I’ve never had the pleasure of designing my own house, and don’t ever see that happening. But I do know at least three people who designed and then helped to build their own house. As you can imagine, it’s a source of immeasurable pride for them.
For each of these people, there was something in common: each house had a room that served as a kind of point of focus. Of course they wanted the whole house to be as close to perfect as they could manage, but each house had a special room that held considerable “wow factor.”
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One house has a magnificent living room with a stone hearth/fireplace. For the two other houses, it is the kitchen that was incredible. Large, well-equipped and homey, those kitchens made you feel so good, you didn’t ever want to leave.
In a way, songs are like these self-designed homes, where each section of the song represents a different room within the structure. And like a house you might design, a song also has an important and strong point of focus. For most songs that point of focus is the chorus or refrain.
It certainly doesn’t mean that the other sections aren’t important. But more than any other section, the chorus needs to grab attention and wave a flag. Like that wonderful special room in a house, the chorus needs to be the part everyone thinks of when they think of your song — the part everyone loves.
And like a great house, a song needs to make the listener want to return again and again to enjoy it some more.
On this blog, I often talk about how good songwriting is the art of creating strong musical partners. Chords need to support melodies. The meaning of lyrics need to be enhanced by the melodic notes you choose. The rhythms need to feel natural and supportive.
And within the design of a song, everything needs to support each other. But more than anything, all the various sections of your song — the verse, bridge, pre-chorus, solos and any other optional sections — all need to support the chorus, and make that chorus sound like the outpouring of emotional expression it’s meant to be.
When you mention the title of a great hit song, the first thing that comes to mind is the chorus hook. With your own songs, if there isn’t a great hook, you’ve missed an opportunity to provide your fans with a strong point of focus.
One the one hand, a house can be good because it provides you with the things it needs to provide: a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in. But for a house to be great, it needs that room that makes you feel wonderful, relaxed and happy.
I wonder what answer you would give if you look at the song you just wrote, and ask yourself, “Did I just write a good song, or a great song?”
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