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How To Write A Finale

Sep 04, 2021

How do I write a finale? What even is a finale?

What is the purpose of a finale?

Should I have a finale?

Let’s discuss.


What Is A Finale?

As far as I can tell, a finale (as a section of a song) is something I made up. So, what on earth is it?

First, let’s look at what a finale is in the context of a show.

Google’s definition of a finale is this: “The last part of a piece of music, a performance, or a public event, especially when particularly dramatic or exciting.”

So we know it’s at the end of the show. In case you didn’t get that from the word “finale”.

The other piece of information we get from that definition is that it is particularly dramatic or exciting.  

Your favorite artist probably saves their most popular song for the end of the concert. It creates an epic finale because everyone knows and loves that song. 

Even if the overall show wasn’t great, the last thing they want you to remember is them playing your favorite song and crushing it

They don’t want to fizzle at the end. They want a last minute comeback touchdown. They want to leave you wanting more. 

No one wants to finish the concert and have the fans think “yeah, I was ready for it to be over honestly”. 

finale is a section of a song that accomplishes the same thing. 

The first requirement is that it is at the end of the song and only the end. It doesn’t appear earlier in the song the way a chorus does.

The second requirement is that it functions as a particularly dramatic or exciting part of the song. 

I could entertain the second requirement being somewhat debatable, but I think a finale, by definition, occurs only once at the end of a song. 

In general, I’d say the finale should be so dramatic and exciting that it actually overshadows the chorus. 

Overall, I see a finale as a hybrid between a bridge and a chorus. Like a bridge, it only happens once. Like a chorus, it functions as the high point of the song.

You could see a finale as an epic bridge that doesn’t go back into the chorus or as a second chorus that doesn’t play until the end of the song.


What makes a Finale a good Finale?

A good finale wraps up the song in an exciting fashion without repeating anything from earlier in the song

A good finale will function as an unexpected high point for the listener. 

Listeners are so used to hearing the climax of the song the first time they hear the chorus that providing the actual highlight of the song at the very end can be an interesting and welcome departure.

Save the best for last, right?

If you have a good chorus, you should be able to repeat it 3-4 times and it still be a welcome part of the song to the listeners. But even with arrangement tricks to make the final chorus the highest point in sonic energy, the chorus is still something that’s been repeated before.

So, while the final chorus is usually the true peak of the song, it’s not that much more exciting than the choruses that came before it.

But, if you have a finale that wraps up your song with a new, epic section? If you finish your song with something that even tops your chorus and you don’t  repeat it?

That will leave your listener wanting more. They only heard the highlight once. Most music listeners are used to hearing the highlight 3+ times in the course of a song. 

A good finale makes the listener want to listen to the song again. Because the finale was awesome and they want to hear it again. It perfectly wrapped up the song in an unexpected and yet perfectly fitting way.


Should I Write A Finale For My Song?

This is a very difficult question to answer. We’ll start with the 2 song sections that might be better suited as finales.

If your chorus would be better suited as a story or thematic wrap-up at the end of the song, perhaps you should convert it into a finale and write a different chorus.

If your bridge feels like it overshadows your chorus, making the return to the chorus after your bridge feel like a disappointment, then perhaps it should be a finale instead.

In general, a finale provides an opportunity to end your song on a brand new section that is explicitly written to wrap up the song.

Normally, your chorus has to function as a repeatable section that works well as the conclusion of the first verse, second verse, and bridge of your song while also being the conclusion to your song as a whole.

When you have a finale, it allows the chorus to just be a fitting conclusion to your verses while your finale bears the burden of concluding the song. 

If you think your chorus operates as a good conclusion to your verses, but an underwhelming conclusion to your song, a finale might be the right way to go.

If your chorus feels like it properly wraps up the thematic and story elements of your song, then you probably don’t need a finale.

In general, I like to think of a finale as a twist ending. It’s a bit risky, but if you pull it off well, it’s amazing.

Why is it risky? You’re asking a section to wrap up your entire song in a fitting and dramatic way. It needs to be the highlight of your song. 

But, at the same time, you can’t have your choruses become so lackluster as to lose your listener before they even get to the finale.

Like a twist ending, it needs to be a surprise people didn’t see coming but it must feel right. It can’t feel like a cheap cop-out or a disappointment. It has to feel all but inevitable and necessary in hindsight – even though it was unexpected at the time.

It’s a risk. But a risk that can often be worth taking.

If you’ve seen The Prestige (yes, a Nolan film per usual), you know what an amazing twist ending is like. And you know what it’s like to finish something and instantly want to go through the artistic experience again.

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