One of the most common tricks in song arrangement is to have a quiet or calm verse and a big or raucous chorus. Harder to pull off, but worth exploring, is instead repeating a chorus twice using the same kind of contrast.
Take Reptilia by The Strokes as an example. Right after Julian sings “You’re in a strange part of our town,” the band drops out except for a single guitar playing through one repetition of the chorus, joined for a second repetition by bass and just the kick drum, building up the tension. When the full band comes back in the song really explodes.
Another variation of this approach is found in “Rock Me Gently” by Andy
Kim. Ignore the cheesier aspects of this very 70s pop song and listen to
the way he sings the chorus once with similar dynamics to the verse,
and then hits the same chorus a second time with strong backing vocals
and a harder beat.
are the keys to successfully pulling this off? It’s all about dynamics -
adding more instruments and vocals the second time is crucial. The
repeated chorus has got to sound fuller, whether from adding unison or
harmony vocals, adding more guitars or keyboards, or by additional
percussion (such as tambourine or shaker). The second key is adding a
heavier drum part, such as switching from only kick drum to a full kit
as in “Reptilia,” or the quarter note hits on the snare in “Rock Me
Of course, even if the dynamics are handled this way,
it’s a technique that won’t work for every song. Still, it’s worth
keeping in mind when going straight from the verse to the chorus doesn’t
quite sound right.