Piano and guitar - chords

What To Do With a Song Chorus That Isn’t Working

Let’s say you’ve come up with a hook that you think should be something that works well as the main flag-waving part of your chorus. So then you set about to write a verse that leads into that chorus.

But once that’s done, and you play the verse and chorus in sequence, you find that the song just doesn’t have the punch you thought it would. Everything seems a bit low-key or sluggish.

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If you’ve identified the chorus as being the bit that’s lacking some power or catchiness, there are several things you can experiment with in your attempt to write something with a bit more energy. Here’s one to try:

Raise the key of the chorus.

Most of the time the verse and chorus will be in the same key, but you can try transitioning from the verse key into something higher for the chorus.

Let’s say that you’ve written your song in C major, and your verse chords are these ones, played 2 times before moving to the chorus:

C  Dm  C  Dm |F  C  Dm  Bb (Click play button below to listen)

If your chorus stays in C major, you might use something like this as a progression:

C  G/B  Am  F |C  G/B  Am  F….

Now, let’s say that even if you’ve moved your chorus melody a bit higher than the verse (as you likely should), everything seems a bit sluggish. There’s just not enough difference between what you’ve done for the verse and what you’ve done for the chorus:

VERSE: C  Dm  C  Dm |F  C  Dm  Bb ||
CHORUS: C  G/B  Am  F |C  G/B  Am  F….

Here’s the option: Use that Bb chord at the end of the verse as a transitioning chord to a new key of Eb major.

That would give you this as a verse-chorus combination:

VERSE: C  Dm  C  Dm |F  C  Dm  Bb ||
CHORUS: Eb  Bb/D  Cm  Ab |Eb  Bb/D  Cm  Ab….

You can hear that the music gets a bit of a jolt from this new key. The Bb chord at the end of the verse acts as a dominant chord that moves you easily to Eb major.

You can also consider what’s called an abrupt modulation, which means that you can move immediately to the new key with little or no preparation — like you hear in the abrupt semitone modulation near the end of “Man in the Mirror” (Siedah Garrett, Glen Ballard).

And one other solution to consider: if you find that your chorus sounds lacklustre, it might be that the verse is too energetic, making it difficult for the chorus to shine. If that’s the case, the solution involves looking more closely at the verse and finding ways to lower its energy level, by thinning out the production or lowering the general pitch range of the verse melody.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

Essential Secrets of Songwriting 9-Lesson CourseExcellence happens when you practice your technique. Gary’s 9-Lesson Course takes you through the fundamentals of writing good lyrics, melodies and chords, and helps you understand the concepts of great songwriting structure. It’s part of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle.”

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  1. Pingback: The Daily Muse – May 4th, 2020 | All About Songwriting

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