What is a Chorus? What's a Refrain?
Learn the clear, traditional difference between choruses and refrains below. Know what each element is and how both are important parts of your song.
Chorus vs. Refrain: What’s the difference between them?
Choruses and refrains are not the same, but are related. Now the best way to understand the relationship between the two is to remember these two important points:
- ALL Choruses are refrains...but NOT ALL refrains are choruses.
- The word "refrain" applies to your song lyric, while the word "chorus" applies to your song’s music.
Refrain vs. Chorus: What is said versus what is heard.
A Refrain is any line or group of lines that repeat several times in your song lyric.
Because they repeat, refrains are used to get listeners hooked to your song or used to reinforce a point in your song’s story.
Rule: When thinking of refrains, focus on what you want to say over and over.
A Chorus is the part of your song where all of your instruments, singers or musical elements come together to play and/or sing in unison.
It's also the part of your song where you encourage your listeners to sing along.
Rule: When thinking of choruses, focus on what you want to hear altogether.
Songwriters use the chorus to repeat a common refrain from their lyric (the line or group of lines you want reinforced the most). This is why all Choruses are refrains...lyrically.
Now musically, not every song has a chorus. Creatively, a songwriter may not want to add too many musical elements to their song.
This often happens when writing songs where you feel your words are strong enough to make an emotional connection without much help from your music, like in softer songs or rap songs.
Sometimes you may not want your audience to sing along; maybe you just want them to listen and feel connected to your words, creating a bond with your lyric.
How to Structure Your Chorus & Refrains
Let's go over several examples of Choruses and Refrains to shortcut your learning curve. Join my free training group to learn everything about Choruses & Refrains in 8 weeks.
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Updated: January 23, 2020
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