Keeping with the theme of this week’s video, today I would like to give you some ways to make the chorus of your song “pop” or stand out.
Even though the video showed a mixing tip, you should really start thinking about making your chorus stand out at a much earlier stage of the game.
Specifically, during the songwriting stage.
As you’re writing a song, you should be thinking about how your chorus is going to sound relative to the verses. How is it going to stand out?
I watched a video once where a favorite artist of mine named Chris Tomlin was discussing one of his latest hits. He said something very significant. I don’t remember the exact words, but the idea was:
If the song doesn’t sound good with just a single voice and acoustic guitar, then the song itself probably isn’t any good.
That’s golden advice right there. Don’t rely on production tricks to hide a bad or mediocre song. It just doesn’t work that way.
So if we’re going to make the chorus pop, we need to start here in the writing stage. Get the song to sound how we want it to sound now.
So how do we do it? How can we make the chorus “pop” at the writing stage?
Many ways. But here are a few to think about:
Change up the chords. Often the chorus has different chords from the verse, and this type of contrast can sometimes be just what you need.
Write meaningful words. Something that people connect with and remember. A catchy theme can go a long way.
Create a “hummable” melody. The melody of the chorus is the part that people are going to sing over and over in their heads. If it’s hard to hum, you might have trouble making it stand out.
Create some sort of contrast. In many songs, the chorus is louder and has more energy than the rest of the song. That’s a tried-and-true approach. However, sometimes it can also work to make the chorus lower or softer. Either way, some sort of contrast will make the chorus stand out.
Ok, so you can play the song with your acoustic guitar, and the chorus is sounding great. What next?
This is where a lot of magic can happen.
It starts with a good song, of course. But a well arranged good song can bring your audience to tears. In a good way.
What arrangement decisions can make the chorus pop?
Fill up the instrumentation. Bring more instruments in for the chorus. But be careful. You don’t want to muddy things up. Normally I will actually fill up the chorus until it’s sounding nice and full and big, and then cut back on the other sections of the song until the chorus hits me the way I want it to.
Add excitement in the performance stage. A good performer will make their instrument sound more exciting and energetic in the bigger parts of the song. If this excitement and energy isn’t in the recording, it’s hard to add it later in mixing. This goes for vocals as well.
The way to get hard-hitting mixes is to make hard-hitting recordings.
And finally, when all that is done, what’s left to do in mixing?
Well, there are a few things we can do.
Boost the highs going into the chorus. Using automation, you can give a lift just going into the chorus, and slowly drop it back during the next measure or two. I actually show you exactly how to do that in my latest video.
Chop up the audio regions and bump up the gain during the chorus. This is a neat little trick that I learned over at Dueling Mixes. It’s different than just automating the master fader. It’s more like turning the individual instruments up during the chorus. They run hotter into your compressors and other plugins, just for the chorus. It’s a really nice effect when it works. Give it a shot on your next mix and see what you think.
Automate the volume of key tracks. For example, turning up the drum overheads during the chorus is a great trick that I learned from Graham Cochrane, and can work really well.
Remove stuff from the verses. I already mentioned this in arrangement, but you can also remove or mute tracks when mixing to make more of an impact if needed.
So there you have it. We all want our choruses to pop out and be memorable. Just remember: it starts at the songwriting stage, and carries on the whole way through the production process.
Hopefully these tips have helped you out and given you some ideas. If you have some tips of your own, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!