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How To Write A Pre-Chorus

Sep 04, 2021

How do I write a pre-chorus?

Should I write a pre-chorus?

How do I know if my song should have a pre-chorus or not?

Let’s discuss.


What Is The Purpose Of A Pre-Chorus?

The purpose of a pre-chorus is to set up your chorus.

It’s in the name. It’s not a post-verse even though it’s after a verse. It’s a pre-chorus as its primary responsibility is to the chorus.

A pre-chorus should build tension and anticipation before the chorus.

There are plenty of ways to do this. Often, the pre-chorus will operate as an energy middle-ground for the verse and chorus. 

If your verse is a 2/10 in energy and your chorus is an 8/10, a pre-chorus will often make the transition less jarring by raising the energy to 5/10. This lets the energy go 2-5-8 instead of the more-jarring 2-8.

Think of it like a highway on-ramp. It’s asking a lot from a car to turn from a 35mph road onto a 65mph road. 

If they’re driving a tesla or a V8 muscle car, they might be fine. But for the Honda Civic drivers out there, you’re in trouble. 

The on-ramp of a highway gives cars a safe place to ramp up their speed to highway speeds before having to merge.

Besides the energy transition from verse to chorus, a pre-chorus also allows you to make your chorus largely agnostic of your verse.

Maybe your verse doesn’t really lead into the chorus smoothly. Maybe the chord change from the end of your verse to the beginning of your chorus doesn’t sound quite right.

Your verse lyrics might not have enough information for the chorus to make sense. If your first verse was telling the story of your first love, jumping straight into a chorus about heartbreak may be confusing.

But if you have a pre-chorus to clarify that the relationship is over now, the story will make more sense.

It also should be noted that you might want to make the transition into the chorus less or more jarring. 

You might have a verse that’s a 6/10 in energy and a chorus that’s an 8/10. But you might feel that your chorus is disappointing because of the more subtle energy change.

You could write a pre-chorus that takes the energy down to a 2 and then the 2-8 transition would make your chorus feel more epic and explosive. 

But doing this in your pre-chorus allows you to leave the verse alone and worry about the energy shift in your pre-chorus instead.


Should I Write A Pre-Chorus For My Song?

In order to answer this question, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Lyrically, does the verse effectively set up the chorus?
  2. Musically, does the verse naturally transition into the chorus?
  3. Musically, does the verse energy transition into the chorus energy the way you want?
  4. Does the chorus feel like it comes at the right time?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no”, you might want to write a pre-chorus. 

We already talked about the first 3 questions, but let’s talk about that fourth one. 

If you have a short intro and short verses, the chorus may feel like it comes too soon.

If your chorus doesn’t play until after the first minute of your song, you’re probably good. But if the chorus is happening in the first 30 seconds, you might need to add more buildup before the chorus.

A 15 second verse followed by a 15 second pre-chorus might be a more exciting lead up to a chorus than just a 15 second verse. If your verse doesn’t stay interesting for very long, it may also be better to have a 15 second verse and 15 second pre-chorus than a 30 second verse.

What makes a pre-chorus a good pre-chorus?

A good pre-chorus adds tension so that the release of the chorus is extra pronounced.

What does this mean? 

Well, a pre-chorus should be like the pass of an alley-oop. A pass so perfect that someone can catch it and put it in the basketball hoop mid-jump. 

The person doing the dunk is the chorus. So you’re setting up the chorus to be even more of a slam dunk when you write an effective pre-chorus.

A good pre-chorus will create more interest and add any necessary or helpful details before the chorus.

The verses of your song might talk about how much you want someone. The chorus might talk about how you can’t be with them. An effective pre-chorus might explain why you can’t be with them.

Is it because they’re not interested? Are they with someone else? Are you just too afraid to ever ask them out?

The pre-chorus can answer these important questions.

More practically speaking, your pre-chorus also introduces something new.

A pre-chorus is a good time to add a new chord. For example, if you’ve been just using the I and V chords in the verse, throwing the vi into the pre-chorus will help to create intrigue.

The melody of your pre-chorus might also be pitched higher than your verses. This can help raise the tension and anticipate the chorus. 

It’s also going to be easier on your voice to more slowly transition from the lower part of your range to the higher part.

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