Songs that use the same progression for the verse and chorus aren’t unusual, but when you write that kind of song you need to think about other ways to create contrast between verse and chorus.
Most songs need that contrast, because it’s contrast that keeps audiences interested on a musical level. And chords often play an important role in that contrast. For songs where the verse and chorus chords differ, you more than likely will get one of the following scenarios:
- The verse progression wanders a bit, perhaps making the actual key a bit vague, before things become simpler and more obvious in the chorus; or
- The verse progression sits in and around a minor key, eventually transitioning to major for the chorus.
Those two kinds of progression partnerships are important ways of making listeners want to wait for the whole partnership to play out. For songs where the same progression keeps getting repeated over and over, through the verse and then through the chorus, composers make sure that contrast happens in other ways.
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Some of those other ways:
- Create a chorus melody that explores a higher range.
- Build production so that the chorus is fuller, louder, more instrumentally involved.
- Make the chorus lyric more strongly emotional than the verse.
Adele’s “Skyfall” (Adele, Paul Epworth) is a good example of this. Even though the verse and chorus progressions aren’t identical, they’re similar enough that it demonstrates what I’m talking about.
In “Skyfall”, Adele and Epworth handle contrast a little differently, and it’s worth experimenting with this in your own songs: change the length of time the chorus chords are held. Specifically, play each verse chord for two beats, and then switch to holding chords for four beats (mostly, anyway) in the chorus.
The intro and verse progression starts with a moving piano bass line and what’s known as a double inverted pedal point, two notes, Eb and C which play over and over while that bass line moves.
It’s not until halfway through the verse, and in verse 2, that we hear the complete chord progression: Cm-Ab-F7-Fm-Cm
But the main difference between verse and chorus that’s noticeable is that the chorus chords are doubled in length:
Why does this work? What benefit comes from lengthen the amount of time you dwell on chords in a chorus?
The main reason is that it tends to heighten emotional value. The longer rhythms, partnered with the lush orchestration underneath, build the passionate character of the chorus, and achieves whatever you might have gained by coming up with a more intense progression.
This is similar to the principle that applies to chorus melodies: the simpler the vocal rhythms, the more the emotional content of the lyric comes forward. Elongating and simplifying rhythms appears to apply equally to both chords and melody.
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