Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Power of Contrast

Songwriting Tip #79: Use contrast between your verses and chorus to establish a distinctive and memorable structure for your song.

It doesn’t matter if you begin writing your song with a verse or a chorus. It doesn‘t matter what rhyme scheme you begin with, what lyrical phrasing, what musical phrasing and groove, or what chord structure, as long as you alter it when you change sections.

There should be no question in the listener’s mind what the chorus of your song is after the first listen. If your phrasing is short and choppy (rhythmic or staccato) in your verses, try elongating it in the chorus. If your melody is low and less rangy in the verses, make it soaring in the chorus.

If your verse has eight lines of lyric and thirty two bars of music, try to keep your chorus to four lines of lyric and sixteen bars of music.

It is very important to partner your musical and melodic hook with your lyrical hook, but it is equally important to use the first line of your chorus to establish a change. This will grab the listener’s ear and keep them focused.

When recording your song, be sure to change the musical feel of the chorus. If the drums are playing half time on your verses, go to full time on the choruses to give it more energy. If the drummer is using a rim shot in the verses, going to a full snare in the chorus will make it sound bigger.

Most of you are familiar with the melody and music of “Thriller”, by Michael Jackson. You know that the melody climbs higher in the chorus. There are also fewer words in each line of the chorus and fewer lines than in the verses. Some of us may not be able to sing the verses unprompted by the recording, but most of us can sing a chorus from memory. That is because the music, melody and lyrics differ from the verses and make it memorable.

Thriller lyrics
Songwriters: Temperton, Rod;

It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark
Under the moonlight, you see a sight that almost stops your heart
You try to scream but terror takes the sound before you make it
You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes
You're paralyzed

'Cause this is thriller, thriller night
And no one's gonna save you from the beast about strike
You know it's thriller, thriller night
You're fighting for your life inside a killer, thriller tonight

Remember to use all of the tools available to you to make your songs as memorable
If you are trying to write commercial songs; songs that will move millions of listeners, contrast is a valuable, and often overlooked, tool that can take your songwriting to a new level.

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