The key to a great song is undoubtedly a catchy chorus. After all, a great chorus sticks with listeners long after a song has ended serving as that memorable piece to draw back fans time and time again. That being said, many songwriters still struggle with creating strong and effective chorus sections.
Thankfully, we've put together a step-by-step guide on how you can write a killer chorus from the comfort of your home studio. Below, we'll dive into the importance of a song's chorus and teach you how to make your chorus stand out from the crowd. Let's dive in!
What Is A Chorus?
Simply put, a chorus is a refrain or repeated section in a song that's designed to capture a listener's attention. The term "chorus" classically refers to the section of a composition where multiple voices or instruments would join in and perform the same vocal melody. While the term is more general today, the original definition still holds up to some degree -- a strong chorus invites other listeners to sing along with a catchy melody and deliberately repetitive lyrics.
Choruses usually capture the main idea of a song within a short section, usually holding the same chord pattern throughout. Unlike the verse, chorus song lyrics are short and to the point. They are concise by design -- Chorus lyrics are designed to be memorable.
While many tracks utilize a wide variety of song structures, you usually find a chorus in between two verses or after a pre-chorus as seen in this common structure:
The above structure is common in pop music through many hit songs may use a more obscure song structure. However, most strong songs all have a repeated chorus section somewhere throughout the composition.
How To Write A Chorus From Start To Finish
Identifying a good song chorus is one thing -- learning how to write one is another. If you haven't learned how to write a song in the past, creating a killer hook or chorus can be daunting, but don't be discouraged. There are a million ways to create lasting choruses, and we'll share a basic step by step framework so that you can get started:
- Figure out your song's statement
- Start with a chord progression or beat
- Build a melody
- Incorporate rhyme and repetition
- Let it rest
- Edit your work within the context of the whole song
- Repeat as needed
1. Figure out your song's statement
Since a song chorus is representative of the full body of work, it's essential that you nail down the main idea of the song. Before you write the chorus, it may make sense to figure out your intended title for a track, or even write the initial verse to help guide you into the chorus.
Think about what emotions and lyrics might best represent your song and jot them down. Start writing down different words and ideas that relate to the main theme of your track. During this brainstorming stage of the process, try to stay out of your head as much as possible.
You'll have the opportunity to edit your track later. If you try to curtail your ideas before you can get them out, there's a big chance you won't write anything. Trust your instincts and nail down a single concrete idea to kick off your writing session.
2. Start with a chord progression or beat
Once you had a good idea to build off of, you'll need a basis for the musical elements in your track. This could be a basic chord progression, or if you're building a rap song, start with a beat. Whether its a rap chorus, rock chorus, or pop chorus, you'll want to make sure that your lyrics and paced properly with the rhythm.
If you find yourself getting stuck, it might be a good idea to listen to some of your favorite song choruses for inspiration. One great example of a rap chorus can be found in Kayne West's Gold Digger:
There are plenty of excellent examples of catch and memorable melodic choruses in pop music, but one of the best can be found in Robyn's Dancing On My Own
3. Build a melody
After you've laid down your basic chord or rhythmic idea, it's time to build a chorus melody. Start by brainstorming different notes or phrases on top of the chords or beat. It may be helpful to keep a voice memo recording running so that you don't lose track of any breakthrough ideas.
If you're feeling extra daring, you can start to layer out vocal harmonies as well. While this may not be as applicable for rap choruses or other rhythmically-based genres of music, the more depth you can add, the better.
Remember, a chorus melody doesn't have to be complex to be great. You could even use primarily one note with subtle variations thrown in here and there to make a compelling, yet memorable chorus that gets stuck in people's heads.
4. Incorporate rhyme and repetition
One of the reasons why a chorus is so memorable is due to the strong use of rhyme and repetition. Once you've created a draft melody and lyric lines for your chorus, try to edit the section to weave more of these elements into the song.
You may have to create unique wording in order to earn a proper rhyme, but this extra work is worth it. A great hook can lead someone to listen to an entire song, so it's essential that you work with your words until they've developed into a better chorus.
You can also try to create tension or use contradictory statements to spice up your lyrics and grab a listener's attention.
5. Let it rest
Unfortunately, all humans, even those who work as professional engineers can't avoid ear fatigue. We are all incredibly adaptable to sound, which means that we can't always trust our sonic perspective -- particularly when we've been listening to the same section over and over for a long period of time.
If you have the luxury of time, let your chorus ideas rest overnight and come back to it with a fresh set of ears. You may find in the light of day that your first chorus idea isn't gelling as much as you hoped, or that your melody could use a couple of additional tweaks.
Don't get discouraged though! Many songs go through several versions before reaching their final form. Letting your music breathe to get some more perspective is all a part of the process. If you want to go the extra mile, you can also seek out feedback from your peers or online forums.
6. Edit your work within the context of the whole song
A chorus can perfectly capture the main idea of a song, but you still need the other elements of a track to pull everything together. If you already have your chorus, make sure you've written the rest of your song before locking it in.
There's a chance that your chorus melody may feel jarring when juxtaposed against the rest of the song. Choruses can also help inform your next section in a song, so take the opportunity to flesh out those verses.
7. Repeat as needed
Songwriting can be hard, tedious work. While plenty of professionals make it look easy, it's not uncommon for some of the greatest hits to go through multiple versions with multiple different writers.
