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Pop Songs: Music & Melody

Pop Songs: Music & Melody

The below is taken from a chat board that is long since gone, and was part of a much larger post string.  I’ve aggregated the “good bits” to create an easier read and added a few embellishments here and there.  Thanks to Jason “The Millenial” for the great tips!


Pop Songs – Music & Melody


Let’s talk about the chords that sit under your melody and the rhythm at which they change. Choosing the right chords and the rate at which they change can help strengthen your melody and propel your song.


Chord Stability
Remember when I mentioned that certain notes in a key sound more stable than others? The same goes for chords.

Let’s say I’m writing a song in the key of C. The chord built off the tonic (the I chord, or C major) is going to feel the most stable – so it would be wise to save this for the chorus.

The V chord (G major in the key of C) wants to resolve to the I chord (called a cadence), so I might stick this chord at the end of the pre-chorus (so that it leads the listener right into the beginning of the chorus, where I’ve stuck the I chord).

Chances are you’re doing many of things naturally already, but becoming aware of why you’re making these choices will allow you to manipulate them when necessary.

Picking the right chords can serve to strengthen your melody by supporting moments of tension, and providing release when necessary. If each section of your song starts on the same chord, try switching things up a bit.

If you haven’t already, try experimenting with different chords over the same melody!


Pop Songs Music Technique: Pace


Harmonic Acceleration/Deceleration
What we’re talking about here is literally the rate at which the chords change. Chords that change at a faster rate have more energy in comparison to chords that change at a slower rate.

Using this knowledge, we can accelerate the rate at which the chords change during parts that need more energy (hint: the chorus), and decelerate during times that don’t (the verses).
A perfect example is the song “Grenade”, by Bruno Mars. The verse progression shifts between Dm and Am at 2 bars intervals. During the last two bars of the verse, the chords accelerate – they switch every bar.

The chorus is based upon the progression [Dm, Bb, F, C] – but the chords shift…wait…could it be? EVERY 2 beats! The chords are moving faster than they are in the verse – we’ve harmonically accelerated! And what’s the result? The chorus feels like it’s moving faster, and with more energy.

It’s no surprise that most pop songs harmonically accelerate during the chorus, as doing so adds energy and intensity to the part of the song that needs it the most.

Bridges often harmonically decelerate in comparison to the chorus (to provide contrast, as they are usually sandwiched between two choruses).


More Articles


Pop Songs: Song Structure

Pop Song: Lyrics

Melody Writing For Pop Songs

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