Harmonizing a Melody: When You Should Keep the Chorus SIMPLE

by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website. (Follow Gary on Twitter)

With chord progressions in general, simple is better than complicated. And you’d be surprised by how simplesimple can be. A good chorus melody doesn’t need to be anything more than one or two notes, as long as the progression underneath it is simple and sensible.

A good verse melody should carefully match the mood of the lyric, and in that sense, you can be somewhat creative: use good contour, and create a climactic high point. And particularly in contemporary pop, if your verse melody is well-constructed and interesting, your chorus works better if it’s minimized to two or three notes, and the lyric is somewhat repetitious.

Here’s a good example of a two-note melody that works well as an intro as well as a chorus:

[Visit website for MIDI file (opens in new window)]

Obviously, this was done up quickly in MIDI, but you get the idea. Every song needs balance, and so if your verse melody is not very adventurous, you’ll find that a chorus melody with this simple harmonization will leave your song needing more. But in many cases, this kind of simple melody is possibly all you need.

So if you’re looking for a chorus melody that really sits in a groove and works, don’t over-complicate it. Don’t go looking for something “killer” that’s just not necessary. For many songs, the groove is more important than anything.

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