How to Write A Song: Creating Effective Choruses | Songwriting | Tips & Techniques


hi this is Jimmy Kachulis and in this
clinic we’re going to be exploring some of the ways that we can create really
effective choruses now remember there are two stages to creating a section of
music first of all you create an idea or two contrasting ideas and then you put
them together and develop them using your development tools to create a full
section so in this clinic we’ll go over both of those stages in a chorus of
course we usually have the most dramatic setting of a lyric usually it’s the
title let’s examine this idea for this classic chorus created by Marvin Gaye
how sweet it is to be loved by you notice that it’s a very dramatic setting
what are some of the things that make this such a dramatic emphatic setting
for a title first of all this court progression C B minor a minor D G is a full cadence and of all the
harmonic tools to emphasize your title this is by far the strongest there are
at least 24 25 different types of Cadence’s in the various key colors but
in the major key moving from ultimately the 5 chord to the 1 chord is the
strongest notice that in the key also the melody ends on this note which is
the do’ of the key this is called the melodic cadence when you end your title
on the tonic note in the key it also conveys a real dramatic statement this
is to the audience this is the thing this is the main idea of this song
notice that in the time how sweet it is to be loved by you it ends on the
downbeat this is a rhythmic cadence and this also produces a tremendous amount
of emphasis so with all of these 3 Cadence’s the harmonic cadence the
melodic cadence and the rhythmic cadence you’re basically showing the audience
that this is the central idea of the song by the way just to again include a
couple of more tools notice that after we sing the title for two measures
there’s nothing but space afterwards how sweet it is to be loved by you that
space also conveys a sense of importance to that whatever you sing before the
space now that you have your setting of the title how do you create a full
section there are basically only three types of development tools you can
repeat your idea exactly you can vary it or you can introduce contrasting ideas
let me demonstrate each of those in turn let’s take the setting for that Marvin
Gaye classic and notice how he just developed
chorus by simply repeating the title exactly this means the melody the
harmony the rhythm and the lyrics all are done again it is by far the
strongest tool for emphasis how sweet it is to be loved by you how sweet it is to
be loved by you a setting of the title very dramatically
and then a simple exact repetition now the next development tool is where
you vary the repetition one of the ways in which it’s used to create a chorus is
to surprise people by repeating the title but changing something now you can
change the rhythm of the melody you could change the pitch of the melody you
could change the chord there are all kinds of little subtle ways of varying
that repetition one of the easiest ways is to repeat the chord progression but
sing slightly different melodic idea when the title is repeated you can hear
it in this classic song calling all angels simply repeats a chord
progression from the one chord to the four chord notice the original setting calling all angels here’s the variation calling all you angel so you can hear that instead of stating
the obvious which is exactly repeating the title which is a standard move now
you’re surprising the audience by restating the title but changing it up
the second time the last way of developing an idea or ideas into a full
section is by using two contrasting ideas most of the sections that we
create have at the maximum two ideas it helps the song kind of hang together
when you’re just developing one or two ideas in a chorus I refer to these as
the title idea and the non title idea which I call the swingline lyrically
often comments on the title but if you want that title to stand out from the
Swingline one of the most effective ways to do that is to create two very
contrasting ideas and how do they contrast for instance choose different
notes choose a different shape choose a different number of syllables this would
of course mean you have two different rhythmic ideas as well create a
different amount of space around each idea harmonically choose different
chords for the different ideas begin them on different chords and them on
different chords and as you’ve learned in this course if you set the title to
those various Cadence’s as we heard in the Marvin Gaye song that would also
differentiate the title from the Swingline idea here for instance is one
of the classic choruses and I’ll describe the ideas after I play them see
if you can focus on the differences between the swingline idea and the title
idea if you’re lost you can look and you will find me time after time
if you fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting time after time now let’s examine those in a little
detail notice that the swingline idea has this
as its melodic shape notice that it’s a leap from the D to the G notice that it
has a lot of syllables and how is it that idea developed it’s moved up the
scale and turned upside down so listen to the idea and it has these chords G chord a minor
listen to it now by itself if you’re lost you can look and you will find me
now listen to the title idea EEE de notice that it focuses around completely
different pitches it has a completely different shape it does not leap it
moves by step right next door to the next note dips down and goes right back
up and how is it developed not at all is just stated once and it has a lot of
space after it look at the chords F G C a completely different chord progression
including some chords that did not even occur in the swingline it begins on a
different chord it ends on a different chord it has a different number of
chords and it also has this special kind of progression we talked about earlier
which is the cadence in this case in the key of C four five one
now how is the full section built the swingline is repeated musically but
change lyrically so it’s varied quite substantially whereas the title is
repeated using that tool of exact repetition we talked about earlier so
follow all of those things at the same time and I think you’ll appreciate how
well-written this chorus is if you’re lost you can look and you will find me
time after time if you fall I will catch you I’ll be
waiting time after time for more on this idea of creating
dramatic ideas using the three types of development tools to build really
effective choruses check out the songwriting course called writing hit
songs you

