Coming up with a chorus progression
Coming up with a chorus progression
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Coming up with a chorus progression

Question by Larry
(California)

I am trying to write songs. For example say that I am playing a I-IV-V progression in the key of G for my verses. G-C-D. How would I come up with a chorus progression to go along with this? Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

Suggestions


Firstly, make your way through the chord progressions section as this will give you some important grounding and (hopefully) spark many ideas.

As far as key, you have two options when it comes to the chorus.

1. Reaffirm the G major key.

2. Change key.

With the 1st option, it could be as simple as repeating the verse progression, but with more energy (e.g. more energetic strumming/picking), or you could change the chords around a bit.

Examples

-Verse-

Gmaj / Cmaj / Dmaj

-Chorus-

Cmaj / Gmaj / Dmaj

or

Cmaj / Dmaj / Gmaj

You could also introduce some other chords from the G major scale, which is:

Gmaj / Am / Bm / Cmaj / Dmaj / Em / F#dim

So we could, for example, use the following in the chorus:

Am / Em / Cmaj / Dmaj

or a chorus with two parts:

Gmaj / Bm / Em / Cmaj

Gmaj / Am / Dmaj / Cmaj

All these naturally lead back to the G major tonic for the next verse (if that's the plan).

Now, the other option is to change key and really take the chorus to a "new place".

A lot of this will be down to your experimentation - trial and error with different chords. Don't be afraid to try a random approach.

But there are some tried and true ways of making your key changes sound natural, but at the same time give your chorus a new direction.

One way is to move to the bVII subtonic chord (that would be F major in the key of G major) and use that as a new tonic. You could either repeat the I IV V sequence from that new tonic...

-Verse-

Gmaj / Cmaj / Dmaj

-Chorus-

Fmaj / Bbmaj / Cmaj

...or head off in another direction using chords from the F major scale...

Fmaj / Am / Bbmaj / Gm

We don't even have to begin on the new Fmaj tonic either. In this example, I still change key to Fmaj, but I use the IV chord of Fmaj.

-Verse-

Gmaj / Cmaj / Dmaj

-Chorus-

Bbmaj / Fmaj / Cmaj

Now, you may be thinking "how do I get back to G major?"

Simply prepare for the Gmaj tonic again by using the most obvious signposts - the IV and V chords.

-Chorus-

Bbmaj / Fmaj / Cmaj (repeat until chorus end)

then our sequence to prepare a G major tonic...

Bbmaj / Fmaj / Cmaj / Dmaj / Gmaj

D major becomes the V chord of G major!

What about a minor key chorus?

First, the most natural sounding minor key change, known as a relative key change, where we resolve to the relative minor of the G major scale (the same as the vi chord - Em)...

-Verse-

Gmaj / Cmaj / Dmaj

-Chorus-

Em / Cmaj / Dmaj / B7

That B7 still flows quite naturally back to a G major tonic because we were technically playing in a relative key of G major.

We could also do a parallel key change (major to minor or vice versa on the same root) on the last chord in the verse sequence, Dmaj...

-Verse-

Gmaj / Cmaj / Dmaj

-Chorus-

Dm / Bbmaj / Cmaj / A7

Or something a bit more "outside" (again, this is where trial and error comes in)...

-Verse-

Gmaj / Cmaj / Dmaj

-Chorus-

D#m / F#maj / Dmaj / Bmaj

A bit trickier to get back into G major from D#m, but there is a way, just try and find your way back to a chord that can lead naturally back into the G major key (e.g. Em) and resolve using the IV V I method from there (there are other ways to resolve, but 4 5 1 is tried and true)...

-Chorus-

D#m / F#maj / Dmaj / Bmaj

-Bridge to verse-

D#m / Bmaj / Bb7 / Bmaj / Em / A7

Dmaj / Cmaj / Gmaj... back in verse key!

So by giving the chorus such a challenging key change, it encourages us to explore paths we might not have considered within the constraints of the same diatonic key.

As you can imagine, there are 1001 examples, assuming you are not restricting yourself in any way.

A lot of the time, random chord movements, trial and error, will take you to interesting places, so don't become too locked in to diatonic keys. They should only be used as a foundation and as a means to find your bearings, like a trodden path you can use to find your way back in to a given key.

Hope this has helped somewhat.

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