Songwriting Tip: Separate That Chorus!

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The chorus section of a song sums up the point of the lyric. It is usually repeated three or four times in the typical radio hit. Not all songs have a chorus but most do. The chorus usually makes its first appearance after the first verse, but a chorus can open a song also either right off the bat, or just after a 4 or 8 bar instrumental introduction.

What I often see from songwriters looking to have a demo made, is a section marked on the lyric sheet as “chorus” but listening to the rough it’s nearly identical to the verse
in terms of line length, melody, note values, etc., with little or no separation. Often the chorus also goes on too long, eight lines when it would be more interesting pared down to four. Be concise and powerful, make your point and move on.

I can create some chorus separation by having the drummer change his playing when the chorus hits and/or by introducing a new instrument and/or other musical devices. For a small number of songs that is the correct approach because the choice to avoid “Here’s the huge chorus” was intentional. If lack of separation serves the tune, I don’t fix what ain’t broke. But in the majority of cases the lack of separation is simply due to a lack of writing experience and the best fix is a re-write.

Experiment with changing note values in the chorus section so it contrasts with the verse (or the climb section leading in, if it has one).

If you don’t understand the difference between whole notes, eighth notes and such, try changing the syllable count, for example, use predominately two or three syllable words to lean on in the verse then switch to single syllable words in the chorus, one of several possible avenues to achieving chorus separation.

Steppenwolf sums it up nicely I think:

“Get your motor runnin’

Head out on that highway…

BORN TO BE WILD!”

Give me separation in the structure of the song and the things I do in terms of arrangement will only enhance it and make the separation more dramatic.- b.e.



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