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[SOLVED] What is a refrain?

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Member
Joined: 31.08.2018
Pending moderation

Reading text descriptions confuses me.

Wikipedia says sometimes refrain is the same as chorus, and other times not. The examples in the article confused me even more.

Could someone pls provide examples of songs and tell me the entire refrain. If there are songs with both a chorus and refrain, even better.

If you understand Spanish, pls peak at https://lyricstranslate.com/en/gloria-estefan-montuno-lyrics.html. I would call Óyelo y vívelo, y baila este montuno bien the chorus. Could it also be called a refrain?

But the music changes for stanzas 3 and 6, which repeat word-for-word. They might be verses but maybe a specific kind of verse?

Super Member
Joined: 19.07.2018

I usually call refrain the stanzas recurring in a song.
I usually call chorus when backup singers join in singing a stanza.
Maybe this is incorrect so I am looking forward to other replies.
Good question.

Banned User The Bride
Joined: 18.11.2018

It's the main part of the song, the most memorable verse, let's say. Yeah, it's the chorus.

Editor True-to-original translations.
Joined: 29.08.2015

A song is usually made up mainly of verses, choruses and sometimes bridges interchangeable with verses, refrains and middle 8ths.

In the song cited, even though “Oyelo...” is sung only by the chorus (background singers) it is definitely the chorus or refrain.

NB When a group of people sing together they are referred to as a chorus. In a song they do this, most of the times, for the chorus or refrain part and that is why that part came to be referred to as the chorus.

Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

Thanks everyone.

MichaelNa, in the song cited, what would you call stanzas 3 and 6 (starting with No tiene fronteras. (Es libre.)) If you have time, could you please listen to how the music changes. Is this what you would call a bridge?

Editor Leader of the Balkan Squad
Joined: 14.10.2016

"Refrain" is generally another word for "chorus".

Editor True-to-original translations.
Joined: 29.08.2015

“No tiene fronteras .... hecho canción” would be considered the bridge.

The following is a chorus, the only difference is that the main singer sings in between the chorus lines sung by the background singers:

(Óyelo y vívelo, y baila este montuno bien.)
Tiene yunfa y tiene saoco también.
(Óyelo y vívelo, y baila este montuno bien.)
Calor y sabor de mi tierra.
(Óyelo y vívelo, y baila este montuno bien.)
Ay, qué bárbaro, mi montuno.
(Óyelo y vívelo, y baila este montuno bien.)
A bailar, a bailar, a gozar, a gozar.
(Óyelo y vívelo, y baila este montuno bien.)
¡Ay ay ay, qué bueno está este tumbao!

This part would be the outro or the coda:

El montuno, el montuno (Montuno).
Todos bailan con (El montuno).
(Montuno)
(El montuno)
(Con el montuno me voy.)
Me voy, me voy, me voy.
(Con el montuno me voy.)
Ay me voy, me voy, me voy.
(Con el montuno me voy.)
Con el montuno, el montuno me voy.
(Con el montuno me voy.)

¡Me voy!

NB Please do not label the parts as such within the lyrics (I consider that an insult to people’s intelligence).

Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

To the educated, it may insult the intelligence,but not to dummies like me. However, I will not label them. Wink smile Thanks for the help with vocabulary.

In Spanish-language transcriptions, sometimes I see Bis. I know it can mean encore but that doesn't seem to make sense in a transcription. Besides, there is always a period so it seems like an abbreviation. Do you know more about this?

Super Member
Joined: 19.07.2018

Sorry, I'm not dumb, but I like labeling.

Otter in disguise
Joined: 19.09.2016
Quote:

To the educated, it may insult the intelligence,but not to dummies like me. However, I will not label them. Wink smile Thanks for the help with vocabulary.

In Spanish-language transcriptions, sometimes I see Bis. Do you know what that is?

It indicates that the the stanza or verse is repeated Wink smile
It's usually accompanied by a small tag indicating the number of times, but if it says nothing else it's probably just twice

Editor
Joined: 31.12.2013

I suppose it can be confusing that the word ‘chorus’ is a synonym of ‘refrain’ in addition to its other meanings.

The Oxford English Dictionary says:
refrain:
1. A repeated line or number of lines in a poem or song, typically at the end of each verse.
1.1. The musical accompaniment for a refrain.
...

chorus:
1. A part of a song which is repeated after each verse.
2. A large organized group of singers, especially one which performs with an orchestra or opera company.
...

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/chorus

It says that the two words can be used interchangeably.

