Songs usually make use of several sections, all combining, of course, to make a complete musical composition. But for hit songs, it’s mostly about the chorus. Your verse, and pre-chorus if you use one, will describe a story, but what people want to hear is your reaction to that story. That reaction normally happens in the chorus. It’s important to remember that the audience doesn’t usually like to wait around for very long to hear the chorus. For most normal-length hit songs, you’ll want to get to the chorus before the 1-minute mark.
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It’s not that audiences find verses boring. But people connect with emotional responses, and while it may be true that anyone can tell a good story, what you really want to give people is your own personal reaction. If they have to wait too long, you risk having listeners give up and move on.
So here are some bits of advice for giving your chorus more punch.
- To make your chorus all the more effective, try to have its first line be the song title. It’s best if you can give that line something distinctive that makes it easy to remember. So be sure that your song title has a catchy melodic shape and a memorable rhythm.
- Probably more than anything, you want your song title to be fun to sing! Remember, you want people to recall this title easily, hum it to themselves as they walk down the street, or turn it up if they hear it being played. So don’t be afraid to experiment a bit with the rhythm and melodic shape until you have something that really clicks.
- A song’s climactic moment should ideally happen somewhere in the chorus. You can enhance that climactic moment by having the highest note of your song happen somewhere in the chorus. It’s typical to have that happen toward the end of the chorus.
If you’ve written a song that uses a verse-refrain form, think of the refrain as a mini-chorus, and the same rules should apply. Make the refrain rhythmically and melodically interesting, make it fun to sing, and think about creating a climactic moment that grabs the audience’s attention. A well-written chorus or refrain has the effect of making everything feel like it’s moving toward it as its musical goal.
Think of a song you love, and ask yourself why you like the chorus so much. You’ll probably find yourself saying that you find the rhythm and melodic shape to be catchy, and that it’s simply fun to sing.
And don’t forget… Get to the chorus before the 1-minute mark!
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.