Catchy, repetitive and memorable – all these words demonstrate how a chorus functions in a song.
Turn on the radio, or put on your favorite song, and listen for the part that is repeated several times throughout – this is a chorus.
In today’s post we’ll be looking at choruses in songwriting. We’ll be looking at the definition of a chorus, along with how it can be used and some examples.
What is the definition of a chorus?
A chorus is the heart and soul of your song, it portrays the main purpose or idea of the lyrics or instrumental.
Choruses are usually easy to spot in music, they’re repeated throughout the song and are catchy and memorable. A chorus appears after a verse or pre-chorus depending on the song structure.
A typical song structure is:
Each time the chorus occurs it’ll have the same lyrics and melody, reiterating to the listener the main purpose of the song.
How are choruses used in songs?
A verse provides detail, whereas the chorus is more broad about the topic subject allowing all other sections to tie into it easily.
An example would be verse 1 focusing on the first time you fell in love with someone, including details such as when and where you were, who it was and how they made you feel. Your chorus would then focus on the topic of feeling on top of the World being in love.
The chorus keeps the song grounded and focused, like the roots of a tree – the branches may wander to the sky however they’re all tied to the roots keeping it in position.
A common song structure songwriter’s use is:
- Scenario 1 – acts as your first verse
- Scenario 2 – acts as your second verse
- Main idea or purpose – acts as your chorus
- Revelation or change – acts as your bridge
What are the features of a chorus?
Every chorus is different, there is no set or standard rule when you write a chorus for your song. However, there are a few features that commonly occur, especially throughout modern Western music.
A chorus is catchy and memorable
One common feature of a chorus is how it tends to be incredibly catchy and easy to remember for the listener. If the goal is for the listener to remember your lyrics, then making them catchy is essential, right?
Writing a catchy and memorable chorus can sometimes be challenging, because it’s the glue that holds the entire song together – it’s the most important part.
Songwriter’s achieve this in a number of ways such as writing short snappy lyric lines for the chorus, or having a single line constantly on repeat. The melody is always relatively simple, therefore easy to remember.
We mentioned this briefly, but repetitiveness is key when it comes to making a chorus great. This could be repeating lyric lines or musical phrases. Adding an element of repetitiveness to your chorus ensures your listeners remember them, which is just as important as it being catchy.
Also, a chorus appears several times throughout the song. If we look back to a common song structure, the chorus appears 3 times easily.
A hook is a small prominent part which could be a lyric line or a musical phrase that appeals greatly to the listener. If the listener remembers nothing about the song or the lyrics, they’ll remember this.
It is the cherry on top of the cake, it’s the glitter that catches your attention – this is your hook.
A hook is also self-contained, meaning that there is no need for further interpretation – imagine it being your entire song summed up into one sentence, then repeat it until your listeners remember it.
Examples of choruses
Example 1 – One word repeats
A common practice is one word or line constantly repeated, drilling it into the listener.
Taylor Swift does it in “Shake It Off” where the chorus goes:
- Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
- And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
- Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
- I shake it off, I shake it off
The words play, hate and shake are repeated several times at the end of each line, and all rhyme, making it even more catchier.
We also see this used in Ellie Goulding’s song “Burn”:
- And we’re gonna let it burn, burn, burn, burn
- We’re gonna let it burn, burn, burn
- We’re gonna let it burn
- Oh, we’re gonna let it burn
Example 2 – Short and sweet, ending with the hook
In September 2019 I wrote a song called “Games With A Poltergeist” which is about a deceased woman who is obsessed and can’t let go of her ex-lover who is trying to move on, so she haunts him intensively.
Here’s the chorus:
- You released me
- Was I your burden?
- A rotten Rose
- Now I’m hidden.
- [melodic interlude]
- Hello Sweetie did you miss me?
It’s short and sweet using an alternate rhyming scheme focusing on the core issue at hand – the ex-lover whose now moving on. My favorite part is the last line, the hook. It symbolizes she’s not going anywhere and will obsessively and compulsively stay around forever.
It’s your turn
When writing a song, spend the most time on your chorus, perfecting it and making it as catchy and memorable as possible.
Your chorus is the heart of the song, it completes the puzzle and allows the listener to understand the story.
With this new knowledge about choruses, have some fun and start writing your next chorus today!