Monday, April 25th, 2011

(Image by David Russell Talbot)
(The following is an excerpt from Writing The Big Chorus: Delayed Gratification and The Power of One, 2nd. Edition

In Part One we learned from our discussion of chord theory that in a chord progression, the function of the 1 chord is to provide stability, permanence, and the feeling of arrival, or of having "come home"- remember our baseball diamond analogy? The Power of One is in delaying resolution to the 1 chord until the chorus while setting up anticipation for it. By delaying resolution to the 1 chord, we are denying a listener's expectations. And in this context, nothing is more effective than denial of the 5-1 cadence.

Unresolved Cadences: Cadences (from It.) "To fall or decline"; are points of closure found at the end of musical phrases, usually occurring in the fourth or eighth measure (in 4/4 time). By controlling these points we can delay closure until a desired section- like the Chorus!

Fulfilling Expectations: We've seen how the Big Chorus song exercises the healthy human personality trait Delayed Gratification by setting up expectations and denying those expectations. If the sections preceding the chorus have accomplished this, the listener is now ready for the big payoff- the arrival of the Chorus. It is at this point that the songwriter must fulfill and exceed expectations! The root position 1 chord should hit the downbeat of the chorus like a meteorite! Arranging and production elements can also contribute to the effect, like introducing more instruments during the chorus, a cymbal crash on the downbeat, bringing background vocals in, etc.

After the chorus has done its job, it's up to the rest of the song to keep the process going. This is accomplished by setting up, delaying, and fulfilling expectations again, all the while "surprising and delighting" the listener. If a line were drawn to indicate the emotional direction of the above, it would resemble a series of mountain-like peaks and valleys. The destination must be worth it though, the journey interesting, and the rewards along the way fulfilling.

Disclosure of Meaning: Not only is the chord progression responsible for the big payoff, the lyric has to deliver the same punch! In the verses the lyric should be leading up to some conclusion, revelation, or emotional statement that gets revealed in the chorus. The first line of the chorus is a great place for this to happen. Examples include: "Breathe" (by Stephanie Bentley and Holly Lamar), "I'm Already There" (by R. McDonald, G. Baker, and F. Myers), "I Will Always Love You" (by Dolly Parton), "I Swear" (by G. Baker and F. Myers), and"I Can't Make You Love Me If You Don't" (by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin). OK! Batter up!

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