Have you ever noticed how songs follow a certain structure? While not all songs follow the same structure, it is certainly the case that song structure is something professional songwriters pay close attention to.
One device that’s employed in practically every pop song is a chorus. Many would consider the chorus the keys to the kingdom in music. And pros may even spend more time on the chorus than any other part of the song.
But what is a chorus? Let’s explore together.
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What Is A Chorus?
The chorus is the most repetitive part of the song and is often the part that stands out the most too.
A chorus can stand out from the other sections of the song for a variety of reasons:
- It is sung instead of being spoken, chanted, or rapped
- It is the loudest or quietest part of the song
- It contrasts with the verse – sometimes more melodic, sometimes more dissonant
- It features a modulation from one key signature to another
- And so on
Choruses are usually repeated at least twice during a song’s runtime, but it is often repeated more. Plenty of songs have a double or even triple chorus at the end, for example.
Listeners usually remember a song for its chorus, and often think of it as the best part.
Songs can be written without choruses, but most popular songs aren’t, as pop music writing revolves around the idea of a “hook,” and the hook is usually the chorus.
Where Does A Chorus Fit In A Song?
Choruses usually come after the intro, verse, and pre-chorus. Some songs don’t have an intro or a pre-chorus, though, so the chorus comes right after the verse. In some songs, the intro is the chorus.
A basic understanding of song structure can go a long way in understanding choruses, so I’ll take a moment to define the basic components of a song:
- Intro: The opening notes, riff, or chords of the song, usually instrumental.
- Verse: The first sung part of the song that develops the story or message of the song.
- Pre-Chorus: A section that provides a bit of a “build” into the chorus. Not all songs have a pre-chorus, and that goes for other sections too.
- Chorus: The hook. The song’s constant. The chorus is usually repetitive and often spells out the title of the song in plain English too, especially in pop songs.
- Bridge: A brief departure from the other sections of the song. Usually employed to build into the final chorus. Almost like an alternate verse section. Lyrical twists can be used if desired.
- Coda: The ending. The coda can be many things, including an entirely new section of music without lyrics. It can be a fade-out or an abrupt ending too.
What Role Does A Chorus Play In A Song?
Most pros agree that the chorus can make or break a song. As such, those whose livelihood depends on writing songs will put significant effort into ensuring a chorus will be remembered by listening audiences.
If you want your audiences to sing along to your songs, then it would be in your best interest to ensure that your chorus is memorable.
The title of a song usually comes from the chorus as well. This isn’t to suggest you need to come up with a great title before you write your chorus, but it’s not a bad idea to let your chorus inspire the title.
It could also be said that, if the verse of the song is the story, then the chorus is the key message. It’s the glue that holds the rest of the song together.
Toto’s “Hold The Line” is a great example to explore, as it’s very obvious where the chorus begins. The first lyric in the chorus is simply “Hold the line.”
Plus, every line in the verse begins with “It’s not in the way…”
Have a listen in the video below and count all the times you hear the chorus:
I decipher the structure of this song to be:
Intro – Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Guitar Solo – Verse – Coda
What’s fun about “Hold The Line” is that while there are different sections to the song, it is effectively comprised of just two riffs (although the chorus riff is sometimes played a little differently).
And if you’re interested in writing a chorus of your own, I suggest reading our guide on the same topic.
Is The Chorus More Important Than Any Other Part Of The Song?
You can’t have one without the other. If a song only has a chorus, then how do you have anything to compare it to?
That being the case, you can’t neglect the importance of intros, pre-choruses, bridges, and the like, in building up to a chorus.
That said, in popular music, there tends to be more emphasis on the chorus than anything else. It’s the part of the song that is supposed to hook the audience and be remembered by the listener, even if they can’t remember anything else about the song.
After all, if you can remember the chorus (or the song title), you can probably find it later on YouTube or Spotify and binge-listen to it, right?
How Many Choruses In A Song?
Most songs usually only have one chorus that is repeated throughout. It is typically repeated at least two to three times, but there is no quota to meet.
In many songs, it is not uncommon for a chorus to have one variation with a slightly different melody or lyrics. Sometimes, there is also a version of the chorus towards the end of the song that features vocal improvisation.
Most pop writers focus on repetition in choruses, so that the song is easily remembered by listeners. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a chorus nowadays to feature no more than a few words. Think Rihanna’s “ROCKSTAR 101.”
Of course, there are some classic examples too, like The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.”
What Is A Chorus In A Song? Final Thoughts
Now that you know what a chorus is, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge to the test. Go and listen to your favorite songs and see if you can identify which part is the chorus. This is a great exercise for any beginning music student to undertake!