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Make Your Songs Stand Out
Lyrical & Musical Contrast
2000 Danny Arena & Sara Light, All rights reserved.

One of the most obvious but easily overlooked songwriting devices is the use of contrast. Most successful songs incorporate this technique and once you are familiar with the various ways in which you can achieve contrast, you can begin to incorporate it into your own writing. Contrast is making each section of your song stand out and sound different from the other sections in your song. There are several ways you can do this both musically and lyrically.

Creating MUSICAL Contrast: Musically, contrast can be achieved several ways:

MELODICALLY - Try to make the melody higher in the chorus than the verse. It's a good practice to try to write your chorus in your highest comfortable range, giving you room to make the verse lower.

RHYTHMICALLY - If the predominant rhythm for the verse melody is quarter notes, try making the chorus rhythm eighth notes. Even if you're solely a lyricist, you can build rhythmic contrast into your lyrics. A good example of a song that incorporates rhythmic contrast between two sections is the old standard, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."

HARMONICALLY - Try and change the chord progression between sections. An easy way to achieve this is simply by consciously choosing a different chord to start each section. For example, if your verse begins on a G chord, try starting your chorus on a C chord.

Creating LYRICAL Contrast: Lyrically, contrast can be achieved several ways.

RHYME PATTERN - Change the pattern or placement of the rhymes between verse and chorus. Let's say, for example, your verse has an A-B-A-B rhyme pattern:

A -The sky above is blue
B -The ground below is green
A - When I look at you    
B - It's the prettiest sight I've ever seen

You might try using an A-A-B-B pattern in the chorus. Remember, however, that whatever pattern you set up in the verse should remain consistent for all the verses. The same goes for your chorus.

RHYME SOUNDS - Vary the primary vowel sounds of the rhymes throughout your song. For example, if you use a long "e" rhyme sound in your first two lines (be/see), use a different rhyme sound in your next two lines (light/night).

RHYTHM - Change the rhythm of the words between sections. If your verses have long lines with lots of syllables, you might try using short lines without a lot of syllables in your chorus. This will automatically create contrast when the lyrics are set to music.

PRONOUN EMPHASIS - If you are primarily talking about "I" and "me" in the verses, try emphasizing "you" in the chorus. You don't have to make use of every type of contrast in each song, but try to incorporate at least one type of musical contrast and one type of lyrical contrast. The trick is to keep the song interesting and contrast is a time proven technique for achieving this.

Hope to see you on the charts!

-Danny & Sara

Danny Arena & Sara Light are professional songwriters living in Nashville, TN. They teach songwriting courses and several artists have recorded their songs. Sara is the writer of the John Michael Montgomery hit single, "Home To You." They have just completed co-producing a tape series called "The Songwriters Survival Kit." For more information visit their website at

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