Is Your Chorus Good Enough?
As a songwriter, are you ever worried that your chorus is not good enough? Not catchy, not interesting, not what you hoped it would be?
When I write songs, I often have trouble finishing them. I complete the lyrics and melody, sometimes with the help of others, sometimes on my own. But almost always I have what I call a chorus crisis.
I worry the chorus is not quite catchy or interesting enough. Then is I try to rework it many times over and I get all confused about which is the best version. Maybe I should just have stuck with the original chorus?
What is a chorus?
For many it's the core message of the song - the signature, the centrepiece, the hook. The chorus puts a flag in the ground and says I'm here. It typically contains the song’s melodic motifs and memorable moments as well as lyrical content that is repeated through the tune. It summarises the story and tries to give the listener the bigger picture.
Think about the chorus as not being part of the lyrics, but being the song itself. The reason for the song. The Chorus should give the song direction and clarity. It's a tool that can be used to make sense of the lyrics.
What is a verse?
If the chorus is a billboard, the verses are the structure that holds up the billboard. They are there to support the chorus and explain why it's there, or ask questions about it. Each verse usually has different lyrics but a similar melody and chord structure.
The verses should progressively build up to the chorus, leading to that moment when your chorus opens its heart with profound or important lyrics. These lyrics are often more personal and look at the finer details by telling a story.
How do you solve a chorus crisis?
One simple idea to try first is to start with the chorus and build the verses around it. That way you can quickly discard ideas you don't like, rather than waste lots of time crafting out verses, only to find you have writers block with the chorus.
Once you've found a chorus you like, write verses with lyrics that explain the chorus. You could use each verse to look at the chorus from a different perspective, or a way of chronologically charting the story.
Another idea is to save all your versions of the chorus, by recording it into your phone or computer. Then, at a later date, refer back to them when your song hits a chorus crisis. You might find your original version was the best one and better than you realised.
You might find it useful to have input from another songwriter or lyricist. Look for those people who are genuinely willing to support you. Collaboration is a great way of writing more interesting songs and helps with writers block or a bottleneck you just can't get past. You may also make a new friend!
Play your music to others to see how they react. You will soon get an idea of whether the chorus is good or not. A good chorus works when it can be sung easily - the sing-ability. You may notice this much better when you sing it to other people.
Try recording your song and work on the instrumental parts and gradually let the words form through the music.
Finally, one piece of advice is always worth noting. Keep it simple.