I read a few home recording blogs and this past week some techniques came up where the engineer actually wrote automations to increase the high frequency EQ during the chorus of a song. The purpose was to give the song more energy – make the song’s chorus POP. Neat trick, but…..

Something kept bugging me about it and it has very little do with mixing.

If I am thinking that the chorus lacks energy or needs a lift, then there is something else that probably should have happened within the composition of the song/arrangement before it was even recorded. There is a reason most pop song choruses are pitched higher than the preceding verses and the pre chorus usually builds in such a way to allow for the higher pitches to arrive as a resolution (like climbing a mountain and getting the payoff view at the end). Sometimes a song will even Modulate (change keys) to accomplish this goal.

This is a common problem with many songs, (mine included) – melodically they do not grow – it is just the same pitch range the whole time – I think this why so many rap/hiphop artists like Pitbull feature female singers in the choruses. The audience needs something to sing along with and their own voices do not cut it for the sound they are trying to achieve. So they get the high pop tenor or female voice of another established artist to sing in the shout range which is perfect for most 12-16 year-olds to sing along with – think Living on a Prayer or Don’t Stop Believing, even The Rainbow Connection – and think of the Pay Off in the Choruses. Better yet, go listen to them!

Now look at where those songs are pitched in the verses and compare that to the Choruses. In the song they were mixing, a track called Talk Me Down  – the chorus actually dips lower in range as it progresses (Totally the opposite of what those other songs do). It works from a text painting standpoint – Talk me down – the pitch goes down, but from an energy standpoint it doesn’t do anything for song. Text painting is cerebral, it is something you notice after you have studied a song. Energy is heart, it comes from a primal instinctive place and effects people the same way. It makes you dance, cry, and sing along. The performance is excellent, the singing and playing is excellent. But melodically the chorus is working against the energy.

You can’t fix that in the mix. You can dress it up, add some polish, but the melody is still the melody. So what can you do to avoid this? Now that you are aware of it, that might be enough but in my next post I will describe how I write/arrange a song for me to sing versus a song for someone else to sing.

Thanks for reading!