How To Write A Chorus

Sep 04, 2021

How do I write a good chorus?

What is the purpose of a chorus?

What things can we look at to determine what makes a chorus a good chorus?


What Is The Purpose Of A Chorus?

The purpose of your chorus is to provide a memorable highlight of your song and to provide the central idea of your song.

If your song explores different stories about the miracles of life, your chorus may contain the idea of the beauty or value of life. 

If your song is about your personal story of heartbreak, your chorus will explore the central emotions or thoughts you’re working through. 

You might conclude “It’s ok, you weren’t good for me anyway”, “I know you’ll miss me”, or “You lied when you said forever”.

Whatever the central idea of your song is, it should be communicated clearly in the chorus.

You might tell the story of what happened in the verses, but the chorus is to tell the listener how, for example, “I’m not over you”. 

The chorus is usually the climax of your song

Just like the climactic fight in a movie, you want it to absolutely kick butt. Because, regardless of the rest of the movie, an amazing climax may cover the blemishes of the rest of the story.

On the other hand, a disappointing climax will likely taint the entire movie. Even if the rest of the movie was great.

Similarly, your song lives or dies by the chorus. If you don’t have a good chorus, your song is toast. 


What Makes A Chorus A Good Chorus?

A good chorus makes the listener excited to hear it again. The impact of the chorus should hit the listener hard every time it plays. 

Your chorus is probably going to happen at least 3 times in your song, so it better hit the listener hard every time.

Overall, your chorus should provide a thematic and musical climax that contrasts with the verses.

Let’s think about what a musical climax means. 

Put simply, this usually means that the song becomes “bigger” in the choruses. 

This effect is usually caused by singing higher notes in your melodyadding extra instrumentation that isn’t present in the verses and tending to have fewer words that are held longer.

If your verses have 5 instruments playing, your choruses should have more like 10.

The most important part of a musical climax is probably a memorable melody.

If all else fails, you want your listener to remember the chorus melody.

What is a thematic climax? 

It’s going to be the central emotion, idea, or takeaway of the song. 

If your song could be summed up in one line, that line should almost always be in the chorus. 

Is your song about “Forgetting someone you didn’t want to have to forget?” That idea should be in the chorus.

I think it’s helpful to look at the climax of a movie to shed some light on this.

If you think of an action movie such as a superhero movie, the climax is often the least “intimate” part of the movie.

Earlier in the movie, the superhero might have engaged in dialog with the character who will eventually be the villain. No costumes. No fighting. They probably don’t even know who each other is yet. This is a very “zoomed in” and intimate moment the movie is showing you.

The movie probably showed the character’s day-to-day, unmasked life as well.

These are all important moments so that you care about the climax when it comes. 

Otherwise the climax is just 2 people in costumes throwing fists.

In the climax, a city or the entire world is often on the line. The reason you care about the battle is because of the character development and story you got earlier in the movie.

In this sense, we are “zooming out” for the climax. Saving the world is far from being an intimate look into the characters. 

The battle for the world is “big” and “epic”. There is a lot on the line. But, in exchange, the battle isn’t particularly intimate. It’s less about the characters than about the generality of good vs. evil.

Similarly, our verses give the story and context for the chorus. They often are “zoomed in” on details. But our chorus tends to be “zoomed out” and more generally applicable. 

A lot of people won’t necessarily relate to your specific breakup story. But almost everyone will relate to your emotional conclusion that “You lied when you said forever”.

That is what will make your chorus a good chorus.

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