Songwriting: The Drama of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dani California”

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Stadium Alcadium

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ songs are usually harmonically fairly straight forward, but they inject ample character into their performance to make the songs distinct.  That being said, after such a long and fruitful career, they know how to write RHCP songs.  Here are the three techniques discussed in this lesson, which deal with how to make each song section distinct, so that the song presents a sense of drama:

  • Observe how the verse, pre-chorus and then chorus gradually go from being heavily rhythm-driven, to rhythm-driven with a few more notes, to finally a chorus that is less rhythmic and more melodic.  Rhythm is an important part of the melody and they’re making each section of the song distinct by using more or less of it.
  • Notice the sudden key change in the bridge.  Bridge is a section where you want to change things up and surprise the audience, and a key change is a great way to pull that off.
  • Finally, the setup for the chorus has a twist for the last one — and it creates a good buildup leading to the final payoff.  The first two times, the chorus is set up by a Dm (iv) chord which is a weak setup, but they reserve the stronger E chord (V) for the big climax.