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Chorus Cheat Sheet

7 Types of Choruses and How to Write Them

Part I: The Chorus


In order to fully understand choruses and how to write them, we need to
break the chorus down into its basic fundamentals.

The first fundamental to learn is the definition of a chorus.

A chorus is the part of the song that keeps coming back. This part of the
song usually includes the song title and summarizes the main idea of the
lyric. It is also usually the emotional high point—the most intense part of
the lyric.

Why is it called a "chorus?" Because the audience is supposed to sing


along. So, that's your goal: to get your audience to sing along with your
song's chorus.

The second fundamental to learn is the parts that make up a chorus.

Choruses are usually made up of two alternating types of lines:

Title Line
“T” represents the title

Swing Line
This is simply a line that is different than the title. The dash “-”
represents the swing line.

The title line and the swing line can contrast both lyrically and
melodically.

Part II: Seven Basic Chorus Forms


The most common chorus types are:

TT
Ex Girlfriend - No Doubt
Message in a Bottle - The Police
How Sweet It Is - M. Gaye

© 2007 Samurai Songwriting


Better Off Alone - Alice DeeJay
Rockin' In The Free World - N. Young

T-T-
Genie In a Bottle - C. Aguilera
I Knew I Loved You - Savage Garden
I Wanna Dance With Somebody - W. Houston
Hello Old Friend - E. Clapton
Victim of Love - Eagles
Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo - R. Derringer

T-T
Material Girl - Madonna
Best of My Love - Eagles
Time After Time - C. Lauper

TTTT
Rhiannon - Fleetwood Mac
Power To The People - J. Lennon
Born in the USA - B. Springsteen
Spirits in a Material World - The Police

T--T

All I Have To Give - Backstreet Boys


How Can We Be Lovers - M. Bolton

--T
My First Night With You - Mya Mya
I Shall Be Released - B. Dylan
I Want It That Way - Backstreet Boys
Angel of Mine - Monica
Candy - Mandy Moore
That's The Way It Is - C. Dion
Separate Lives - P. Collins
King of Pain - The Police

T---
I Will Remember You - S. McLachlan
Fire & Rain - J. Taylor
Show Me The Meaning - Backstreet Boys
Fortress Around Your Heart - Sting
Everything She Does Is Magic - The Police

© 2007 Samurai Songwriting


Part III: Qualities of a Successful Chorus
Here is a collection of tips to help you write successful choruses. Try to
make each of these statements true when you listen to your chorus.

• The title has emphasis.


• It stands out.
• The chorus lyric summarizes or comments on the main idea of the verse/
prechorus lyric.
• It is the emotional high point of the song.
• It is the most intense part of the song.
• It is the climax of the song.
• It feels like it lifts.
• It is easy to sing.
• It is easy to remember.
• It either fulfills audience expectations or surprises audience expectations.
• It contrasts the other song sections (Verse, Prechorus, Bridge; if they
exist)
• It feels different from the other song sections.
• It has a different idea than verse—Lyrically, melodically, harmonically,
rhythmically.
• It is developed differently—Lyrically, melodically, harmonically,
rhythmically.
• It is the arrival point of the song = "This is what I'm talking about", "This
is why I'm telling this story."
• It gains meaning and interest every time it is repeated.

You will know you have written a good chorus when:

• I hear the title stand out from everything else.


• I understand the meaning of the lyric and it resonates with my life
experience.
• It feels more intense than the other sections.
• The listener is singing or humming along (not always out loud, which may
be hard to find evidence for, so ask).
• The listener remembers the melody and the lyric long after the song is
over.
• The listener either feels "Ahh, that's what I wanted to hear" or "Wow!
wasn't that interesting? I like it." When the chorus hits, the listener
either feels satisfied or surprised but always likes what they hear and
feel."

© 2007 Samurai Songwriting


• I hear different elements than before; both in lyrical meaning and
musically:
• Different harmony.
• Different melody.
• Different lyric.
• Different form.
• The listener never feels lost in the rhythm, form or in any complexity that
may be there.

Part IV: Additional Chorus Tips


If you place your title (or other important lyrics) at the first or last line of the
chorus, your audience will be more likely to remember it.

When starting out with a title but no music, consider which syllables are
naturally stronger than others? What natural rhythms does the title suggest?
Are there any melodies that occur to you as you say it? This will help you
find natural sounding melodies and rhythms.

Use long notes. Notes that sustain for a long time exaggerate a lyric and tell
your audience "this is important."

Use space. Absence of other lyrics around the title eliminates distractions
from it. During this space, your audience can think about the words they just
heard, and this will help them remember your important lyrics.

End the title on a downbeat. The downbeat is the first beat of a measure.
Ending the last strong syllable on (or near) the downbeat is a great way to
emphasize your title.

Use repetition. Exact repetition is what the audience expects. Varied
repetition is more of a surprise. You can repeat lyrics, chord progressions,
and melodic ideas in a variety of ways to give the audience what they expect
or to surprise them.

When writing your chorus, try all seven standard chorus types and choose
the best one. Generate as many ideas as you can before you settle on a
single one. This will ensure that you are using the best chorus structure for
your lyrics.

© 2007 Samurai Songwriting


Give your choruses the test of time. Do you remember them a day later? A
week later? A month later? If you don't, how can you make them more
memorable?

Part V: Wrap Up
What we've covered:
Chorus fundamentals.
Seven basic chorus forms.
The qualities of a successful chorus.
Tips and tricks for writing memorable choruses.

Now that you understand the fundamentals of writing hit choruses, you're
ready to write one. Don't let anything stand in your way of becoming a great
songwriter.

© 2007 Samurai Songwriting