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Part of our jobs as engineers is to make sure that we make when the song hits the chorus, the listener knows it. Of course, this is also part of the songwriting, but the producer and engineer have to add to that effect. Sometimes, it can be tough to really get it to hit home. So if you're ever stuck, here's a few ideas to help give you that satisfying feeling a chorus should have.
This is probably the most obvious one. There are several types of automation that can help make the chorus huge.
1) Panning - Try panning most of your tracks closer to the centre of the stereo image for the verses. The when the chorus hits, pan all appropriate instruments out all the way. This will give the stereo image a massive jump, which will help the chorus stand out. Some instruments that you could do this on include synths, drum overheads and rooms, guitars, and backup vocals. Experiment!
2) Volume - Basically the same principle as panning, however with volume. Keep the verse a tad quieter than the chorus, and you'll get a great contrast. Some instruments I like to crank up in the chorus include the kick and snare, bass, and cymbals for some energy
3) Reverbs and Delays - If the song has a decent amount of reverb and delay on it, then you can use this to your advantage. Keep the verses a bit dryer, and same thing as before, kick up the effects when the chorus hits. These time-based effects will fill the holes in the stereo image, making for a more full sound.
This is one of my favourite techniques for making the chorus feel utterly massive. What I do is program the bass line from the chorus into a midi track, and then attach a sub bass synth to it. Tuck this in during the chorus, and the low end will just explode. Be careful though, it's pretty easy to go to far with it. Probably a good idea to check the mix using a sub.
These work great to get the chorus moving, due to their rhythmic nature. Anything from tambourines, maracas, egg shakers, all the way to synthetic sounds from 808 kits, etc. Again, pretty easy to go to far with this. When I add a shaker, I'll usually turn its volume down to 0, then slowly bring it back up until I can hear it, then back off just a touch. Then I test to see if it's making a difference by muting it and un-muting it, comparing the difference.
There you go, mission "massive chorus" accomplished. Please share any other techniques that you use to make a chorus pop.
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