by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” suite of 6 e-books shows you how to write great songs. (His newest e-book, “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting- Chord Progression Formulas” is being offered for free when you purchase any other of his songwriting e-books.) Let these six e-books show you every aspect of how to write great songs! Read more..
Sometimes the best songwriting techniques are the ones that listeners aren’t consciously aware of. One interesting technique to consider is to try inverting melodic shapes from your verse to use in your chorus. It creates a connection that the audience may not be aware of, but it can work beautifully.
Even the simplest of melodies will have melodic shapes that stand out. These shapes, repeated over and over again, can provide an important sense of form that listeners latch on to, and it’s part of why they remember songs easily. A flat melody that lacks any kind of shape or contour will probably lack the key element that listeners need to keep humming your part.
But even with an interesting shape and design, you need to find strong ways to connect the verse to the chorus. That’s where the identification of small shapes within a verse can work well in a chorus.
If you’re having trouble writing a chorus that works well with your verse, try this: Sing your verse melody to yourself, and identify small melodic shapes that tend to repeat themselves throughout the verse. (If you can’t identify any, you may have uncovered another issue with your song… it really needs that kind of musical “motif”.) Get a sense of the basic direction of the melodic shape; perhaps it’s a downward leap of a 3rd or 4th that happens several times.
Once you’ve identified that, you can invert it, and use it as a main component of your chorus. If that repeating element is a small descending leap, try using an ascending melodic leap as a main feature of the chorus. (For an example of how this can work, I mentioned this in my article about Taylor Swift’s song, “You Belong With Me” (opens in a new window). In that song, the verse features downward moving melodic shapes in the verse, with upward moving shapes in the pre-chorus, which helps build energy.)
The beauty of this inverting of shapes is that it provides a sense of symmetry for your song, and the listener often doesn’t even realize it’s happening. But they sense a real connection between these two vital parts of the song form. It provides a feeling of “intuitive logic” that really makes a song work.
There are other ways to use this technique of using an element from one section of your song in another section. For example, you might try taking elements from the verse and the chorus, and find a way to blend them together and use the resultant shape as a main feature of your bridge. Or you could create a melodic hook for your song, then use shapes from one part of it for your verse, and another aspect in your chorus. In many ways, the possibilities are endless!
For more songwriting ideas, try Gary Ewer’s songwriting e-books. They can get you going writing the songs you’ve always wanted to write! They’re downloadable, and available here. Right now, “Chord Progression Formulas” is being offered free with any purchase.