It’s no doubt that the chorus is the most important part of any song. It’s the part of the song which we want the listeners to remember and sing along.
And the chorus becomes stronger with repetition. So it’s very important to ask the question: how many times a chorus should be repeated?
I have to emphasize that there are no rules in songwriting. You can always experiment with different song structures. But it’s always a good idea to check what successful songwriters are doing, and learn from them.
The most popular form
The most popular form is when they repeat the chorus three times in the song. However, it’s important to note that most of these songs contain pre-choruses and/or post-choruses:
[verse] – [pre-chorus] – [chorus] – [post-chorus] – [verse] – [pre-chorus] – [chorus] – [post-chorus] – [bridge] – [chorus]
Here are some songs that follow this form:
Taylor Swift – Shake It Off
Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling
Shawn Mendes – Stitches
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Necessities
Ed Sheeran – Shape Of You
Stevie Wonder – Faith
Dua Lipa – New Rules
Adele – Hello
Katy Perry – Roar
Let’s see other variations of this form.
1. Songs that start with the chorus
There are some songs that follow this form, but they put an extra chorus at the beginning of the song, so there are four choruses in these songs:
[chorus] – [verse] – [pre-chorus] – [chorus] – [post-chorus] – [verse] – [pre-chorus] – [chorus] – [post-chorus] – [bridge] – [chorus]
A few examples:
Bruno Mars – Lazy Song
Sean Paul ft. Dua Lipa – No Lie
Taylor Swift – End Game
Ariana Grande – No Tears Left To Cry
In this form, sometimes the chorus at the beginning plays the role of an intro. If you want to create an intro-like chorus, you need the vocals with only minimal accompaniment. (for example, no drums, only some synth or guitar)
2. The bridge is a chorus
Traditionally the bridge was a very different part of the song and it contrasted everything else, but nowadays there are some songs where they put the chorus in the place of the bridge, on a low energy level. In this form, the chorus is repeated four times in the song:
[verse] – [pre-chorus] – [chorus] – [post-chorus] – [verse] – [pre-chorus] – [chorus] – [post-chorus] – [bridge](the chorus on a lower energy level) – [chorus]
You can hear this form in these songs for example:
Luis Fonsi – Despacito
Rita Ora (songwriter Ed Sheeran) – Your Song
3. When there are no pre and post choruses
There are songs without any pre or post choruses, and sometimes these songs have much more choruses. For example, there are six choruses in the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams:
[verse] – [chorus] – [verse] – [chorus] – [bridge] – [chorus] – [chorus] – [bridge] – [chorus] – [chorus]
Another example is the song “Say” by John Mayer with five choruses. (Though they end the last chorus with a fadeout):
[verse] – [chorus] – [verse] – [chorus] – [bridge] – [verse] – [chorus] – [chorus] – [chorus]
So if you don’t have a pre-chorus and post-chorus in your song, you can repeat the chorus more times.
4. If the song is very short
You can repeat the chorus only three times, even if you have no post choruses if you don’t mind that your song will be very short. A good example is the song “Positions” by Ariana Grande, which is only 2:57 long.
[verse] – [pre-chorus] – [chorus] – [pre-chorus] – [chorus] – [bridge] – [chorus] – [chorus]
This is not a very common form, because most songs are about 3:40 or 4:00 minutes long, but as you can see, you can be creative and the only important thing is if it sounds good or not. It works really well in the case of “Positions”.
5. When there is no first chorus
There are only two choruses in the song “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, but this is because they omit the first chorus:
[verse] – [pre-chorus] – [verse] – [pre-chorus] – [chorus] – [post-chorus] – [bridge] – [chorus] – [post-chorus]
So this is a very unique song structure because the first chorus usually comes after the pre-chorus. But not in this song. But again, if it sounds good, then use it!
As you can see, there are really no strict rules in terms of structure, and there are many different kinds of structures in successful songs. However, most songwriters follow the same form with slight differences.
And as I always say: if there is a tool that is used by most songwriters, then it’s not a coincidence. There is a reason why certain song structures are used frequently: because they are effective.
If you want to minimize risk, use the form with the three choruses because that’s the most common and most popular form. If you don’t like the result, try to experiment with these other forms.
The secret pattern behind successful songs
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