Songwriting Hack! “Short-Short-Long Verse”

by Clay Mills
Oct 22, 2021

Today, a friend of mine posted on Facebook, a song by Bruce Springsteen. It’s an old song called “My Hometown”, and it kind of struck me. I often encourage people, when they listen to melodies, to try to recognize patterns. I hadn’t heard this song in a long time, and the first thing that jumped out to me is that he used a really simple pattern for his verses. He would use short phrase, short phrase, long phrase; and you can see he does that over and over throughout the entire verse.

Basically he has two short half bar phrases, followed up with a phrase that can be stretched out to an entire bar and a half. This a technique is really cool, because if every phrase is the same length, it really starts to get old by the time you’re halfway through the song.

For a modern day country example, let’s look at “Mind Reader” by Dustin Lynch. If you listen to the verse, he does the same technique that Bruce Springsteen did – short, short, long – they’re totally different melodies and different lengths, but it still uses the same principle of short pattern, short pattern, long pattern.

So this week as you’re writing, I encourage you to try this, because every tool that you can add to your toolbox as a songwriter is going to give you more flexibility; so when you’re faced with writing a song, you’re more likely to find the right tool for the job, rather than just trying to do the same thing you always do.


Clay Mills

Clay Mills

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He is the co-founder of SongTown and has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay is also the co-author of Mastering Melody Writing and The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing.


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