Most songwriters would agree that the most important section of any song can be traced back to the chorus. This is understandable -- the chorus singlehandedly captures a listener's attention and highlights the message of the whole song all within a couple of lines.
But what is a chorus in a song exactly? And what purpose does that serve? Below, we'll share everything you need to know about the function of the chorus and why it's one of the most important musical elements in any composition. We'll also share a couple of stand-out examples so you can hear the magic of a strong chorus.
What Is a Chorus?
So, what is a chorus in a song to begin with? Essentially, a chorus is the repeated section in a song that is usually the most memorable musical element that sticks with a listener. The general term "chorus" can speak to the classical definition of "chorus" from Ancient Greece, or the point at which everyone sings or plays a repeated instrument or vocal melody throughout a musical composition.
Today, not every chorus will contain multiple voices singing the same melody . The modern definition of the chorus still emphasizes having a catchy, memorable melodic line that anyone could sing along to but in many cases, it's sung by just one voice, at least in the case of most pop songs.
While choruses may seem simple, they are anything but writing a chorus can be challenging since it's arguably the most important section of a song. The chorus needs to encapsulate the main idea of a track, have a strong rhythm and melody, all within a couple of concise lines.
Great choruses may seem obvious, which is precisely why they can be such a challenge. As a songwriter, choruses need to feel effortlessly catchy, though there's no telling how many sessions you'll need to score that perfect melodic section.
You can find a chorus at the beginning of a song, in the end, or anywhere in between. Most of the time, popular songs incorporate a chorus after a verse or pre-chorus in the following standard song structure:
You'll see this similar song structure all throughout pop songs, rock songs, hip hop tracks, really anywhere for good reason. This structure highlights a song's chorus, making it easy for those listening to catch on and sing along to the song's hook from one chorus to the next.
Chorus Vs. Refrain: What's The Difference?
The terms chorus and refrain are often used interchangeably, but they are not always one and the same. The refrain is a more general term, simply referring to a section of lines that's repeated. Refrains often occur during the chorus section, but they can also happen outside of it to create continuity through a song's verses.
Choruses also take into account the melodic structure, chord progression, and rhythm of a track where a refrain is defined by repeated lyrics alone. Many songs have choruses and common refrains to make the music as catchy, memorable, and easy to sing along to as possible.
The Main Elements of A Good Chorus
So, what makes a good chorus? Here are some of the pillars of chorus songwriting that you'll want to incorporate in every chorus section you write.
Part of the reason we can listen to the same music or songs over and over is that we can't seem to get it out of our heads. The chorus music is intentionally repetitive to really capitalize on this principle. Repeating certain melodic phrases or lyrics in a song isn't just great for memorability, it can also make your songs easier to sing along to.
Repetition can also be used as a poetic device to convey the omnipresence of your song's subject or mood. There are endless examples -- just look to your favorite songs and note how often hook phrase is repeated.
Many of us connect to a chorus simply for the sheer vulnerability of the lyrics. Music is so powerful since it connects listeners on a deep level entirely through sound. An honest chorus can make all the difference in a fan's listening experience.
Rhyming lyrics and words can be easier to remember and generally, a joy to listen to. It's no surprise that strong choruses often employ plenty of obvious and internal rhyme to create sonically pleasing phrases you turn back to time and time again.
We have a knack for remembering melodies. Even if a chorus has the same chord progression as the pre-chorus or verse, a new melody can instantly spice up the atmosphere, giving the listener something to latch onto in a new way. Lyrics are important, but a melody can determine whether or not they are heard.
Great choruses don't just stand on their own -- they also make sense within the context of the rest of the song and add to the underlying narrative. The lyrics in the chorus may reveal something that was built up in the verse.
Songwriters can be thought of as storytellers, with the chorus serving as the climax of each story. Using lyrics, rhythm, and melody, songwriters can create an arc by strategically weaving one verse to the chorus to the next.
Great song chorus stands out from the crowd in an excellent way. If you can make your chorus section unique while incorporating the other main elements of a good chorus, you're much more likely to grab a listener's attention. Whether it's jarring word choice, a strong beat, or a chord switch up, a memorable chorus is usually a good one.
How Is a Chorus Used In Songs?
In order to learn how to write a strong chorus, it's key to understand how a chorus is properly used in songs. There are plenty of reasons why you want to incorporate a strong chorus into your composition, but here are some of the main principles:
To capture the listener's attention. Choruses are excellent at grabbing and retaining attention. A chorus section can do this by having a catchy rhythm, strong vocal melody, or simply powerful lyrics that connect deeply with listeners. Even if you don't remember a song's verse, the repeated section seems to stick in your head. Since a chorus is usually the most memorable part, it needs to stand out and grab a listener's ear, introducing new melodic elements to a song's structure.
