Pop Music Theory

Lessons

Detailed Contents

45: Hook to Chorus: Rolling Stone

Get Future Lessons

Detailed Contents

Lesson 45: Hook to Chorus: Rolling Stone

This lesson explores expanding a hook into a whole chorus. This is the usual "next step" in writing a song after you've written a hook (Lesson 44: Hook Melodies).

To learn ways to expand a hook into a chorus, we'll study how "real songs" do it. For this lesson, we'll look at Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan (link at end of lesson). If you don't remember this Rolling Stone's hook, then first review:
To review, the Rolling Stone hook (at 1:05 in the recording) consists of:
  • A melody phrase ("How does it feel?")
  • A chord phrase:
      C   F     G        
    | / / / / | / / / / |

Repeating the Hook Phrase


How did Bob expand this hook into a whole chorus? It's driven by the lyrics. Bob continues with more short phrases, like lines of poetry:

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like A Rolling Stone?

To set these lines to music, Bob does the obvious thing: He repeats the two-measure chord phrase (C F G) over and over. And, he also more-or-less repeats the hook melody (at least the melody rhythm) over and over, along with the 2-measure chord phrase. Here's a sketch of the chords and lyrics together:

C F G
|| /   /  /   /   | /   /  // |
How does it feel How doesit feel
C F G
| /   /  /   /   | /  / / /|
  Tobe without a home
C F G
| /   /  /   /   | /  / / /|
  Likea complete unknown
C F G
| /   /  /   /   | /  // / |
Like A Rolling   Stone?

Melody Pitches


How does Bob choose the melody notes? Most of the pitches in this melody don't seem that important to me; it wouldn't matter much if they were changed a bit, and lots of them are just the tonic (the note C, which is also this song's key). The most important pitches are the last one in each phrase. This song is in the key of C; here is the scale degree, in the key of C, of each of these last-in-the-phrase notes:

feel:note E = degree 3
feel:note E = degree 3
home:note E = degree 3
… unknown:   note E = degree 3
Stone:note C = degree 1

The 1st 4 phrases end on degree 3, which does not sound particularly "final"; then the last phrase, the words "Like A Rolling Stone", ends on degree 1, the key's tonic, which does sound "final". Ending the melody on degree 1 like this is not a rule, but it's very, very common.

Stretching the Ending


After singing the last word in the chorus, "Stone", Bob could have simply finished the 2-measure chord phrase ( | C F | G || ) and continued straight on to Verse 2, like this:

C F G
| /   /  /   /   | /  // / |
Like A Rolling   Stone?
C F G [Verse 2]
| /   /  /   /   | /   /   // ||
  Oh  you've

However, what Bob actually does is this:

C F G
| /   /  /   /   | /  // / |
Like A Rolling   Stone?
C F G
| /   /  /   /   | /   /  /   /   |
[harmonica]
C F G G [Verse 2]
| /   /  /   /   | /   /   /   /   | /   /   // ||
[harmonica]   Oh  you've

This "actual" chorus does several things to stretch the ending:
  • Repeats the 2-measure chord phrase an extra time
  • Plays a harmonica lick to fill the extra time
  • Stretches the last G chord from 1 measure to 2 measures

These "stretching" ideas are totally optional. They create a "dramatic pause" before Verse 2, but the song "works fine" without them. If you like them, add them to your bag of songwriting tricks.

Do It Yourself


This Like A Rolling Stone example is just one way out of thousands to expand a hook into a chorus. To get started creating your own chorus, you can use ideas from this example if you want. However, as you go on, to avoid feeling like you're just copying Like A Rolling Stone all the time, you'll want to learn hook-expanding ideas from many songs. So, I'd suggest adding activities like these to your writing exercises (from Lesson 2: Practicing Songwriting):
  • Analyze how the hook is expanded into a chorus in songs you like.
  • Practice using the ideas you find. Try mixing ideas from different songs, so your own chorus doesn't sound too much like any other particular song. Try inventing your own original variations of ideas you find.

Next:
Start exploring adding a verse to a chorus, in Lesson 46: Melody Rhythm: Rolling Stone.

Song link:
For Like A Rolling Stone, I used the recording from The Essential Bob Dylan ($1.29 at Amazon as of this writing).

Lessons

1: Introduction
2: Practicing Songwriting
3: Pitch Names
4: Letters Game
5: Sharps & Flats
6: Half-Steps & Whole-Steps
7: Steps Game
8: Scales
9: Major Scale 1-2-3
10: Major 1-2-3 Games
11: Major Scale 1-5
12: Major 1-5 Games
13: Chords: Major Triads
14: Major Triad Games
15: Minor Triads
16: Minor Triad Games
17: Major Scale 1-8
18: Major Scale Games
19: Keys
20: Roman Numeral Chords
21: Scales Above 8
22: Diatonic Triads
23: Using Diatonics
24: Tonic Function
25: Subdominant & Dominant
26: Diatonic Function Analysis
27: Natural Minor Scale
28: Natural Minor Games
29: Minor Key Triads
30: 7th Chords
31: 7ths Games
32: Suspended-4th Chords
33: Time: Beats & Measures
34: Starting a Song: Hook Chords
35: Melody: Chord Tones
36: Treble Staff
37: Treble Staff Game
38: Note Lengths
39: Tied & Dotted Notes
40: Rhythm: Rests
41: Key Signatures
42: Syncopation
43: Pentatonic Scales
44: Hook Melodies
45: Hook to Chorus: Rolling Stone
46: Melody Rhythm: Rolling Stone
47: Non-Root-Bass Chords
48: Embellishing Tones
49: Diatonic 7ths
50: Pitch & Frequency

Get Future Lessons

Detailed Contents


ABOUT US - CONTACT US (info@drawmusic.com) - FACEBOOK

© 2018 Conrad Albrecht. All rights reserved.