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Verse to Chorus Key Change Rules?


(@rparker)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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I'm writing a song right now that will have 3 main sections that will repeat. I start off on the chorus and then follow a pretty standard Verse to Pre-Chorus to Chorus path. I'm going to end the song with sort of an outro based on the last line of the chorus.

Do I need to stay in the same scale or mode for the whole song? If the verse is in D-Major, should I have my chorus start off on a note that's in the D-Major scale, or is switching keys back and forth something done a lot? On a related note, is this where I start looking at modes?

Right now, before doing any recording, my chorus is in E and follows a really basic E to D to A back to E. My verse - so far - is in D and follows a D to C to G to D transition. The idea is to have the chorus higher and brighter than the verse. The pre-chorus is in the verse chords, but with a different beat that is going to help ramp up to the chorus. The sections don't flow together all that well without some sort of build up or transition riff or whatever.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


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(@davidhodge)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 4485
 

Hi Roy

You don't have to stay in the same key, scale or mode throughout a song. Lots of songs change, not only between verses and choruses and bridges but also within a verse. That's simply a matter of writing.

A lot of choruses sound brighter not because of a change of key but because of a change of range in the melody. For instance, in the key of D a verse's melody may be in the low D to A range while the chorus is in the F# to high D range. It may not seem like much, but depending on how often and long the high notes occur, it can give the feel of lifting and brightening the chorus.

In the case of your song, There are all sorts of ways of making a smooth transition from D to E and back again. Because A is in both keys (and because it's the fifth in the key of E), that's a good chord to use as a transition chord. Coming out of the chorus, for instance, you might go E to D to A and then hang onto the A for a little bit (instead of going back to E) and then moving right into the D to C to G sequence.

Likewise, at the end of the verse you might try going from D to C to G and then to A (instead of going to D) before hitting the E to D to A of the chorus.

Remember that these are just a few of many possibilities. Play around and see if you can come up with ones you like even more.

Looking forward to hearing this at some point.

Peace


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(@rparker)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5492
Topic starter  

Thanks, David. This is all good news for me. :D

I've gotten a bit comfortable this afternoon going from D to end the pre-chorus to a quick A chord before going to E in the chorus. The chorus actually starts with a single E chord and then I go tacet for the rest of the measure. The D-A-E thing sounds like a nice buildup. Especially if I do an Asus4 (I think? X-0-2-2-0-0) and concentrate on the D-G-B strings. It flows really well. I'll explore for more.

On a side note and in all of my airheaded glory, I forgot to look at your songwriting book to see if there was a section on it. I've not read that one cover to cover yet.

ps. my next and second original will be on Hear Here hopefully this week. This one's a bit out. :)

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


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(@moonrider)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1309
 

A classic example of this is the Johnny Cash tune, "Five Foot High and Rising"

Every time the chorus is sung, the key changes and the melody takes a higher pitch - just like a flooding river rises.

Check it out . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fpbCLNyPUA

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

Moondawgs on Reverbnation


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(@rparker)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5492
Topic starter  

Well, I had the song written with my chord changes right where I wanted them. The choruses, verses and pre-choruses sound fine on their own, but they do not match up well. The energy and emotional flow just doesn't jive the way I have it. I'm having difficulty explaining this even to myself, but I think how and when I come out of the chorus is leading me to an octave higher start on the verse(D) than where I want to be. The opposite going from verse or pre-chorus to chorus. I hear the music going down an octave instead of at the higher octave from when I started the song. (I start on a chorus)
A classic example of this is the Johnny Cash tune, "Five Foot High and Rising"
I never heard that one before. That is an interesting example, though. The key rises with the water. Kind of like swimming in new England lakes on a nice, brisk Early June morning. The deeper you get..... Seriously, though, imagine going down instead of up once in key and that's what it sounds like going from verse to chorus.

I've got to be making something a whole heck of a lot harder than it needs to be somehow.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


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(@rparker)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5492
Topic starter  

Well, just a little update. I've not worked on this song all week in part because I was kind of stuck. I think I just needed to dig in and try a few things out. I'm using one of David's ideas going into the chorus, but I changed up the pattern a bit to further the selling job of going from one pattern//key to another.

Coming out of the chorus, I have a A-E thing that gets repeated a couple of times before I head back to the verse. I think I can change up on an A and to sort of a turn around using either a qucik little C-G-D thing or a A-G-D thing. Either way, it doesn't leave me thinking I need to belt out something an octave higher.

OK, so hopefully a final song in Hear Here within a few weeks to go along with the one I put in earlier this week. 's-funny. I never had any notion until a year ago to do any original songs, and not much of one after the first one got done. It's opposite now. I can't seem to do enough.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


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(@notes_norton)
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I used to play with a lot of big band people when I was young (they are all in the great gig in the sky now). They often called the B section "The Release" because it released the listener from the dominant key of the song before returning the listener back to the tonic.

I don't think there are any hard-fast rules for this, but there are some common conventions.

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


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