Think of your favorite song. What’s the most memorable part?

The section you’re thinking of probably has a catchy hook, a powerful chord progression and pounding rhythms.

What you’re thinking of is the chorus. The chorus is often the most powerful section of the song.

A great chorus gets stuck in your head and doesn’t let go. It doesn’t matter if you’re listening to an upbeat EDM instrumental, or an operatic love song.

But how do you write the most impactful section of a song? You’ll need many different parts such as the hook, and some memorable lyrics to repeat.

In this article we’ll look at what a chorus is, how it’s used in songs, and how to make the most powerful section of your songs stand out.

What is a chorus in a song?

A chorus is the strongest section in a song’s structure. It’s sometimes called a refrain because it often features repeated musical and lyrical phrases. Choruses are usually repeated at least twice in a song, at different dynamic levels.

How a chorus is used in songs

The chorus is a key part of a song’s narrative. It’s often the section where rising tension finally releases and the song’s main payoff occurs.

Even so, a chorus can happen during any part of the song. It can be right at the beginning, in the middle, or even right at the end of a song.

The chorus is a key part of a song’s narrative. It’s often the section where rising tension finally releases and the song’s main payoff occurs.

Knowing your song structure will help you write your chorus. Where the chorus lives in your song will determine how you write it.

Here’s some examples of how impactful choruses work in songs.

1. At the beginning

A typical song form that features the chorus right off the top is ABABABA, or, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus.

The first section of the song will immediately grab the listeners attention. A catchy hook and memorable lyrics will be the first thing they hear.

The contrast of the B section or verse, will give you time to tell your story before coming back to the chorus. This reintroduction will reinforce your song’s message.

In Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”  you can hear the magic of this chorus placement at work:

2. After the verse

Starting off with the chorus definitely leaves a lasting impression. Another approach is to build up to the chorus. This will leave listeners wanting more.

A similar song structure is used for this: ABABAB. This time the A section is a verse, and the B section is a chorus: Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus.

Starting off with the chorus definitely leaves a lasting impression.

Songs that use this form bring the dynamics down in the verse, and increase them before reaching the chorus. This makes the chorus very impactful.

Think of “The Real Slim Shady” by Eminem. You don’t get to the chorus until one minute and 24 seconds in!

3. After a pre-chorus

The pre-chorus is a section that comes before the chorus. It’s used as a transition piece between the verse and the chorus.

A popular song structure that uses the pre chorus is ABCABCDC, or verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus.

The pre-chorus will often be half as short as the verse or chorus. It’s especially useful if your verse and chorus are very different, and you need a piece to connect them.

Katy Perry’s “Firework” is an excellent example of how to use a pre-chorus to build to a chorus:

How to write a chorus people will remember

Writing a memorable chorus doesn’t have to be complicated. There are great choruses that only have a chord progression, and a catchy hook.

Everything else comes from dynamics, layering, and repetition.

Here are some common techniques for writing choruses people will remember.

Start with a hook

In music, A hook is a musical idea that stays with the listener long after they’ve listened to the music.

Almost any musical feature can be your song’s hook. It could be a catchy rhythm on the drums, a relatable vocal line.

There is no specific way to write a hook. It’s trial and error.

There is no specific way to write a hook. It’s trial and error.

Letting yourself become vulnerable in the music making process leads to happy accidents. It will reveal your true feelings and emotions.

The best way to write a hook is to loop the chord progression of your chorus. While it’s looping, do some improvising while recording yourself.

Once you’ve recorded a bunch of ideas, pick one and refine it. Add lyrics, and you’re good to go!

Develop a melody

Now that you have your ear worm ready, you can begin to develop a full melody around it. It’s important to note that the hook can be the melody of the chorus on it’s own!

For example, check out Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue.”

The hook is used over and over again in the chorus vocal melody. Each time the hook plays, there are different lyrics.

In Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire,” they have a hook, with a melody after the hook.

Once you have a great hook, a complimentary melody will easily follow. Use your notes and scales, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different sounds and samples.

Add lyrics

You’ll probably have some lyric ideas when you’re developing your melody. Humming along with your melody and trying different sounds and words is a great approach.

You should also decide on the story you want your lyrics to tell. Do you have a sad chord progression, or an upbeat rhythm? These musical elements will influence your lyrics.

Start by writing down everything! Let your melody play, and write down anything that comes to mind.

If your hook contains a couple words, build off of them. If you already have a title for your song, the chorus is the place to use it.

Once you have a great hook, a complimentary melody will easily follow.

Use a rhyme dictionary to make your lyrics catchier. Remember to keep it simple – the catchiest choruses are the most singable.

Once you have plenty of lyrics, rhymes, and ideas written down, you can begin to edit and refine them.

Use dynamics

Dynamics are how you make your chorus different from the verse.

The most common choice is to make your chorus louder than the rest of your song. Drive it home by adding more instruments, samples, layers, and effects.

Belt your heart out when you’re singing the melody. Don’t be afraid to let go.

Dynamics are how you make your chorus different from the verse.

Remember, the chorus should be the most powerful part of your song. It’s the section that your listeners will identify themselves with after you’ve got them hooked.

If your song has a pre-chorus, use it to build the dynamic level from your verse to chorus. This will set the listener up to sing a long and feel the energy of your song

Rinse and repeat

Once your chorus is written, it will most likely be repeated throughout your track. Don’t be afraid to layer and extend different choruses as the song unfolds.

The most effective choruses can stand to be repeated more times than you think.

Don’t bore us, get to the chorus

Songwriting can be difficult. It takes a lot of practice and patience to create something meaningful.

As long as you put the time in, you’ll progress and improve—like any other discipline in music.

Be yourself, and express that through your song writing. Throw any doubts out the window and don’t be afraid to be you.