Is "Don't Bore Us, Get to the Chorus" Fact or Myth?

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Far East Movement - Like a G6Is it true that the longer it takes you to get to the chorus of your song, the less likely it is that it’ll be a hit? On the face of it, it would appear to be true. After all, for most songs, the chorus is the most “hooky” part of the song, the part everyone remembers, the part that’s supposed to keep us coming back. So let’s take a quick look at the top ten hits on Billboard Hot 100 this week, and find out how long it actually takes them to get to the chorus.

Starting the clock with the first note of the song, and checking when it reaches the chorus, and then when the title words are sung, we get the following results:

  1. Far East Movement: Like a G6: 0’15” to title words (song starts with the chorus).
  2. Bruno Mars: Just the Way You Are: 0’52” to chorus, 1’05” to title words.
  3. Nelly: Just a Dream: 0’20” to start of chorus, 0’29” to the title words.
  4. Rihanna: Only Girl (in the World): 0’46” to start of chorus, 0’48” to title words.
  5. Usher, feat. Pitbull: DJ Got Us Falling in Love Again: 0″39′ to start of chorus, 0″41 to title words.
  6. Taylor Swift: Back to December:0’55” to start of chorus, 1’05” to title words.
  7. Katy Perry: Teenage Dream: 0’52” to start of chorus, 0″56 to title words.
  8. Taio Cruz: Dynamite: 0’38” to start of chorus, 0’54” to title words.
  9. Flo Rida: Club Can’t Handle Me: 0’21” to title words (song starts with chorus).
  10. Trey Songz Feat. Nicki Minaj: Bottoms Up: 0’17” to title words (song starts with chorus).

Three of Billboard’s current hit songs start with the chorus, and it’s a great way to make sure that your song title gets into the listeners’ heads early and often.

The song that takes the longest to get to the chorus is Taylor Swift’s “Back to December”, notable for being the only ballad currently in the Top Ten.

And when you start looking at other songs within the current top 100 hits, it seems to be pretty much a rule that you’ll get to hear the chorus, and in most cases the title words, before the first minute of the song has elapsed.

We know that verses give us background – they lay the groundwork and give us the basic story. And we know that choruses give us the emotional response to all of that.

And, it would appear, the longer you make your audience wait for that emotional response, the more frustrated you’ll find your audience to be.

With that in mind, the following tips will probably apply to 90% of the songs you’ll write:

  1. Get to the chorus before the 1-minute mark of your song; on average by the 45-second mark.
  2. Only use a pre-chorus in your song if the verse is short and does not venture very far harmonically.
  3. Don’t use a bridge or instrumental solo until after the second chorus.
  4. Consider starting the chorus directly after the song intro, then Verse 1.
  5. Place the title words in a structurally significant part of your chorus melody: at the start, at the end, or on the highest note.

Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
– Follow Gary on Twitter


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  1. Coming to this post very late after just hearing “Don’t Stop Believing” on a cheesy 80s radio station and wondering if it comes close to the longest wait for the chorus ever? The great thing about such songs is years later you have plenty of time to try and remember the song title before finding out if you were right!

  2. This just shows how shallow people have become. Instant gratification is what they need because they have “ADHD”. You might hook the dumb masses with an early chorus but truly great music is more than a chorus and the rest of the song should be great too. If listeners are getting “impatient or frustrated” waiting for the chorus then either the music is total crap or the listener is. Any musician who’s goal is to get in the top ten instead of just making beautiful music that speaks to your soul is not an artist at all. Advice in this article to hurry up and get to the chorus = total garbage. Just another part of society with no depth or meaning, the cause of all this cookie cutter crap music. You truly disgust me.

    • Hello Dane:

      You’ve commented on an 8-year-old post, and I usually don’t approve ones that are that late coming to the party. Nonetheless, I’d just make the point that there are some for whom pop music isn’t a genre that holds much interest, and you’ve made it clear that you’re in that category. Fair enough. You will want to know, however, that there are principles that make shorter songs such as we find in the pop music genres work, and one of those principles is to get to the chorus within the first minute or so, regardless of how interesting or not the verse is. You will also want to know that the article does not make the claim that the rest of the song shouldn’t also be great. You may want to reread it.

      All the best,
      -Gary Ewer

  3. Gary, I echo your comment on downloads hurting record sales. Although, I think that might be changing now with easier access to music and more record companies jumping on board the internet gravy train. Plus buying music is so much more fragmented. I can buy just the songs I want from an album.

