What Is Refrain In Music (the simple answer)

What Is Refrain In Music? (the simple answer)

There is often confusion around when to use the term refrain in music. In this article we’ll explain exactly what is meant by refrain from a musical point of view. So keep reading for all you need to know about refrain in relation to music.

Where Does The Word Refrain Come From?

 The word refrain comes from the French word “refraindre”  or the Latin word “refringere”which both mean to repeat. In music a refrain is a phrase or one/two lines of music and lyrics that are repeated at the end of each verse.

Refrain Or Chorus?

Refrains and choruses often get confused with the meanings of both getting blurred into meaning the same thing. But that’s not so, a refrain is always the repeated line or two that finishes a verse whereas a chorus is longer and comes between verses, not attached to the verse. With that said the chorus is repeated in a similar way to a refrain but the chorus contains at least twice as many lines as a refrain.

The refrain can be described as the resolution of the verse, or compared to a full stop at the end of a sentence. A good example of a refrain would be Bob Dylan’s “The times they are a changin”

At the end of every verse the phrase “The times they are a changin” finishes that verse and the next one then begins. There is no chorus at all in this song, just a refrain which is repeated at the end of every verse. It is worth remembering that all choruses are types of refrains but not all refrains are choruses. 

Why Are There Two Words To Describe The Same Thing?

Originally, a refrain referred to the last line or two lines of a poem that repeated at the end of every verse. Whereas the word chorus comes from Ancient Greece, a group of people would perform parts of the play together who were called, you guessed it, the chorus. The same word is used today for the piece of repeated music and lyrics that separate the verses. 

The refrain should refer to the repeated line or two at the end of each verse. If you are referring to a four or more line interlude that’s repeated between the verses, it’s a chorus. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a refrain mean in music?

In music a refrain is a repeated line or two at the end of every verse. 

Is refrain the same as chorus?

Although the two words are used to describe the same thing they actually are two different things. A refrain is a line or two that are repeated at the end of every verse. Whereas a chorus is a separate part from the verse and repeats every time between the verses.

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