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Songwriting Techniques: 13 Ways to End a Song
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You’d be surprised how many different ways of ending a song exist. Yet despite the number of options available, we’ve all gotten stuck at one time or another, or fallen into a rhythm using the same predictable ending song after song.
Today we’re sharing 13 different ways you can finish your song, along with examples of how they have been used by some of our favorite artists.
1. The hard out
This is probably the most popular of all endings. It's simple and effective. You sing a final chorus (or two) and end the song on the last note. You can hear it in Carly Rae Jepsen's “I Really Like You” (above), “The Middle” by Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey, and Beyoncé's “Love On Top.” This ending is solid and gives your song a sense of completion.
2. Focus on the hook
Focusing on the hook is another popular ending style and an effective songwriting technique. It's often used in modern dance songs that feature a double chorus (where the second chorus focuses on just repeating the hook). In this song ending, you reemphasize the hook a couple extra times at the end before going out, as heard in Jennifer Lopez's “I Ain't Your Mama,” Katy Perry's “California Gurls,” Maroon 5's “Girls Like You” ft. Cardi B, and Taylor Swift's “Shake It Off.”
3. Go out with a surprise bang
Us The Duo used this technique on their hit “No Matter Where You Are.” At the end of the last chorus, things seem to cool down and get gentler as they repeat the hook a couple more times. Then, at the last second, they surprise you by singing the hook one last time at full power. Wanna surprise your listeners? Use this one on your next song!
4. The classic fade out
Whitney Houston's “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” Wham!'s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” and Billy Joel's “Uptown Girl” are just a few examples of incredible songs that ended with a fade out. It's a true classic that despite its age is still a great choice. Usually, you just keep repeating the chorus (or the hook) over and over again, improvising more as you go along, all while the music fades out. This gives the song the feeling that it never really ends.
So take a page from Natasha Bedingfield's “Unwritten”, which also ends this way—if the topic of your song revolves around any sort of untold, unwritten, unresolved, unfinished business, then a classic fade out may be the perfect way to go to musically match the lack of resolution in your lyrics.
5. Hold out that money note
If your song is in need of ending on a super strong and impressive accent, go out with a total bang by going full power, extending the ending and holding out a mighty high note. Then wrap it with a strong accent and you've got yourself a mega-powerful ending. In other words, do it like Tori Kelly in “Don’t You Worry ’Bout A Thing.”
6. Repeat the hook softly
Rachel Platten's 2015 hit “Fight Song” uses this technique to wrap the song up. At the end of the chorus, she sings another repetition of the hook, but softly. This gives you a sense of there being more to the story that is still yet to be told.
7. The half-time hook
Used in so many ballads, including “Beauty and the Beast,” the half-time hook songwriting technique is a staple way to end your song. Michael Jackson used this one in his song “Childhood.” At the end, the tempo slows down significantly and the hook is repeated one more time very slowly. This is a great tool to use if you're trying to really pull on the emotional strings.
8. Sing the first line of the first verse
Faith Hill's “Breathe” ends with a return to the first line of the first verse. It's a nice way to create a bookend effect, where you start and end the song with the same lyrics. A coming full circle if you will. Another great example of this is Donny Montell's “I've Been Waiting For This Night.”
9. Repeat the entire first verse
“Starving” by Hailee Steinfeld, Grey, and ft. Zedd is an interesting take on the above, where not only the first line, but the entire first verse is repeated at the end of the song. Half of the lyrics are sung on "na-na-na," whereas the second half is sung identically to the first verse. Try this complete bookend in your next song.
10. Instrumental hook
Since instrumental hooks and licks are such a big part of songwriting techniques and song production, I can't pass by without talking about using them as a means to end your song. After your final chorus, you can wrap things up by focusing on the instrumental hook of the song, like OMI does in “Cheerleader.” This is a great way to reinforce a catchy instrumental melody.
11. Instrumental unraveling
The alternate way of having a non-lyrical ending is to go for an instrumental breakdown that isn't necessarily related to the hook, it just lets the song gently unwind, like in Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years,” or Ellie Goulding's “Love Me Like You Do.”
12. Go out with a vocal riff
Charlie Puth's “Attention” is a great example of finishing the song on the chorus but ending it all on a nice vocal riff. It's simple, yet effective. Give it a try!
13. Cut it short
Although this one ties a little more into production, Bruno Mars' “That's What I Like” is an awesome example of surprising your listeners by cutting the last chorus shorter than expected. You think the song will continue another round into one more chorus when suddenly it all stops before the downbeat. It's a clever way of making people want more.