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Ideally, a chorus should sound like the logical “answer” to a verse in every way. It’s easy to see how that happens in a song’s lyric, since both verse and chorus lyrics are usually addressing the same thing. But how do you make chords, melodic shapes, rhythms and other elements connect? It’s important to get this right, because properly connecting ideas across the various sections of your song goes a long way to strengthening song structure. And solid structure is part of a successful song.
If you think about how music theorists study Classical music, you’ve got a good model for how to connect musical ideas. For example, a music theorist studying a Mozart symphony will look for how the various melodies created for a symphony might all have something in common. Or they compare the use of rhythm of one section as it moves to the next, and try to find similarities no matter how dissimilar they might be.
Good hit songwriters should be no different. The great thing is that when song structure is strong, listeners are not usually aware that there is an underlying foundation that is making it work. Some of what I’m talking about is governed by instinct: occasionally songwriters are surprised by aspects of their song’s structure, something that really works well even though they weren’t consciously aware of it while composing.
In other words, a song’s structure offers its benefits almost totally from the background.
If you as a songwriter want to improve your writing skills, you need to know how to bolster your song’s structure.
Here are just a few ideas for helping your song’s elements make a connection throughout, and reinforce its structure:
- Lyrics. Try longer words in the verse, shorter words in the chorus. Shorter words tend to generate energy.
- Melody. Try inverting melodic ideas in the verse for use in the chorus. For example, if your verse is comprised of mainly downward-moving shapes, do the opposite in the chorus: experiment with upward-moving ideas. Or try something like this: if your verse melody lives mainly between middle C and the G above it, create a chorus melody that exists mainly between G and the C above middle C.
- Rhythm. Syncopation (i.e., displacing notes so that they happen between beats instead of on them) works really well in a verse, because it makes the melody sound off-the-beat and forward-moving. Then try a chorus melody that places notes mainly on the beats.
- Harmony. You might want to choose chords that are mainly minor for a verse, and then switch to mainly major ones for a chorus. Or perhaps try using pedal bass (i.e., a bass note that stays the same while the chords change) for the verse, switching to a moving bass line for the chorus.
Practicing your songwriting skills is a crucial part of improving. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6 e-book bundle includes a 9-lesson course that allows you to hone your writing skills and become the kind of composer you’ve always wanted to be.
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