Refrain vs Chorus – The Difference

If you plan to study music, you have to be ready to learn a whole lot of new terms. You also have to learn their definitions. This becomes immensely important even if you want to understand only a small fragment of some melody.

Now, there surely are many essential things that play a crucial role during the music creation process. However, all of them are not that easy to comprehend.

One such important term is ‘refrain’. This basically signifies the repetitions of some stanza or certain lines that appear in songs.

But, a refrain in a song is quite similar to what is called a ‘chorus’. And it is one of the most essential parts of any composition. Also, there always likely is going to be a slight confusion since refrains occur in poetry and music as well.

So, to make things easier for you to understand, we shall help you learn the differences through a refrain vs chorus comparison. But before that, let us discover what a chorus and a refrain is.

What Is A Refrain?

Video: “Song Form – 3 The Refrain”

A refrain basically is a line or many lines that are repeated for a certain number of times in music.

As they repeat, the refrains are used to reinforce some point in a song. Or, it may also be used to make the listeners hooked to the song. It may even be used interchangeably with the ‘chorus’ for some reasons that we will soon discover.

However, both these terms have differences, which is why it is not possible to call them to be exactly the same.

In well-known music genres, the refrain or chorus may collide and oppose melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically with the “verse”. The verse-chorus or verse is a famous form of music that has extensively been used in popular genres like the ‘blues’ and ‘rock and roll’ since long.

So, a chorus might attract more importance and activity that is usually coordinated with instrumentation. Remember, when you think of refrains, you must focus on what you desire to say again and again.

What Is A Chorus?

Video: “What is a Chorus (Music Term)”

The chorus is even called the ‘strophic form.’ In fact, it is even known as the one-part music form or the AAA music form. It is basically a definite structure in any song where every verses or stanza of the music piece are sung to similar music.

The chorus tells what the song is about. So, you need to help the listener be aware of what you are trying to prove in your song.

It is in the chorus where all your singers, musical elements, and instruments come together and sing/play in unison. It even is that part of the song where you want your listeners to start singing along.

So, when you think of the chorus, you must focus on what you desire to hear altogether.

What Is The Difference Between A Chorus And A Refrain?

Now let us dive into the refrain vs chorus comparison and learn about their similarities and/or differences.

Now, what makes it challenging to comprehend the similarities between a chorus and a refrain is that they can be used interchangeably. In fact, both of them signify any passage of some composition. A refrain can technically be taken to be something that is not at least a verse.

That part of a music piece which has the ‘hook’ or the title appearing at least a few times is usually called the ‘chorus’. Compared to the verse, a chorus generally holds more importance as far as both musical and emotional intensity is concerned.

Basically, a refrain is a musical line or phrase that is repeated and results in a definite end and beginning to any song. And, it ties them up together in a nice composition.


Conversely, a chorus generally involves the main idea of any song and focuses on what is lyrically and musically expressed.

Furthermore, a chorus generally contains quite a few words, whereas a refrain is only a single word or a certain phrase.

Since the refrain is a repetitive phrase or phrases, it behaves quite like a chorus and serves almost a similar purpose. But, it never is contained in separate sections, and neither is long enough for it be a real chorus.

Chorus And Refrain

So, by now, you surely understand that every chorus is a refrain. But, it will not be wrong to say that every refrain is not a chorus. A refrain always will mainly refer to a composition’s lyrics. And, these words may always be sung in different songs that have different musical notes.

But, a chorus, though it appears quite like a refrain, repeats the lyrics and as well as musical notes in a song. This is surely a small, yet one of the most important differences between the two. You might easily miss this one, and then you will only land up getting confused.


To conclude this refrain vs chorus comparison, it is essential to say that if you want to compose even a little part of the harmony, you first have to learn so many different factors. Refrain and chorus are just two of the important terms, and there is a lot more to discover and learn.

Yes, it will take you some time to figure out what refrain is and what type of relationship it has with the chorus. But, you have to put in the efforts and understand them really well if you desire to excel in your musical career.

As already mentioned, there are many other important terms, and you have to understand their importance equally well.

Once you know these terms well, you will be able to use them the right way to create the desired impact. Also, you will have a lot more fun as you will know not only how to use, but to even wisely play with these different terms.

But, if you do not have your basics right, you never will be able to succeed. And now that we have made things easier for you by helping you understand the differences between a chorus and a refrain, your journey surely will become a little easier.

Juan Stansbury
Juan Stansbury

I'm Juan Stansbury, author and owner of Homerecordio – your ultimate destination for everything about homerecording. With hands-on experience, courses, workshops, and industry research, I offer tips on selecting the best equipment, and mixing and mastering your recordings to achieve professional-quality results at home. Join me on this journey to explore the world of homerecording and music production.

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