In this article, take a look at a few ways to create contrast in your songs using your melodies.
1. Vocal range It's a big one, because it's so effective
It is quite common in many popular songs to have their verses in a lower register and then choruses sung near the top of the singer's vocal range. It's a great way to let you know when one section is done and another has started.
Plus, when the chorus is sung higher than the verses and bridge, it's a great way to make your chorus stand out, which it is meant to do.
Another way to incorporate the vocal range as a way to distinguish one section from another is to keep a very narrow vocal range in your verses, but then to use a much larger vocal range of notes in your choruses.
A good example of this can be heard in the song "Brighter Than the Sun" by Colbie Caillat.
2. The rhythm of the notes
The melody is made up of rhythm and pitch. So while changing your vocal range from section to section is one way to achieve contrast with your pitch, you can also change the rhythm of your melody from verse to chorus to bridge.
If you have short, choppy notes in your verses, you can use longer, longer notes in your choruses. If you have a lot of space between sentences in your verses, you can use almost no space between your sentences in your choruses.
If you establish an idea in your verses, simply changing it to its opposite in the choruses, you will create a nice contrast for your melody. A great example of each section's change of pace can be found in REM's song “It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Good)”.
The melody of the verses is very fast and choppy, while the melody of the chorus is much longer. This same idea is used in the song "Over the Rainbow" sung by Judy Garland.
The verses have very long melodies, while the bridge has much shorter and choppy notes, beginning on the line "Someday I wish on a star." Makes a very effective contrast.
3. Start the melody at a different beat
This is a good one, that is hardly ever considered. The pace at which you start your melody can affect the mood of your song. Often times, songwriters write their melodies starting with the downbeat (or beat 1) of a bar, as this tends to come more naturally.
If you do this all the time it can get tedious, which is why if your chorus starts each melody line on a downbeat it can be an effective strategy for starting your melody lines on a non-downbeat.
It's also important to note that whatever word lands on the downbeat, it will tend to be the most prominent. That's why if your song title phrase falls on the first beat, it can be an effective way to showcase your title.
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