The perfect chorus sounds like an answer to a verse. Here’s how to make that happen.
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A song usually has two contrasting melodies – a verse and a chorus. But if that’s the most important thing you’re noticing, it’s time to take a fresh look. With hit song writing, there’s actually a lot of differences between the way you write a verse melody and the way you write a chorus. When compared to the chorus, a verse melody and chords tend to wander a bit more, and the energy level is usually lower. It’s why we often hear that old adage, “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.” Because the chorus is where the musical excitement happens.
A chorus usually exhibits rather different structural elements than a verse. I many ways, the chorus acts as an answer to the verse. And it’s important to get it right. In the writing of hit songs, it really is mostly about the chorus.
Here are some things you can try, things that will make your chorus sound more like a chorus, and less like simply just another melody.
- Keep the chorus progression strong and short. A chorus chord progression will be strong, meaning that it will focus on one chord as being more important than all others (the tonic (I) chord). One way this is achieved is to avoid altered chords (i.e., chords from outside the key) and also by keeping the progression short.
- Make the chord progression easily repeatable. Songwriters achieve this in one of two possible ways: 1) end the chorus on a I-chord, like Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain”. This gives closure to the chorus, and allows it to be repeated easily. It also allows you to start the chorus on a chord other than the I-chord; or 2) end the chorus on a ii-, IV-, or V-chord, especially if the chorus starts on a I-chord.
- Feature the tonic note especially as the chorus comes to an end. The tonic note has lots of power, but it also gives a sense of resolution and conclusion that is really important in a chorus.
- Add instruments in the chorus. Chorus instrumentation tends to be fuller, with instruments playing higher in their range, to build song energy.
- Add vocal harmonies in the chorus. Vocal harmonies are not essential, but if you need to beef up the energy and momentum of your song, adding vocal harmonies can do the trick. Here’s an article giving some basic advice for how to do this.
- Use longer notes in a chorus, and shorter, quicker notes in a verse. Verse rhythms are usually quicker, carefully matching the basic pulse of the words. This is because you’re telling a story, describing a situation, and setting up the emotional release that comes in the chorus. Chorus rhythms usually lengthen a bit. This is because you’re trying to elicit more of an emotional response from your audience, which happens more easily with longer notes.
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