Contrast

There are many elements to a song. Within each of them, a
little variation, a little contrast is helpful.

Let’s take the element of melody as an example. One common way to use contrast is having the verses in a lower or middle range, with some high notes in the chorus. In rock you often hear a verse sung an octave higher than the previous verse. This not only contrasts pitch, but the intensity of the vocal.

An example using melody and rhythm can be found in a song like Johnny B. Goode or almost any of Chuck Berry’s hits (Nadine, Promised Land, Roll Over Beethoven). If you don’t know his music, think of the Billy Joel song ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire.’ The verses consist of rapid fire syllables, almost one syllable per beat. That makes a strong rhythmic statement.

But to carry that on throughout the entire song would be monotonous. So in Johnny B. Goode he throws in a little contrast in the chorus: not so many syllables, a little more room to breathe for the singer and the listener.

You can use contrast to add interest in your lyrics, for example, intimate, specific, personal lyrics in the verses and a more philosophical chorus.

So far, we shown examples where verses contrast with choruses, but you can use contrast anywhere. For example, the beginning of every verse can be somber and maudlin while by the end of the verse it can be more hopeful.

Or you can use contrast across different elements. An extreme example would be a bouncy, happy musical accompaniment for lyrics that are serious or depressing. This is a little tricky. If you can make it work for you, it can be very effective.

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