So you’ve written a song and all the important parts are there—a melody, a chord progression, a rhythm, a tempo, and probably lyrics. Before you can consider the track finished, there’s one last thing to consider, and it is absolutely vital to creating a great piece of music: the ending! Without a proper ending, your song not only could theoretically go on forever, but the sonic and emotional impact of the tune can be undermined. You have to wrap it up right to nail home the message and the feeling.
Imagine if Beethoven’s 9th Symphony ended with a squeaky clarinet or if a super sad, dramatic break-up song ended with the notorious “cha-cha-cha” beat. The entire process laid down by the arrangement and executed by the artist would be terribly mismatched, perhaps wrecking everything. The ending of a song has the power to change a person’s perspective on the entire composition.
In this article, we’ll look at two different aspects to writing the end of your song: what part of the song to end with and what chord to finish on. Once your song is done, let’s start talking about how you can promote your song on Spotify, the radio, and more!
In This Article:
- What Part To End With
- What Chord To End On
- Ending On The “I” Chord
- Ending On The “IV” Or “V”
- Deceptive Ending: Ending On The “VI” Or The Picardy 3rd
- A Final Word On Endings
What Part To End With
At first glance this may seem silly, since the part we end on is quite literally “the end,” but when it comes to songwriting, it’s always helpful to look at things from various perspectives. The most common part of the song to end on is the chorus, or the refrain. In most tunes, the chorus is also the hook, so it makes sense to return to it again before the production concludes. Many tracks repeat the chorus a few times at the end: two is standard, though some let it rip time and time again.
Some tracks subvert this standard writing practice and end on a part that is different from the chorus. It is common for folk artists and singer-songwriters to return to the verse one more time to add to the narrative or wrap things up, especially in story songs. Common in rock ’n’ roll and progressive bands like to end their tunes with an instrumental solo over one of the previous parts (usually a chorus or verse).
One final way to end a song is to write a completely new part that hasn’t been heard yet, wrapping the piece in a new progression or key. Whatever you choose, make sure it works with the rest of the track…unless, of course, you want the final moments to be somewhat surprising, sounding nearly nothing like the rest of the composition.
What Chord To End On
Ending On The “I” Chord
The most common chord to end a song on is the Tonic or the I (or i) chord. This means the chord that matches the key of the track. For a chord progression in C major, such as C-G-Am-F, the most popular move is to finish the tune on C (the I chord). It feels complete, like we’ve returned “home.” In a progression in Am, such as Am-G-F, Am (the i chord) is the most frequent place to conclude. But music would be boring if everything always worked one way!
Ending On The “IV” Or “V”
Another option is to end on the IV chord. So for C-G-Am-F, we can wrap the piece on an F (the IV chord) to surprise the listener’s ear and suggest a feeling of unfinished business or suspense. It is a great way to keep someone’s attention, because we feel like we’re hanging on to an unfinished sentence. The Killers’ “When You Were Young” finishes on a V chord, which makes us wait for a resolution that doesn’t come. It’s exciting and tantalizing at the same time.
Deceptive Ending: Ending On The “VI” Or The Picardy 3rd
Another variation on this idea is switching to a minor chord at the end of a major song or vice versa. It has a very surprising effect and represents a huge turn in harmony. In the C-G-Am-F progression, closing the song on Am (the vi chord) gives us the feeling of a twist of fate or a transition to darker material.
In the opposite case, using a Picardy 3rd means raising the 3rd of a minor chord, making it major. This trick comes from the world of classical music and is always used to turn the i chord into an I chord at the end of a composition. So for our Am-G-F progression, Am is used throughout the whole song, but then at the very end, the C in the Am becomes a C# and voila! It is an A major! It brightens a dark-sounding song at the very end and is a shock to pretty much everyone listening.
A Final Word On Endings
As you can see, there are lots of choices to make when designing the end of your song, and in this article we only hit two of them. The most important thing to take into consideration when writing an ending is not the complexity or originality, but making sure whatever you as the artist choose to do serves the song you wrote. Otherwise, you might as well throw in “cha-cha-cha.”
Hopefully this article helped you think of some new ways to end the songs you’re working on. When you’re ready, give Planetary a call. We’re the pros at music promotion and we’ll make sure the world hears what you’ve created—(323) 952-5050.