Back in 2000, Faith Hill had the number 1 country tune and pop single of the year with “Breathe” (Stephanie Bentley, Holly Lamar). It’s hard to believe that it’s been twenty-one years since that song hit the charts!
“Breathe” is a great example of a song where the range of the chorus notes is approximately a full octave higher than the verse notes. When your chorus jumps that much, you can expect a big jump in musical energy and power. It’s similar to what you experience with the chorus of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.”
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When you compare the verse and chorus melodic structure in “Breathe”, you’ll notice a lot of similarities there as well. Both melodies make good use of descending scale-like passages, where most of the notes are adjacent to each other in the musical scale (shown in orange):
Those similarities between verse and chorus melodic ideas is not a must for a song — there are plenty of songs that don’t show that level of similarity — but in this case, the similarities help to glue the two melodies together a bit.
Why should the verse and chorus similarities be important in this case? Mainly because the range of notes between those two sections is so radically different. The verse digs down into Faith Hill’s lowest notes, while the chorus requires her to get up into the highest reaches of her range.
In many songs, such a big jump between verse and chorus is helped by a pre-chorus section that can work upwards, where the main job of the pre-chorus is to join verse to chorus. But in this song, without a pre-chorus, the connection is made primarily by the use of a similar melodic structure: the descending scalewise passages.
Songs like “Breathe” where the verse and chorus ranges don’t really overlap (as most songs do) gives the songwriter a special task: how to make those two sections sound like they belong in the same song.
Most of the time the songwriter solves this by using a pre-chorus, but “Breathe” is a good reminder that there’s another option: find ways to incorporate similar melodic traits in both sections.
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