    IMHO, however, I beg to differ that some musicians / writers from the classic rock generation were not motivated by writing hit songs. I agree that the artistic value and maybe even having a message played an important part but they were in the biz to be successful and make money and write hits. They were also writing for a generation that screamed for the menu they offered. The first monster hit I can remember from LZ was Whole Lotta Love. I don’t have it here in front of me but I would guess he hook or chorus clocks in at around :30. Right on the mark. Perhaps later they loosened up and wrote outside the box. In the Pink Floyd song “Money”, we get the hook from the get-go and then the chorus within a minute. Now if you want to talk about artists that probably were more artistic than technical in their writing my vote is for, The Grateful Dead. Today it’s “Widespread Panic”, Phish, etc. Jam bands. But, and a big BUT even those musicians know song structure and write killer tunes.

    I think some of us get confused with commercial hits and just awesome songs. Man what an empty world of sound it would be if commercial music was the only music we had to listen to. It would be an endless boring nail-pulling trip up and down an elevator.

    Gary, thank you for your service and posting your wealth of knowledge for us “wannabes” to see and learn. In reading just a few lines I have found some missing ingredients in my attempt to cook up a “hit” song and at the same time I’ve learned to realize all the songs I write are not bad songs…just not hits. You are now officially one of my songwriting heroes.

  4. Pingback: Getting to the song title or chorus ASAP

  5. Pingback: Don’t bore us get to the chorus – myth? « Make It In Music Daily

  6. I think Nick Terry’s viewoint applies to a small percentage
    of the public, but it’s valid.

    I dont think we can blame pirate downloading as the only answer to poor sales, other factors apply , like the signing of
    certain bands , who’s members should be put in prison for impersonating musicians .

    Too many whizz kids are pulling the strings with regards to who releases what, and they usualy move on before they are found out to be the fools they are.

    The great thing is that there is always a place for Good bands
    that dont tow the line in normal song writing format, but they dont make mega bucks.

    The two run together and always will.

    Me I like a great chorus I can sing along to, because it’s all just fun, and not something we should over analyze, it works for it’s simplicity.

    Peter Jenkins

  7. Watch “running down a dream” Tp and the HBkrs DVD. Mike Campbell makes the exact same quote. Don’t bore us; get to the chorus as why the band worked so well together and look how many hits they’ve written. But all things in life, if it were easy, everyone could do it.

  8. Good thing this logic wasn’t around when Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd were formed. They would have never gotten a deal in today’s market. What about Tool? My guess is that having a template for today’s music is exactly why sales are where they are. Use a template to write a dog food commercial not an emotional song.

    • Jeremy, I think you’re mostly correct. I doubt L.Z. and P.F. would get a deal the way things are today. Of course, they weren’t that concerned about writing hit songs, and that’s why I (and likely you) love those groups. The truth is that it’s actually pretty much always been true that getting quickly to the chorus is a principle of hit song writing. That’s not a strictly contemporary feature. There are great bands and writers today who are writing fantastic music, and ignoring that template, and I love them for it. But they also are not at the top of Billboard.

      I’d take issue with your comment about today’s template being the reason for poor sales. That’s probably more a result of ease of downloading music, not the result of a lousy template.

      Thanks for writing – I appreciate your comments.

      • Gary, of course ease of downloading is hurting music sales but what about the massive amount of music thats out right now. Instead of listening to generic sounding over produced songs with uninventive lyrics people have access to music that caters to them. Well crafted art rich with imagery, emotion and unique sounds that haven’t been done. Recording and putting out records is easier than ever and although you may not get a major label record deal you can still have musically and lyrically challenging records that draw in major crowds. Grizzly Bear for example recorded a few albums on their own, rich in composition, arrangement and lyrics and this past year had a pretty high up spot at the major music festivals. Something that just wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago before the spike of technology which birthed more home recording and more piracy.

        The point of all this is that maybe people are tired fo the template and going off to find the music that fits them. Also if say Bon Iver who argueably wrote the best folk/acoustic record in the past 20 years was with a label that had millions of dollars to shove his music down the throats of nearly everyone would he be in the top 40? Problem is the only way he’d be able to get a deal like this would be if he changed his styleto fit into one of these major label templates.

  9. This is definitely good advice.

    There are far too many artists trying to be deep and sentimental. People don’t want to hear that on the radio. They want lively songs that get straight to the point. Only ballads can take long to get to the chorus and still be hit songs.

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