Chorus: The Highlight of a Song

Posted on November 2, 2022

A great song is always a sum of its parts. However, if there is one part of the song structure that is the highlight for most people, it’s the song’s chorus. That’s why being able to write a memorable and catchy chorus is crucial for getting a song stuck in the listener’s head. This is easier said than done.

What is the chorus of a song?

The chorus is the part of a song that is usually repeated at least twice during the song’s runtime. In the song’s structure, the chorus most often takes place between verses and can be preceded by a shorter section known as a pre-chorus. The lyrics of a chorus tend to stay unchanged between repetitions, whereas the song’s verse is the part that is used more for storytelling and introducing new lyrics.

Many consider the chorus the song’s best and most memorable part. This is because it’s the song’s emotional highlight and the part with the grandest vocals and most energetic instrumentation. To accomplish this, the chorus needs to contrast with other parts of the song, and it can be preceded by a short build-up. Instead of a proper intro, the song can jump straight into the chorus. In case there’s no separate outro for the song, the song’s chorus can end the song by repeating itself as the song slowly fades out.

Although choruses are important parts of the entire song structure, you can write a song without one. Some songs with more elaborate and unusual song structure may leave out the chorus section completely. Examples of songs without a chorus include “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, and “Hey Jude” by The Beatles.

What is the difference between a chorus and a refrain?

The chorus is sometimes referred to as a refrain. Depending on how you define the term, a refrain can be used as a synonym for chorus and used interchangeably. The word refrain can also refer to the lyrics that are repeated during the chorus. In other words, a chorus is the entire repeated section of a song, whereas a refrain refers to a line of lyrics repeated during the chorus. However, the refrain (when used to refer to repeated lyrics) can be used outside of the chorus as well; for example, it can be used during the song’s verse.

What is the difference between a chorus and a pre-chorus?

As mentioned, the chorus may be preceded by a shorter section that acts as a build-up to the more energetic chorus. This section is known as the pre-chorus. In addition to building up toward the song’s chorus, the pre-chorus can be used to let the listener know that the chorus is about to start. This is a great way to get the listener excited for the next section.

In some cases, moving from the song’s verse straight into the chorus could feel too abrupt. In this case, the pre-chorus provides a smoother transition between the different parts of the song. A pre-chorus may be needed especially if the verse and the chorus share the same chord progression. Without a pre-chorus in between the two, the song may seem too repetitive.

What is a hook?

In addition to refrain, the term hook can cause some confusion and may be used interchangeably with chorus and refrain. However, the song’s hook is something a bit more specific. Again, the chorus is the whole section of a song, whereas the hook is a specific element of the song that catches the listener’s ear — like a fishing hook catching a fish.

The confusion between a hook and a chorus arises from the fact that the hook often takes place during the song’s chorus. The hook can be a vocal or instrumental melody or a line of lyrics, for instance. If a single part of a song gets stuck in your head, it’s most likely the hook.

Learn about song structure and different parts of a song

Writing a memorable chorus or a catchy hook is only one part of songwriting. Learning the entire song structure and the parts of a song is something that all skilled songwriters should do. Read more in our songwriting 101 guide and start learning.

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