Chorus Chord Progressions

If we’re talking popular music composition, by the time you get to a chorus your chord progressions may have cycled 3-4 times. What are some ways that you can make interesting chord progressions for the chorus? Something that makes the chorus stand out obviously.


Utilizing modal mixture or other methods of borrowing chords from outside the scale has worked out well for me. It adds some surprise or interest, in contrast to verses that stick to the scale.

That’s a great idea. Would you do that for the second verse to spice it up?

Yes! I’ve done that at times, but I try to make the changes from the first verse pretty small, because straying too far can make the two verses start to seem like two totally different sections.

An example of what I might do is replace a single F with an Ab if the melody allows (and if it just feels right). They both contain “C” as a note, and both “Eb” and “F” and maybe “G” can pretty easily sound good over both chords as well. I associate certain chord pairs like this because fm7 is enharmonic to Ab6, same for gm7 to Bb6 and so on. It’s usually my first stop when considering how to incorporate more interesting chords from outside the scale.

You could also insert a brief secondary dominant chord somewhere in the second verse to give it a bit more momentum/direction compared to the first verse.

I’d try anything! Good luck with your composition.

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Learning to do this well has been the biggest hurdle for me personally in becoming a songwriter.

Here is a common technique though:

Begin your chorus with a chord not used in the verse, e.g., VI. Swap out the last chord of your verse with a V/VI to signal the coming change. Voilà!

You can also end your verse on the tonic so it feels like a complete statement, then the next section won’t feel so jarring. It will affect the pacing though, which may be good or bad depending on what you’re going for.