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When To Start Your Song With The Chorus

Most commonly, Verse/Chorus songs start with the Verse and build into the Chorus. This allows the song to begin its story or situation, and to build up drama and excitement, ideally climaxing at the Chorus. Almost all songs involve some kind of story, or a situation that’s summed up in the Chorus, or a question that’s answered in the Chorus, so this is a natural way for things to progress.

So why would you reverse that and start a Verse/Chorus song with the Chorus?

One big benefit is that you start the song, and hopefully grab the listener, with the strongest and most memorable part of your song. If they go for it, you’re in. It makes the song more of an ‘all-in’ situation – you either win them at the top or you don’t. You’re not gradually hooking them.

The downside is that if your strongest section doesn’t do the job, you’ve lost. And that doesn’t mean you have a weak Chorus. Many very good Choruses need a lead-in. Think of ‘My Girl’. Or ‘Billie Jean’. Or ‘Sugar’. Great Choruses… but would you start with them? Bad idea.

It depends on how well the Chorus works as a stand-alone the first time through, without any lead-in.

When you start with an Intro and a Verse, you have a chance to build up suspense and mystery: Where, both lyrically and musically, is this leading? The answer usually being: the Chorus.

Successful songs that begin with the Chorus also create mystery, but in a different way. The listener looks forward to an explanation, a fuller accounting, of what the Chorus lyric is about.

Think of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ – What (or Who) can’t buy me love? Or ‘Help’? “All About That Bass’ – What’s all about that bass?’  ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ – Who? Why? ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ – of what? ‘Fast Car’ What’s that about?

Then there are songs where opening with the Chorus is more of a declaration of intent, a bugle call, like in ’Get The Party Started’, ‘Good Times’, and ‘She Loves You’.

It’s worth noting that starting with the Chorus or not is usually something you know when you’re writing the song – but not always. It can sometimes be more of an an arrangement/production decision.

In most cases the more common Verse/Chorus (or Verse/Pre-Chorus/Chorus) beginning is the best way to go. I find that starting with the Chorus is a feel thing – sometimes it just makes more sense, it feels correct. But if you’ve never tried it, if it’s not yet a feel thing for you, you might consider checking out what it feels like to start your song with the Chorus. Sometimes it’s just right.


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4 responses to “When To Start Your Song With The Chorus”

  • Todd Bird

    Very nice article Tony. I think you nailed all of the important points. For me personally, I am not sure I have ever written a song where it made sense to lead off with the chorus.

    One song I just heard for the first time in awhile is “You give love a bad name”. I like how Bon Jovi led off with the first couple of lines of the chorus a cappella. However, I don’t think it would have worked if they sang the entire chorus a cappella and then broke into the verse. I thought it was brilliant that they removed the big chorus instrumentation in the into vocals, which made the guitars/drums in the verse sound even bigger.

    Thanks again for your insight.


  • Christopher Gansky

    I have a couple songs where I decided to start with the chorus, and I ended up with a Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus structure. It’s great if you have a big hook that you want to hammer home and it doesn’t need very many lines to set up. Also great if you just want to get out of writing a second verse.



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