What Is A Refrain In Music?

This guide will answer what a refrain is in music, the difference between a refrain and chorus, examples of refrains, and where refrains belong in a song.

What Is A Refrain In Music?

A refrain in music is a line or group of lines repeated in a song. It is usually found in the chorus of a song. Although there can be more than one refrain in a song, the most common form is only one, which appears once in each stanza of the lyrics.

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What Is A Refrain In Music
What Is A Refrain In Music

What Is a Refrain?

A refrain can also be defined as a repeating sentence or short phrase inserted into song lyrics. Often, it is repeated throughout the same verse, but not necessarily. In other cases, a refrain can be repeated between different verses as well.

The refrain is commonly found in choruses, and it is often repeated for effect. Refrains are used to reinforce the message of the song’s lyrics and add emphasis, or they can be used to create an ambiance.

A refrain is also used as a unifying part of the song that impacts listeners. Refrains are usually quite catchy and sung with enthusiasm to help listeners remember the song.

Refrain vs. Chorus / Verse Refrain Structure / Refrain Song Structure

Some artists, however, do not include refrains in their songs. One reason is that it can be monotonous to repeat one phrase continuously. Another reason is that they may want to give the listeners a break from the lyrics and allow them time for reflection or an emotional response.

What Is The Importance of Refrains In Music?

Refrains are very important in music. It is one of the ways in which the audience can get into the song. It is very catchy and keeps them attached to their seat.

Also, it plays a major role in the appreciation of music. This is because many other people will repeat this part of the song, and they will like it and appreciate the music.

Other than that, once you listen to a song and get accustomed to it and familiar with the refrain, then the next time, you will enjoy it even more.

What Is The Difference Between Repetition And Refrain?

Repetition is the act of repeating a word, phrase, or idea over and over again. On the other hand, a refrain is an expression that is repeated throughout a song to create the desired effect.

Also, a refrain is a short phrase inserted in a song. On the other hand, repetition can create any desired effect, and it can be found anywhere in a song.

What Is The Difference Between Refrain And Anaphora?

Refrains are different from anaphora. Anaphora refers to the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of several phrases, lines, or verses.

While anaphora repeats the same word or phrase at the beginning of phrases, lines, or verses, the refrain does not necessarily do this. The refrain repeats the same phrase at the beginning of multiple stanzas of lyrics.

Related: What Is A Chorus In A Song | What Is A Bridge


What Is The Difference Between A Refrain And Chorus?

A refrain is commonly found in choruses, whereas a chorus is the part of a song that contains one or more refrains.

Refrains are usually found in songs that have choruses because it acts as a segue into the chorus. Generally, a refrain is only one sentence or phrase repeated throughout the same verse. However, refrains can also be found between verses to introduce the chorus or after the chorus.

What is Verse/Refrain Structure?

You might also notice a chorus is a lot longer than a refrain. A chorus might consist of 2-6 lines that repeat, whereas the typical refrain is only one line.


What Is An Example Of A Refrain In A Song?

Countless songs have refrains in their lyrics. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

1. The Beatles – Hey Jude

The refrain in this song is “Na, Na, Na, Hey Jude.” It appears throughout the song right before the chorus and makes for an exciting lead-up to the chorus.

Paul McCartney sings the song for John Lennon’s son after Lennon and his wife, Cynthia Powell, separated. It was meant to cheer up the kid.

The Beatles – Hey Jude

2. Don McLean – American Pie

The refrain in this song is “So bye-bye, Miss American Pie.” It appears right before the chorus to help transition from verse to chorus.

The song is a popular classic rock hit and is known for its lyrics which discuss the end of the 1960s era in America and the death of singer Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens.

3. The Doors – Hello, I Love You

The refrain in this song is “Hello, I love you/ Won’t you tell me your name?” It appears right before the chorus and helps transition from verse to chorus.

The song is a popular rock song from The Doors written by Jim Morrison. It was released as a single in 1968.

The Doors – Hello, I Love You (Live)

4. Fun – Some Nights

The refrain in this song is “This is it boys, this is war.” It appears throughout the song right before the chorus.

When played on radio stations across the nation, this song took America by storm and is part of Fun’s award-winning album Some Nights.

5. Rihanna – We Found Love

The refrain in this song is “We found love in a hopeless place.” It appears right before the chorus.

This song was released in 2011 on Rihanna’s album Talk That Talk. The lyrics of this song were inspired by the story of how Rihanna and her now ex-boyfriend, Chris Brown, met.

Rihanna – We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris

Is A Refrain The Same As A Chorus?

A chorus is often the part of a song that contains one or more refrains. But, generally, the chorus and refrain should be considered distinct because they are two different lines.

A refrain is only one sentence or phrase repeated throughout the same verse. However, refrains can also be found between verses to introduce the chorus or after the chorus.


Is A Refrain The Same As A Pre-Chorus?

A refrain is not the same as a pre-chorus. A pre-chorus introduces your song, whereas a refrain is repeated throughout each verse.

A refrain is a sentence or phrase that is echoed repeatedly throughout the song. In other words, it’s a line of lyrics that is repeated multiple times.

A pre-chorus is a set of lyrics that leads to your song’s chorus, and it usually occurs right before the central part of the song.

What Is A PRE-CHORUS? Pre-Chorus Explained

How To Structure Your Chorus & Refrains?

Choruses and refrains are found in the same spots in songs, but they play different roles. Artists who use refrains in their music structure them in their verses.

People make a common mistake when writing songs by repeating the chorus throughout their verses. This is not effective because it does not create a distinct form for your song, and it’s monotonous.

Instead of using the same chorus over and over again in your songs, you should structure them in different parts of your song, like between verses, after the first verse, after the second verse, etc.

The best way to understand how to use refrains and choruses in your songs is to listen to examples of artists who have done it successfully and learn from them.


The concept of the refrain in popular music genres can vary depending on what type of song it is. In folk music, the verse and the chorus are fairly common. However, in jazz songs, the verse and refrain can be used interchangeably because they consist of sung text. In pop music, the verse and refrain are also interchangeable.

In a song with a repeated chorus, it’s common for there to be a shorter section before the chorus where instruments are introduced and an extended bridge afterward.

It’s also common for there to be a pre-chorus between the refrain and the chorus. This is a section in a song that occurs before the main part of your song, which usually consists of a couple of repeated lines.


Which Word Should I Use? Refrain Vs. Chorus?

You might wonder whether you should use refrain or chorus, and both work fine in sentences. However, if you are writing a song, it would be best to use refrain because it is the technical term music writers use.

In a sentence, both words are interchangeable, but if you are writing about music, then refrain is the correct word to use.

Most of the time, you will see refrains used in music essays and articles because it’s a specific technical term that music writers use.

However, it’s not unusual to see both words used in the same essay, so don’t worry about it too much.


Summary of Refrain in Music

A refrain in music refers to a line or group of repeated lines during a song. Refrains are usually found in choruses. Although a song can contain more than one refrain, it is most common only to have one, which appears once in each stanza.

We hope you now have a good understanding of refrains in music.

Mark V.

Written By Mark V.
Hip Hop Makers is a music production website launched in 2008 to teach music lovers how to make music, sell beats, and make money from music.

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