Many songs have what could be called its “climactic moment”: a spot where musical energy seems to be at its peak. In many songs, it sits there at the beginning of the chorus (“Firework”), sometimes in the middle (“Let It Be”), and sometimes near the end. (“Wichita Lineman”).
Sometimes finding that moment may not be obvious. Part of the reason for that is that any one song might have several so-called climactic moments, one for the verse, one for the chorus, still another for the bridge, and so on. In such songs, the high point is whichever of those tends to be the most powerful, and it’s usually in the chorus somewhere.
Do you like starting your songs by getting the chords first? That’s a method that can work for you, as long as you avoid the common pitfalls. “Writing a Song From a Chord Progression” takes you step-by-step from chords to completed song.
Climactic moments can be powerful and obvious, while other songs have moments that barely register as being anything more powerful than any other moment. A good example of this kind of song might be “Kiss Me” (1997, written by Matt Slocum, performed by Sixpence None The Richer). The melody has highs and lows, to be sure, but the idea of a powerful climactic moment is somewhat pleasantly muted.
If you’re at the starting phase of writing your next song, it’s worth the time to think about where a climactic moment could go. Here are some thoughts on that:
- Use the song’s chorus hook. A climactic moment happening concurrently with the song’s main hook is a great idea. Place the hook high in pitch so that it stands out from the musical phrases that come before and/or after it.
- A bridge can have the highest notes, but not necessarily the most climactic moment. Some song bridges will allow the music to find its highest moments during the bridge, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the song’s main climactic moment. Generally, the repetition of the chorus hook will take musical precedence over what might happen in the bridge.
- A climactic moment is about more than melodic range. A high note that happens on a I-chord, for example, might feel more powerful than that same high note happening while accompanied by a IV-chord. It might also include issues such as volume, and the power of the word being sung at that moment.
- A climactic moment can solve a boring melody. If you find that your melody just seems lifeless, look to change something in the chorus. Find a moment where you can alter the melody to be higher than all other notes. A climactic moment can be an exciting point of focus for your audience.
- In verse-only, or verse-bridge songs, place a climactic moment at about the two-thirds moment of your verse melody. “Hey Jude” is a good example. It has an important climactic moment in the verse, during the lyric “Remember to let her into your heart…” Use the remaining part of the melody to allow the melody to move down.
Climactic moments are things that you can think too hard about, and worry too much about. But identifying a moment that can take a high point in the melody may be just what you need to inject a bit of excitement into your song.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook bundle comes with a free copy of “Creative Chord Progressions”. Learn how to take your chords beyond simple I-IV-V progressions. With pages of examples ready for you to use in your own songs!