For ‘bridge’, Meriam Webster dictionary says:
bridge:
3.a. (Music) a passage linking two sections of a composition

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bridge

Editor True-to-original translations.
Joined: 29.08.2015

“Bis” is Latin for “twice”. You might have encountered it in the word “biscuit” i. e. cooked twice. It means that the line or section is to be repeated. If the line or section is to be repeated for a number of times it can also be indicated with 2x, 3x, (read as two times, three times) etc.

Editor Slim Shady
Joined: 05.11.2014

To me, refrain is the same as chorus. For the simple reason that the French word for "Chorus" is "Refrain" ^^

Member
Joined: 01.04.2015

as i see it -
refrain is a global term, which means repeating (of lines in poems, stanzas in songs, musical parts in symphonys)
so chorus is a special case of refrain (for songs)
i.e. refrain is a broader concept and the chorus is for songs only

Member
Joined: 01.04.2015

so it's valid to say that in case of songs refrain=chorus
but in case of poetry and music - it means different things

Member
Joined: 01.04.2015

or maybe not XD

There were three ravens sat on a tree,
downe a downe, hay downe, a downe,
They were as black as they might be.
with a downe, downe, downe
Then one of them said to his mate,
Where shall we now our breakfast take?
With a downe, derrie, derrie, downe, downe.

"downe a downe, hay downe, a downe," - is definitely a refrain.
but i think it's hardly a chorus

so I probably wasn't right saying refrain=chorus XD
oh, forgive me for multiposting) i just never thought a lot about it before

Editor True-to-original translations.
Joined: 29.08.2015

The structure for the following song is Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus etc. The “Fa la la la la” is the chorus/refrain.
A poem can be considered as a composition that doesn’t have a melody (yet). Regular smile

Deck the halls with boughs of holly.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
'Tis the season to be jolly.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Don we now our gay apparel.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Troll the ancient Yuletide carol.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

To repeat someone else's comment, if I understand correctly. . .

It seems like with general, mainstream music(such as pop/rock), most of the refrains are sung by a chorus, "chorus" meaning two or more singers.

So you have the lead vocalist singing the verses, and a backup of two or more singing the refrain.

Does that sound right?

Over time the two words probably became synonymous.

I wonder about examples to the contrary. Are there songs in which the lead vocalist also sings the refrain? Are there songs in which there is the lead vocalist but one solitary backup singing the refrain? I wonder if, focussing on music only, Lizzzard is right that "chorus" is a specific kind of refrain. Or maybe it started that way, but over time, the two became synonymous.

Editor True-to-original translations.
Joined: 29.08.2015

There are many songs where the main singer sings both verses and choruses.
Generally speaking the chorus is emphasized by adding harmony to it. In recordings it is sometimes done by the main singer and in live situations, for obvious reasons, by one or more background singers.

Member
Joined: 01.04.2015

in russian language word "refrain" more often used for music (not songs) or for... speech
like:
this idea is a refrain through the whole book
This music is a refrain through the whole opera
(i'm not sure i've wrote it correct, sorry)

so maybe different languages sees this word different )

Editor True-to-original translations.
Joined: 29.08.2015

Let me confuse you even more: in English “to refrain” also means “to abstain from an impulse to say or do something“ as in “Can you please refrain from smoking?” Regular smile

The word is derived from the Latin “refringere” where “re” is for “again” and “fringere” is for “to break”. In the case of its usage in a song or poem, it “breaks” the main discourse by introducing the main point of the piece and it’s brought back i.e. repeated after the other facets are added to the main discourse.

Member
Joined: 31.08.2018
MichaelNa wrote:

There are many songs where the main singer sings both verses and choruses.
Generally speaking the chorus is emphasized by adding harmony to it. In recordings it is sometimes done by the main singer and in live situations, for obvious reasons, by one or more background singers.

Aw, I liked the word myriad.

Anyhow, I didn't think of that. Good point. But if you (anyone reading) know of any songs in which the lead vocalist does not sing the chorus in any way at all, but there is a second person that sings the chorus completely by themselves, I would love to see some examples. This is just out of interest / curiosity / a fun challenge.

Editor True-to-original translations.
Joined: 29.08.2015

Regular smile What about the song you cited in your first post? Gloria Estefan doesn’t sing the chorus at all, it’s done completely by the background singers. The last chorus does not really count because she only sings lines in between the lines that make up the chorus.

Here is a classic example of a song structured as V-C-V-C-V-C with the singer singing the first line of the chorus alone and the background singers emphasizing the second line. https://lyricstranslate.com/en/Paul-Young-Everytime-You-Go-Away-lyrics.html

Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

Ah, but Gloria has backup singerS, plural, so that one doesn't count. I'm thinking it's extremely rare for the backup singer to be solo and also different from the lead vocalist..

Paul Young, good one, although I could split hairs and say that for a second there was another singer harmonizing. (Love that guitar. It sounds Asian-influenced.)

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