Join Julian Velard for an in-depth discussion in this video Move from a verse to a chorus, part of Songwriting Techniques with Chords.
- Now that we've looked at different ways we can harmonize a melody, I want to shift gears and show you how harmony relates to a song's form. I discuss the elements of song form in great detail throughout Chapter 4 of Music Theory For Songwriters: The Fundamentals. If you want to familiarize yourself with the various elements of song form, I recommend you head over there to brush up as I'll be using the terminology I established there here on in. While there are many different types of song forms, I'm going to focus on the modern pop song form of verse chorus bridge. That said, the way chords relate to a song's form can be used for a transitional moment in any of the traditional song forms or even within sections of a song for that matter.
Let's take a look at how you can transition from a verse to a chorus. One of the simplest ways to shift from a verse into a chorus is to have the chord at the end of a verse resolve into the beginning chord of a chorus. The best way to do this is through the use of a cadence. I want to take a look at how we do this with the most powerful and common of the cadences, the authentic cadence. Because it's the most fundamental example of tension and release in harmony, the authentic cadence is a great way to transition between a verse and a chorus. Let's take a look at this in action with a song example I've created called Why Can't You Say You Love Me.
I'm not going to play the whole thing here, I'm just going to play from the verse through the chorus just so you can get a sense of the transition point. I'll play it for you now. ♫ Why can't you show me the way to your heart ♫ I want to know where I'm going ♫ Why won't you let me go back to the start ♫ That's where we belong ♫ Don't tell me I'm wrong ♫ I'm in love ♫ With you So let's take a closer look at the transition point between the end of the verse and the beginning of the chorus.
It's no coincidence that the first authentic cadence we see in this song happens at the bar right before the chorus. The motion of five to one pulls us from the verse into the chorus. I'm going to play the lead into the chorus, you're going to hear that motion from the authentic cadence. ♫ That's where we belong ♫ Don't tell me I'm wrong ♫ I'm in love Just listen to the chords and you're going to hear the authentic cadence in action. (piano music) Some other interesting things happen in the verse that help build the anticipation for the chorus.
Let's have a look. First off the song is in C major, we know this on account of there being no sharps or flats in the melody. Did you notice the verse chord progression moved between D minor 7 and A minor, which are the two in the sixth chord of the key. This progression is an excellent example of the harmony of the verse setting us up for the chorus. These two chords are not enough information to tell us what key we're in. The progression of D minor 7, the A minor, exist both in C and F major.
So I'm going to play you a D minor 7 chord, followed by an A minor chord with the scale of C on top of it and then I'm going to do the same thing with the scale of F on top of it. You'll notice that both chords fit perfectly well with both scales. Take a listen. Here's the C major one. (piano music) Now here's the F major one. (piano music) Do you hear how both those chords can fit with both those scales? Take a listen again.
(piano music) Because neither of these chords possess a B, our ear is left to decide whether that B is the B natural of C major or the B flat in F major. Furthermore, there is no B in the melody 'til we get to the last bar of the verse. We hear the B natural finally on beat four of the last bar of the verse, right before the chorus starts. It firmly establishes us as being in C major just in time to pull us into the first chord of the chorus, which is the tonic of C.
Here's the end of the verse leading up to the chorus. ♫ That's where we belong ♫ Don't tell me I'm wrong ♫ I'm in There's the B ♫ In love You see how that pulls us straight into the chorus? The plagal cadence of four to one can be just as effective to pull us into a chorus. However, our melody in Why Don't You Love Me does not allow for it. Here's what our song would sound like with the four chord in place of the five right before the chorus.
You see it's not really going to work very well because of that being the melody. That's going to give us a Lydian sound as the B acts as an eleventh against the F chord which is much less final than the G chord we had earlier. Have a listen. ♫ That's where we belong ♫ Don't tell me I'm wrong ♫ I'm in love I'm going to play that again and I'm going to retrigger the F chord when I hit that B note and you're going to hear the Lydian sound. ♫ That's where we belong ♫ Don't tell me I'm wrong ♫ I'm in love Now we can fix this issue by actually changing the melody to fit the plagal cadence but it's not nearly as strong of a pull toward the chorus.
This is on account of the B in the melody also being the leading tone of the key of the song which is C. So let's have a listen to what it would sound like if I changed that B on beat four to an A. ♫ That's where we belong ♫ Don't tell me I'm wrong ♫ I'm in love Let's listen to that again. You can hear it, the pull is not nearly as strong. ♫ That's where we belong ♫ Don't tell me I'm wrong ♫ I'm in love That said, the F chord works perfectly fine in place of the G for the first two beats of the bar.
So if you wanted to keep it there, you can change the harmonic rhythm. Here's what the song would sound like with the F chord on the first two beats of that bar and then a G chord on beats three and four. And I've changed the melody back to the way it was. Take a listen. ♫ That's where we belong ♫ Don't tell I'm wrong ♫ I'm in love You see how that worked really nicely? Let's listen to it again. ♫ That's where we belong ♫ Don't tell me I'm wrong ♫ I'm in love Now that's not to say all choruses have to start with a tonic chord.
Here is a version of our song example where the chorus starts in the four chord which is F major. You'll notice I've adjusted the chord at the end of the verse to accommodate this shift in harmony. Let's have a listen to what this sounds like. ♫ That's where we belong ♫ Don't tell me I'm wrong ♫ I'm in love I added a C chord with an E in the bass to beats three and four of the bar before the chorus to pull us toward the F chord at the top of the chorus. It's kind of nice because it feels unexpected and sometimes that might be what you want to make your chorus feel like a surprise.
Let's listen to it again ♫ That's where we belong ♫ Don't tell me I'm wrong ♫ I'm in love Still this pull is not as final as the original authentic cadence we had. Now there's no rule saying you should have the chorus of your songs start with the tonic chord of the key. That said, it's a convention in most modern pop songs to have the chorus or the hook start and end with the tonic. Now let's move on and look at ways we can transition between a chorus and a bridge.
In this course, musician Julian Velard demonstrates the many ways to write songs with chords, and how altering chords can change how a song sounds. He starts by explaining how chords and harmony affect a song's feel and form. Next, he shows how to harmonize a melody with chords, and demonstrates how changing the harmonic rhythm can affect the feel and sound of a song. Julian then illustrates how to form an entire song using chords. Finally, he goes deeper and shows how to use chord extensions as melody notes to create a more complex melody.
- Harmonizing a melody
- Changing the harmonic rhythm
- Treating the melody as a chord extension
- Moving from a verse to a chorus
- Transitioning from a chorus to a bridge