Songwriting 101 – #1: The Chorus

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This is a series of posts about song formatting and structure. All this week I’ll be writing about the different individual elements that make up a song.

Please bear in mind that these are my definitions and interpretations of the different parts of a song structure. There are no hard and fast rules determining which part of a song goes where.

However, there are generally accepted guidelines. Think of this Songwriting 101 series as the “nuts and bolts” of putting your songs together.

You’ve been refining your songwriting process and you’ve come up with some great ideas and now you are ready to put them all together.

Your journey starts now…


To kick this series off, I want to write about the most important part of a song’s structure, the all important CHORUS.

The chorus is generally the focal point of the song. It’s what the listener usually remembers long after the song has finished. It is where the hook, the title or the main story idea of the song usually resides.

Don Walker, keyboard player and principal songwriter of seminal Australian band Cold Chisel when asked about the importance of a chorus once said that “the quicker you get to the point the better.”

To me the chorus is like the destination and the rest of the song is the journey towards it.

A chorus is meant to be the uplifting part of the song, something which stands out from everything else and is powerful enough to get people to sing or hum along to it.

In the creation of a song, most songwriters come up with a chorus before anything else. I think this is because the chorus is like the synopsis or the summary of the song.

I’m amazed though at how many songwriters don’t pay enough attention to the chorus.

From time to time I get asked to judge local songwriting contests and in the course of judging it’s far too often that I hear a “chorus” that sounds almost or exactly the same as their verses and that to me is a wasted opportunity to really grab the listener’s attention.

Choruses, more than any other part of a song, are most effective if there are minimal words in them, are melodically dynamic and are rhythmically streamlined and full of flow.

Songs can be saved by a cracking, stirring chorus.

Please bear in mind that I’m not here to tell you how many bars a chorus should run for or, how dynamic your chorus melody should be, that’s up to you to experiment with the songwriting ideas that you create.

All I’m doing is outlining some characteristics that you, the songwriter should be mindful of and after all, isn’t observation and mindfulness part of your songwriting process?

Listen to the songs that you’ve grown up with and pay close attention to the choruses of those songs. Chances are they are the very things that you had sung along to.

Have you ever had a song that enters your head and it just won’t go away? How annoying is that? What is the part of the song that is stuck in your mind?

Yes that’s right, the CHORUS.

What do you think constitutes a good chorus? Feel free to let me know, I’m all ears.

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

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