60-Second Songwriting: Song Structure Basics—the Pre-Chorus

60-Second Songwriting aims to offer quick, concise, song-craft tips, basics and blasts for the time-crunched and attention-challenged 21st-century musician.

Song structure is one of songwriting’s key elements or building blocks. As songwriters, we casually throw common structuring language around all the time—“Let’s double a chorus here. Why don’t we go to the bridge there?” But how often (if ever) do we really stop to think, beginner or advanced writer alike, about the nut-and-bolt concepts behind the everyday rudiments of our trade?

To use a comedy analogy, if the chorus can be thought of as the “punch-line” of a song, then the pre-chorus would be the “set-up.” Let’s quickly explore song structure’s pre-chorus.

The Pre-Chorus

So what is a pre-chorus?

  • As its name implies, the pre-chorus is simply a section of a song that appears just before the chorus sections of your tune.
  • Since the pre-chorus acts as a sort of precursor to each chorus of your tune, the number of times the pre-chorus occurs in your song’s timeline is directly proportional to the number of choruses in your song.
  • Functionally, the pre-chorus serves as a connector between the verse and chorus, subtly building the intensity or tension of the song toward the release of the chorus section. That said, not every song needs a pre-chorus. Many songs go straight from a verse right into a chorus.
  • In a pop song, usually, a pre-chorus consists of an underlying chord progression and a sung, top-line melody.
  • Lyrically speaking, a pre-chorus’ content usually differs from pre-chorus to pre-chorus. But as there are no rules in songwriting, the pre-chorus could also recycle its lyric or appear purely as an instrumental, lyric-free section.

Mark Bacino is a singer/songwriter based in New York City. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists, composing for television/advertising and teaching songwriting via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark also is the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus, a website dedicated to exploring the art of songwriting. Visit Mark on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

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