50 thoughts on “How to Write A Song: Creating Effective Choruses | Songwriting | Tips & Techniques

  1. This is great. Have always been familiar with cadences in chord progressions but never in melody pitch or rhythm. Super helpful!

    I'm currently writing and posting 100 songs in 100 days on my channel, and would love to hear any feedback from fellow musicians or songwriters reading this, or anyone interested in songwriting!

  2. I'm really enjoying these analyses by Jimmy Kachulis. I'm now off to watch EVERY SINGLE video by Prof. Kachulis. So many songwriting videos are vague and not really helpful. E.g. "You need to write catchy choruses. There you go, write your own catchy chorus." There is so much useful information here which can help in analysing existing songs, as well as writing new ones.

  3. Wow I was trying to make an existing chorus of mine better and this two-section concept totally gave me the change it needed.

  4. This is amazing, though in my opinion, I don't really think the original writers considered all these 'guidelines' as they came up with the songs… I believe it just flowed out of them. So take these 'analyses' very abstractly, rather than concrete "rules" you must follow.

  5. Lol, I guess it´s diffrent from person to person, but I don´t use all that theory, I just play stuff that sounds cool & start rhyming with pure emotions.

  6. Man I've been trying so hard to write songs and none of the concepts clicked til I saw this and your chord progressions video. Great teaching, can't wait to use these tips.

  7. I don't mean to be rude.. you have an awesome video here and I really like your talking voice. I could listen to you forever. But when you sing it's like a tortured hard-hearing troll comes out to play. Have you tried singing with your normal/talking voice? Like I said, great stuff though! I will watch more of your vids.

  8. An effective song is based on the words. No words that resonate then all your other advice is useless. You basically stole a song and claim you can reproduce it. No you can't. Fraud. Do an original lyrics video and see how stupid you sound. You don't have the truth. You don't even have 3 chords.

  9. The C is not the FIVE chord of G. D or D7 is th FIVE chord of G. Isn't it? FOUR to ONE works too! Good class!, John R

  10. One of the two most effective ways to create a chorus is to do it exactly the same. The other most effective way is to do it completely differently . Then there's the third way, to do it half the same and half differently.

  11. this came on as i was falling asleep. At first i was like what is this ? I thought i got to turn this off what the hell a wanna be musician. So i got up and went to change it but instead rewound it and read the comments. so I gave it an open mind. I am feel glad that I did . I feel a lot better about what I do musically now . This was a very simple lesson at first i almost gonged it and left a nasty comment. It is a good lesson and i took something from it.

  12. If I couldn't see my screen I would swear Alan Alda was giving me chorus writing lessons : ) Great Stuff Jimmy!

  13. I love the unapologetic aspect to this guy's singing. I mean, absolutely no warning for what is about to happen. A lesser man would have prefaced his performance with a disclaimer that gave the listener a heads up for what's about to come flooding into their ear canal, but not this dude, Nope, just BAM! And what comes out can only be described as an auditory dick punch sung in tenor by one of the sopranos. Dude is raw AF. #legendary

  14. Wait is this a Saturday night live skit? I keep waiting for Chris Farley to bust through the greenscreen and sing harmony.

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