The Hit Songwriting Formula

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6 Songwriting Tips for Energizing a Chorus

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Your song’s chorus is often going to be the most energetic part of your song, with the possible exception of a bridge that might really take things to new levels. But even in songs where the bridge is energetic, you’ll find that the return to the chorus afterward is all the more dynamic and lively. In short, your chorus is usually going to be responsible for the success of your song.

For that reason, and possibly others, you’ll want your song’s chorus to really pop. And if a song’s chorus is lacking that requisite sense of power, a producer can go to work and make it happen during the recording process: creating a more intense instrumentation, a more intense rhythmic underlay, a generally louder accompaniment, and so on.

Hooks and RiffsFor songs in the pop genres, a good chorus hook can mean the difference between success and failure. “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” will show how this vital song component works, and how you can create effective ones for your songs.

But I often feel that the more you can solve at the songwriting level, the better your song is. So if your song seems good but just lacks a bit of punch in the chorus, here are some tips for fixing that problem:

  1. Rewrite the chorus melody and make it higher in pitch. Just the simple act of making the basic range of your chorus melody higher does a lot to increase energy. Keep the same chords, but start on a higher chord tone, and then keep things up there.
  2. Rewrite the verse melody and make it lower in pitch. If you think your chorus is already hitting some pretty good highs, the problem might be that the verse is too high in pitch and stealing your chorus’s thunder. So lower your verse melody as a way of setting your chorus up for a more uniquely energetic presentation.
  3. Keep the same chorus melody, but create a climactic high point. That one spot, where the melody pops out and grabs some momentary attention, is a favourite trick of many good songwriters.
  4. Elongate the rhythms on chorus words, especially words that include the song title. Verse rhythms can be shorter, quicker and a bit more intricate and syncopated, but if you choose slower, more regular hook-based rhythms for the chorus, especially elongating words that include your song’s title, you get a different kind of energy: emotional energy. Many songs feature this “We Are Young” (fun. ft. Janelle Monae), “Like a Rolling Stone” (Bob Dylan), “Just Dance” (Lady Gaga), and so on. You’ll notice that in most cases the difference is subtle, but enough of a rhythmic simplification to help the creation of a good chorus groove.
  5. Limit backing vocals to crucial moments in the chorus. If your song is full of backing vocals, in every section of your song, you can create a nice pop in the chorus if you simply or eliminate them from the verse, and use them only in the chorus. The thickening texture created by backing vocals creates the kind of musical energy I’m talking about.
  6. Add a pre-chorus. Sometimes a verse doesn’t do a good job of building energy into the chorus. That can be the case for any number of reasons, some of which might indicate that you need to rewrite your verse. But if you like your verse as it is, you can build more momentum by adding a pre-chorus that starts low and moves high, connecting smoothly to the chorus. There are many examples, but I like the pre-chorus in “Firework” (Katy Perry et al), if only because its shape is a textbook example: starts low, moves higher, gets louder and connects smoothly to the chorus.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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