Therefore, take the time to write an initial chorus idea and then write some more! The best way to get writing music is to simply write music, so try to stay positive and enjoy the process. Don't forget that there are many ways to approach song and chorus writing as well.
You might've written with a melody first this time, but next time you may start out with a strong lyric, or sick bassline. Trust the freedom of flexibility and see where the songwriting process takes you.
Tips And Tricks For Writing Strong Choruses
Are you struggling to write a strong song chorus? Here are a couple of tips to beat writer's block to craft better choruses.
The More, The Merrier
Writing a strong chorus is a skill that needs to be practiced. Remember, writing great choruses can be a numbers game. For every good chorus, you might have 5 or more poor ones. The key is to stay motivated and continue writing so that you can get to that stronger chorus melody.
Try to stay motivated and write multiple chorus lines for a song you plan on releasing. You'll probably find that some options fit better than others. It's also a good idea to seek out feedback from musicians and music lovers in your community. Don't forget that even if you don't end up using a chorus, it's not a waste! Taking the time to write lyrics and melodies is the best way to learn how to craft killer choruses.
Practice Is Paramount
You probably won't become an amazing songwriter overnight. However, if you make a habit out of making chorus melody drafts on a regular basis, you'll find that the whole process will get a lot easier. Practice different methods of creating chorus: You could try coming up with one utilizing music theory, make another from pure inspiration, and start with the lyrics for another song.
Practicing your chorus writing craft from different angles will help you become a more balanced musician and better equipped to help others with songwriting if you run sessions in the future. If you make a habit out of writing music, you're bound to come across a strong song at one point or another.
Use Active Listening
There's a lot we can learn simply by taking the time to actively listen to our favorite songs. If you find yourself stuck while writing a chorus, seek out a great example from one of your playlist favorites. Notice how the artist intertwines the vocal melody with the rhythm of the song, and take care to look at just the lyrics of the song as well.
You'll want to pay attention to what sticks in your head too. Looking at what listeners remember from a fan's perspective can be an easy way to make your chorus feel catchy yet cohesive. Music isn't just for enjoyment for artists: it's also an opportunity to study.
Work Through Writer's Block
Oftentimes, musicians give up on a song far too early simply because they are struggling with writer's block or a "loss" of inspiration . The secret is that everyone, even hitmakers get writer's block -- they just practice working through it.
Whenever you run into a roadblock while writing a chorus, don't give up. Try taking your chorus from a different angle, or finding a different melodic element to start with. It can also be helpful to write a song's verse first so you have context leading into the chorus.
Sometimes, we do need to take a break, but try to set a date on the calendar to pick up your composition again. You can also start another song and let this one rest. Occasionally, we don't need a break from the music itself, just a particularly tricky composition.
How To Write A Chorus FAQ
Are you struggling to write a chorus? Here are a couple of commonly asked questions and answers so that you can write strong songs in just about any genre.
What makes a chorus catchy?
A chorus usually stands as the catchiest part of a song for a few main reasons. Choruses typically incorporate memorable melodies, a strong rhyme scheme, and showcase the main idea of the song. They’re designed to stick in your head so that any listener can walk away hearing it.
Is the hook and the chorus the same thing?
A chorus and hook aren’t necessarily the same thing, but a chorus can easily contain a hook. A hook is simply a short, repeated melodic phrase that’s designed to stay with the listener. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for a chorus to end or begin with a hook.
How do you start a chorus?
You can start a chorus with a strong melody, new drum beat, chord change, or jarring lyrics. Whatever it may be, make sure it grabs the listener’s attention! The chorus should be as memorable as possible, so first impressions are especially important.
How do you end a chorus?
You can end a chorus with a hook, a cliffhanger, a beat drop, and anything in between! One thing to note is that when you end a chorus, you’re setting up the song for the next verse. Make sure your transition makes melodic sense.
How long is a chorus?
A chorus is as long or as short as it needs to be. Long choruses and short choruses can be just as effective if they both connect to the listener. A great chorus, regardless of length, will leave listeners with a lasting melody or lyric line long after they finished listening to a track.
Can a song start with a chorus?
A song can start with a chorus! You can find plenty of examples in popular music including “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers or “Chapel of Love” by the Dixie Cups. This technique can be incredibly useful for increasing the memorability of a tune.
Should I write chorus or verse first?
You should write whatever feels most natural to you at the moment. However, most songwriters would argue that you want to pay special attention to the chorus since this is the section that most listeners will walk away with after listening to the song.
Can a chorus be 16 bars?
A chorus can be 16 bars, though often it is shorter, in pairs of 2, 4, 6, or 8 bars. There aren’t any rules surrounding how long or short a chorus needs to be, but it’s often an even number to account for the rhyme scheme.
Is a pre-chorus necessary?
A pre-chorus isn’t always necessary, but it can be helpful depending on the needs of your composition. The pre-chorus can help you set up your chorus melodically and even set up the lyrical questions that will be answered in the chorus.
When should the chorus come in?
A chorus typically comes in after the pre-chorus or verse, but there are no set-in-stone rules. In fact, some songs just as easily start with the chorus before transitioning to the first verse. In any song structure, one element should flow easily into the next.
Writing a song chorus comes naturally to some and harder for others. Regardless of what camp you're in, know that anyone can learn how to write a chorus utilizing these key songwriting strategies. Have fun crafting memorable choruses for your compositions!