Why a Double Chorus Might Work Better Than a Pre-Chorus

Adding a second chorus to your song can be an alternative to the pre-chorus. Here’s how it works.


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BeyoncéIs it possible, or even desirable, to write a song that uses a double chorus? Your first thought might be that it seems to be a bit redundant. If the verse sets up a story and describes people and situations, and a chorus gives the emotional reaction to that story, what would be the need of a second chorus? But there are songs the use what could be called a double chorus, and the purpose seems to be an extra intensifying of song energy.

Two examples of a double chorus come immediately to mind: From the 1970s: “Ventura Highway” (Dewey Bunnell, performed by America), and in 2008: “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” (Beyoncé and others).

It’s clear that the so-called second chorus exists for the same reason that songwriters often add pre-choruses at the end of a verse. If the verse seems too short, songwriters will opt to add a pre-chorus, the purpose of which is to build song energy a bit more and allow for a longer musical journey before reaching the chorus.

But an option to the pre-chorus is to get right to the chorus, and then build energy by adding a second chorus.

In “Ventura Highway”, the first chorus uses a similar melody and chord progression to what was just heard in the verse (G  Dmaj7), so it’s a great candidate for a second chorus, which brings in a new melody and new chord progression (Em  F#m). The second chorus builds energy by shortening up melodic phrase lengths: The first chorus used melodic phrases that are 4 bars long, while the second chorus’s melody uses 2-bar phrases. Shorter phrases intensify song energy.

In “Single Ladies”, the first chorus (“If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it..”) is short and repetitious, and really calls out for a second chorus. The second chorus in this case extends the chorus section of the song to be the same length as the verse. While that’s not a songwriting requirement, it does help create a sense of balance.

How do you know if what you’re listening to is a double chorus, and not simply a pre-chorus that moves to the real chorus? In most cases, a pre-chorus will be quite short, lacking the hook-based melody common in a chorus, feeling lyrically and harmonically “inconclusive.” A recent example of a song with a typical pre-chorus is Katy Perry’s “Firework“.

Here’s what you should be thinking about if you wonder if your song could or should use a second chorus:

  1. Is the verse short, using a melody with a restricted note set (3 or 4 different pitches)?
  2. Is the verse chord progression short (using only 1 or 2 chords)?

In those cases, using two choruses may be a viable alternative to adding a pre-chorus. Most of the time, listeners are not even aware of this issue at all, and would probably not even notice if you’re using a pre-chorus or double chorus. The difference to you is this: A pre-chorus builds energy by creating a build; a double chorus allows you to get to the hooky part of the song more quickly, with the second chorus building extra energy.


Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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  1. Hi Emmanuel. I think you must have mis-read or misunderstood my analysis. The part at 2:00 is most certainly not a chorus. That’s a bridge, and a textbook one at that. I was talking about the two adjacent sections before that, the first one which starts with “If you like it than you should’ve put a ring on it”, followed by the “oh oh oh” section, which I was describing as a type of double-chorus.


  2. I also think the author is mistaking what a choruses and bridges are. Which is exactly what Beyonce has used in all the single ladies. At 2:00 it’s not a chorus it’s a contrasting part that prepares for the return to the chorus. Often a part that is more intense and powerful than the chorus itself. It can be simple music accompanied or followed by a solo (for rock music, jazz, blues and such) or an actual sung part.

    • I think you’ve got a good point. Often a discussion of song form can get wrapped up in an issue of semantics, though, where the important issue is that there is one section followed by another and then another. In this case, when you examine song energy, instrumental rhythm, backing vocals, and so on, a case is better made, I believe, for a verse with what sounds more like a double-chorus. And actually, all the melodies in this song strongly resemble each other, to the point where you could also make the case that it is simply a verse repeated twice, with more of a variation each time, and no real chorus. As I say, sometimes it can simply come down to semantics.

      Interestingly, other America hits follow the pattern of establishing a melodic idea over a chord progression, both of which change very little as the song progresses, “A Horse With No Name” being a good example.

      Thanks very much for your thoughts,

  3. I’ve been enjoying reading this blog for quite a while now, and I must say that it is AWESOME; helped me a bunch with all the various songwriting issues, and then some; made me put a finger on my forehead more times than I used to do it by myself before. Much better now, can’t thank you enough.
    Now, let me get to the point and address your post.
    The song by Scissor Sisters – I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4H5I6y1Qvz0) seems to have BOTH a pre-chorus and two choruses. Or, maybe, it could be a two-part chorus? Or…?
    I remember pointing that out to my friends back in the day, and now this post came along. I just had to ask.
    Any comments, opinions or some other interesting examples?

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