To tie a song together. Choruses don't just showcase the main idea of any particular song, they also bridge the different sections of the song together. Without the chorus, you don't have lyrical context of how one part of the track relates to another. Choruses are unique in that they can stand on their own accord all while holding together the main message of the song.
A chorus provides relief from the tension created in a song's verses. Choruses provide relief to any questions posed by the different lyrics in a verse. This is usually paired with a different melody and occasionally with a switch-up in rhythm or chord progression. The contrast between a chorus and verse of a song is what makes getting to the chorus so rewarding for the listener, time and time again.
It pulls a listener to listen to the rest of a song. In today's attention-depleted world, a strong chorus is more important than ever. Much of today's charts are influenced by the tastes of Tiktok, which allow musicians and fans to share a 10 to 15-second clip of any particular track.
On this principle alone, having a catchy section of your song (which is typically located in the chorus) is more important than ever. If someone gets your chorus stuck in their head, they are much more likely to go listen to the rest of the song. Choruses serve as the door to new fans via social media.
Different Types of Choruses
There are two many different chorus types to count. However, there are a couple of common structures that you'll hear time and time again in music. Here are some examples of great chorus types in popular music that you can draw inspiration from to create your own earworms.
The Title Phrase
One of the most effective chorus techniques is to incorporate the title phrase of the song as the most repeated phrase in a song's chorus. You see this all of the time in popular songs, including "Dancing Queen" by ABBA:
Musicians can create interest and help their music stay memorable by creating and releasing tension in a chorus. One of the best ways to do this is to employ a "punchline" technique where the meaning of the title phrase of the track is revealed through the chorus, verse, bridge, and other structural elements only to be tied back into the hook. You can find examples of this technique in a lot of songs, but one of the singers that do it best is no other than Taylor Swift:
The Beat Breakdown
Sometimes, a strong chorus doesn't need words at all! Plenty of popular music uses a chorus structure that holds a melody through instruments and samples rather than a vocal melody. You can hear this form in a lot of EDM music like Zedd and Alessia Cara's Stay:
The Repeated Phrase
Believe it or not, but you can make a strong chorus with a couple of repeated words and a catchy melody. This can make it easier for a song to sync in a listener's consciousness since the repetition of these song section types is uncanny. Here's a clear example from Lolo Zouai's High Highs to Low Lows which repeats the title name as the entire chorus:
Are you still struggling to understand the wonders of the chorus? Here are a couple of frequently asked questions and answers to expand your understanding.
What's the purpose of a chorus in a song?
The chorus is designed to be the most memorable section in a song. It often contains a hook or catchy refrain that a listener can easily remember, drawing them back to any individual track. Most of the time, you’ll also find the main idea of the song expressed within the chorus.
Does every song need a chorus?
Not every song needs a chorus -- In fact, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is still widely successful despite not having a chorus. With that in mind, this is an exception most of the time. Typically, a chorus is a draw to most songs.
How do you find the chorus of a song?
In many pop songs, you can find the chorus in between two verses or a pre chorus and the following verse. You can also just listen for the parts of a song that are repeated, which oftentimes equates to the chorus section.
What do you do in a chorus?
If the verses of a song pose a question, the chorus provides the answer. The chorus is designed to be memorable and capture the main idea of a song. It should also be as sonically pleasing as possible since this is the section of a song that most listeners will remember.
What makes a chorus catchy?
A chorus can be catchy for a number of reasons. Some of the most common include that a chorus has a strong rhyme scheme, a memorable melody, and vulnerable or strong lyrics that connect with a listener. When writing your own choruses, it’s important to incorporate as many of these elements as possible.
Do rap songs have a chorus?
Rap songs most certainly have a chorus! While it might not be something that’s sung, there’s certainly a section in which a line is repeated that sticks with the listener. Rap songs may also include a sung chorus despite being spoken elsewhere.
How many bars are in a chorus?
The amount of bars in a chorus isn’t set in stone. You can have 2, 4, 8, or somewhere in between. It’s more common for chorus bars to be an even number since most choruses have some sort of rhyme scheme that works best with pairs.
Can I write a song without a chorus?
You can write a song without a chorus. There are no bounds to music. However, it’s a good idea to write a chorus if you’re looking to create a pop track or just a song that’s easily remembered by others.
Why is a chorus called a chorus?
“Chorus” in classical terms referred to the section of a song where more than one singer would join in on a melodic line. Today, the catchiest part of a song is referred to as the chorus since this section is most likely to be sung by listeners.
Is chorus the same as a choir?
From a technical standpoint, the chorus can refer to the section where everyone or the full choir joins in. However, the chorus can also just allude to the catchy section of a song that doesn’t necessarily have to contain multiple voices as you would with a choir.
Hence, the chorus is extremely important of song that can make the difference between a good song and a poorly crafted one. Hopefully, this piece made it easier for you to understand this key element of music. Have fun appreciating the fantastic chorus sections in all of your favorite songs.