus form without the chorus). Examples include:
- "Evil Ways" by Santana (1969)
- Blues-based songs which are not simple verse–chorus form (above), such as "Heartbreak Hotel", "Jailhouse Rock", "Hound Dog", and "Lucille"
and with a contrasting bridge:
- "Eight Miles High" by The Byrds (1966)
- "Tomorrow Never Knows" by The Beatles (1966)
- "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix (1967).
Both simple verse–chorus form and simple verse form are strophic forms.
- Michael Campbell & James Brody (2007), Rock and Roll: An Introduction, page 117
- Covach, John. "Form in Rock Music: A Primer", p.71, in Stein, Deborah (2005). Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-517010-5.
- Benward & Saker (2003). Music: In Theory and Practice, Vol. I, p.317. Seventh Edition. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
- Doll, Christopher. "Rockin' Out: Expressive Modulation in Verse–Chorus Form", Music Theory Online 17/3 (2011), § 2.
- Covach (2005), p.71–72