More than upon either the first verse or the chorus, unity of effect depends upon the second verse. In it you must keep to the key of emotion expressed in the chorus and to the general trend of feeling of the first verse. If your first verse tells a love-story of two characters, it is sometimes well to change the relations of the characters in the second verse and make the repetition of the chorus come as an answer. But, whatever you make of your second verse, you must not give it a different story. Don’t attempt to do more than round out your first-verse story to a satisfying conclusion, of which the chorus is the completing end.
And now we have come to
8. The Punch Lines in the Verses
Toward the end of each verse it is customary to place punch lines which are strong enough pictorially to sum up the contents of the verse and round it out into the chorus. In humorous songs, these punch lines are often used as the very last lines, and the first line of the chorus is depended on to develop the snicker into a laugh, which is made to grow into a roar with the punch lines of the chorus. In other words, there are in every song three places where punch lines must be used. The most important is toward the end of the chorus, and the other places are toward the end of the verses.
9. Don’ts for Verse Last-Lines
Don’t end your lines with words that are hard to enunciate—there are dozens of them, of which are “met,” and most of the dental sounds. Experience alone can teach you what to avoid. But it may be said that precisely the same reason that dictates the use of open vowels on rising notes, dictates that open sounds are safest with which to end lines, because the last notes of a song are often rising notes. This applies with emphatic force, also, to your chorus. Never use such unrhetorical and laugh-provoking lines as the grotesquely familiar “and then to him I did say.”
Don’t always feel that it is necessary to tell the audience “here is the chorus.” Imagination is common to all, and the chorus is predicted by the turn of thought and the “coming to it” feeling of the melody.
Having gone over your verses and made sure that you have punch lines that rise out of the narrative effect into revealing flashes, and are completed and punched home by the punch lines of the chorus, and having made sure that your lyrics as a whole are the best you can write, you must give thought to the music.
1. The “One Finger Composer’s” Aid
If you are the sort of modern minstrel who has tunes buzzing in his head, it is likely that you will have composed a melody to fit your lyrics. The chances are that you know only enough about music to play the piano rather indifferently. Or, you may be an accomplished pianist without possessing a knowledge of harmony sufficient to admit of your setting down your melody in the form of a good piano score. But even if you are only able to play the piano with one finger, you need not despair. There are dozens of well-known popular song composers who are little better off. You may do precisely what they do—you can call to your aid an arranger. This is the first moral I shall draw from the true story with which this chapter begins.