Think about your favorite song of all time. What made it your fave? If you have ever really given it some serious thought, you would have noticed that you were pulled in by the hook. Often, that hook happens to be the chorus - or a line from it - which gets stuck in your head and keeps playing back.
The truth is, a great chorus/hook can easily turn out to be the difference between a hit and a miss. And the issue with a lot of “miss” songs is the fact that the chorus sometimes falls flat. Even if the song has really smart lyrics and a catchy melody, listeners soon forget about it if the chorus fails to stand out. If you are writing songs as a professional music creator who is looking to make inroads in the business, it is worth spending some time learning how to write great choruses. Chorus writing is not only something newbies should be concerned about, however. Seasoned songwriters can sometimes find themselves with lame choruses. Whatever level you are at, it is possible to revive a chorus that isn’t popping. Here are a few tips to consider that may fix a bad chorus.
Your chorus or hook is that tune that you want your listeners to connect with and instantly start humming after first interacting with your song. If your chorus falls flat, you will definitely lose your audience’s interest. And, you don’t want that. Apart from leaving you with a memorable tune, your hook is the foundation of your song. It is the center-piece that joins everything together. It highlights the overall message of the story and the full instrumentation. This is where the listeners get a full idea of what your song has to offer.
This might seem pretty obvious, but writing your chorus and your verse in the same progressions and melody is a no-no. This can definitely cause your chorus to be uninteresting because it makes your song monotonous and boring. If you put yourself in the listener's shoes, this is one of the things that will become apparent to you. Focus on differentiating the chorus by changing the mode a little bit or switching up the tune when you get to the hook.
Don’t write your chorus in a lower pitch than your verse. This should go without saying but experimentation can cause songwriters to try strange things. Verses tend to lead up to the chorus (or the pre-chorus), so you can try a slight build-up. If the transition is to a lower pitch, it automatically becomes anticlimactic. On that note, you should also ensure that your chorus doesn’t feature the same pitches used in your verse. Yes, you might think it’s okay to switch around the notes a little bit, creating a new melody. But in a similar manner as the previous point, keeping it in the same pitch range can make it sound uninteresting. Try to play around in the key, going at least a 4th higher when you get to the chorus or try using relative keys to help make it brighter and more engaging.
Sometimes the transition from verse to chorus is simply too abrupt, which can break the emotional impact for the listener. One way to counteract this potential pitfall is by creating a pre-chorus or transitional passage. This can help to signify to the listener that there is a change of pace/mood coming up, so the chorus is more impactful when it finally drops. In addition, pre-choruses can act as minor hooks. Having several well-placed hooks can make your song more memorable, especially if you are writing songs in one of the mainstream genres such as pop, R&B, or rock.
If you regularly struggle with writing choruses, you can try creating the chorus first when you set out to write a song, and then build everything else around it. Ensure that the melody line is something that sounds good and gives a nice vibe when repeated. It should be interesting and incite some emotions (the lyrics of the chorus are often the most emotional). When it's time to write the verses, you will already have an idea of how the chorus sounds and how you can adjust the pitch, chords, etc., to differentiate them. After writing the bridge (if you do have one), you can add a few embellishments to the final chorus just the same. You can try adding instrumental pieces, a countermelody or a vamp, to further enhance the chorus.
You can instantly make your chorus more dramatic by starting and ending it with a hook. This might seem repetitive, but repetition works because it helps to make the song and chorus unforgettable. To understand how this works, it is important to know how a hook differs from the chorus because the two are often confused to be the same thing.
Limit the chord progressions
In trying to make a chorus sound more interesting, a songwriter may go overboard with the chord progressions. Using 6, 7, or 8 chords in your chorus progression can make it sound all over the place and cause your audience to lose interest. Of course, your chorus might not sound dull in this case, but this overkill will certainly take away from the listener's ability to enjoy the song. With that said, try to stick to no more than 4 or 5 chords in your chorus.
Yes, it's the norm to write a chorus (or so it seems), but there are many great songs that don't have them. If your verses are already hitting the right notes in terms of lyrics and melody, maybe a hook-y refrain is all you need to carry it off. Place the refrain at suitable intervals to break up the song and then blow it up even more with an explosive bridge. If you already have a flat chorus, you probably won't have to think too hard about what to use for a refrain. You can probably look for the most interesting line from the useless chorus and use it. But if you have to write one from scratch, make sure it carries off each verse.
As you put pen to paper, ask yourself, ‘What is the purpose of this song and what emotions do I want to incite?’ This will help you to keep a focused approach, not only for the chorus but also the entire song. At the very least, your intention should be making songs for others to enjoy. With that in mind, consider the things that will keep your target audience locked in and eating from your palms when they hear the chorus.
Most major hit songs are renowned for their hooks, which is the chorus in many cases, making it one of the most important elements of songwriting. That being said, knowing how to breathe life in a chorus that falls flat is a helpful skill for any songwriter who wants to continuously create songs that hit home.