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When you look at hit songs from the past 50 years, patterns and commonalities become apparent regardless of era or genre. Those patterns, those “things songwriters do” become the basis of what we usually call the “rules” of songwriting. And of course, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, they aren’t really rules. They’re simply observations. And if your song is lacking in any way, it’s good to study those hit songs from the past. No matter what kind of music you write, studying hit songs instruct us. In particular, we learn that choruses need more emotional punch than verses.
Obviously, the lyric is going to determine how effective the chorus emotion is. But there are other things you can do to make sure that your chorus has the requisite punch to make your song memorable.
Making your song memorable is absolutely crucial to having it stand above all others. Check out these tips:
- Use more vocal harmonies in the chorus than in the verse. Vocal harmonies have a way of deepening emotional response. There are several things to think about here. You can harmonize every word of your chorus (“Pumped Up Kicks” – Foster the People; “Knee Deep” – Zach Brown Band feat. Jimmy Buffet), or choose certain key words or lines to form harmonies on as a way of making them stand out more. (“If I Die Young” – The Band Perry)
- Build the instrumental accompaniment in the chorus. Every instrument has its own way of building energy. Most of the time, playing in a higher range will do it, but try other things like intensifying the rhythmic accompaniment, adding instruments, and of course simply playing louder.
- If your chorus contains the title, place it in a prominent place. For most songs, the title should be fun to sing, and that usually means starting your chorus with it, or ending with it. Part of making it fun is to give it a catchy, “hooky” quality, something that really makes it stand out.
- Find a way to create a dramatic high point in your chorus. We know that choruses should be higher than verses, but it’s a good idea to create a chorus melody that has that one special moment that really creates focus for your song.
- Allow your chorus to make good use of repeating melodic patterns and rhythms. Repetition is a good thing, as long as there’s a point to it. Repetition is a crucial part of a hook, and as long as that hook is something that grabs the listener, you’ll want to make good use of it. Repetition will work better and feel more natural in a chorus than in a verse.
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