What is a Pre-Chorus & How to Write One?

What is a Pre-Chorus & How to Write One? What is a Pre-Chorus & How to Write One?

If you can answer the question "what is a preparation?" , does that mean you can also answer "what is a pre-chorus?". Just kidding, but I'm sure the analogy is clear.

So, What is It?

"Pre-chorus" sounds a bit like "pre-cursor", and perhaps not by accident. The pre-chorus is typically a pre-cursor to the chorus, and in a way prepares the "onset" of the chorus.

Now, regarding pre-chorus, you'll find any definition under the sun online, while some authors will avoid defining it. Some claim that it doesn't have to be related to the chorus... really?! Why isn't it called "pre-random" then?

So, let's put it bluntly: the pre-chorus is a separate section of a song, serving as a transition towards (or intro to) the chorus. As such, it can clearly be distinguished from other parts of the overall form of the song/composition.

The Formal Units of a Song

A song can have the following constituent parts:

  • intro
  • verse
  • bridge
  • pre-chorus
  • chorus
  • outro (aka "coda", especially in classical music).

The fully realized song will not depend on the song structure, of course. For the sake of presenting the options in a bit more depth, we'll comment below on the above listed.


Regardless of the musical structure of the song form, verses seldom are introduced outright. The most common is the verse-chorus song structure, which will often also include at least the intro .

The character of the introduction will depend on the overall ambience, which you want to announce or create.

While commonly calm and even contemplative, it can also be intense, at times even the most intense part within the entire song. A good example of the latter is System of a Down's Chop Suey , where the extended introduction is an exceptionally loud and interrupted "shout".


The main melody of a song will be featured in the verse.

As noted, a song will typically include at least two sections, or better yet: at least two melodies . These two sections (melodies) form the basis of the verse and the chorus.

Regardless of what surrounds it, the verse serves as an anchor. If you want to transition from the verse directly to the chorus, try to create a convincing short section to close it and announce the chorus.

Such a solution would do better if it works well both when connected to the verse's beginning and when connected to the chorus. This is a lot easier said than done (hence the need of a dedicated pre-chorus).


A common question that arises is related to the pre-chorus lyrics. Questions such as: can pre-chorus lyrics vary between pre-chorus appearances? Or something like: in the pre-chorus lyrics do appear, but can a pre-chorus do without lyrics?

Pre-choruses are primarily transitions , while at the same time comprising a separate and defined unit within the song structure.

Typically (although not necessarily exclusively), a song's pre-chorus will feature a different chord progression, compared to the other sections surrounding it.

Regarding lyrics, they don't defining what constitutes a pre-chorus, baring examples where the author decides to completely drop the thematic development.


A song's chorus brings an "answer" to the build up which the pre-chorus introduces. In pop songs, typically the chorus begins with the tonic chord. It can be a minor or a major chord, toward which a good pre-chorus naturally leads.

When songs do not include definable pre-choruses (especially the verse-chorus songs), some build up needs to occur before the chorus' onset nonetheless.

In such cases, the song's chorus needs to sound even more intense, so as to provide enough contrast, while at the same time providing a harmonic resolution.


Music theory does not have a definition for it, though songwriting skills are very clearly demonstrated through a good bridge .

While the pre-chorus announces the chorus, a bridge can announce a sort of "migration" toward an entirely new structural section, or announce the return to the original theme (the "verse", in this sense).

The latter is most clearly manifested in the classical jazz standard A-A-B-A form. The bridge at the B part serves almost as a chorus, providing new thematic material and a significant build up.

That build up, however, does not establish an expansion of the form. In fact, what leads where, is at times, what distinguishes a bridge from a pre-chorus, or even a chorus.

A song can feature multiple bridges, with each bridge serving the purpose of transitioning. Thus, bridges can vary in intensity, depending on what needs to be achieved with the given transition.


The outro (a song's "exit") is sort of "extreme" often. It is either building the tension to an abrupt ending, or fading away to complete silence.

My favorite example of the latter, would be the last movement of Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony. At the very end, the dynamics marked at the double basses are marked "ppppp" (even the conductor is to barely hear anything).

Now, Tchaikovsky isn't known as a "songwriter", but I'll take the liberty to note an intense outro of his: the ending of the Dance of the Flowers , from his Nutcracker Suite .

The Non-Formal Units

To develop the song's individual parts, the songwriter uses multiple building blocks.

Most common ones, apart from the melodies, are the chord progression and the lyrics.

If you want to get into the nitty gritty of things, you could get into more depth and analyze details further.

For the purpose of writing a pre-chorus, being overly-analytical does not help much, so we'll try to keep things simple.


A great verse also features great lyrics; there's no way around this. Great vocals are to be featured also, as great poetry (the words alone) won't do.

Lyrics can build tension. The verse and its lyrics can act together as a handy tool in transitioning toward choruses, or toward other formal parts/units, as needed.

As a songwriter, you are due to write a good lyric. If stuck, try writing different sections for the vocals, for example the chorus lyrics, if you're working on the verse at the moment.

Always remember that a piece of music is a "mosaic", rather than a "print". A single "stone" placed wrongly can produce a wrong impression, or even general dissatisfaction.


The true building blocks!

Especially when the song has only two main sections, the respective chord progression of each will define what is what. The same chord progression, with the same sequence of verse chords used in the chorus - doesn't even begin to define the latter.

While lyrics and melody provide enhancement, chords and harmony in general provide the essence.

You might say, "well, Nirvana's Something In The Way has the same chords in the verse and the chorus!". I'll say: exactly! After the chorus, the transition back to the verse is quite flat; so much so, that the same lyrics of the verse are repeated.

The above is a great example of artistry in simplicity, but by the same token it shows how much (or little thereof) you can do, when your chorus uses the same chords.

So, technically, you can define a new song section without introducing a new chord. The problem is, with the harmony staying the same, your options of convincingly transitioning further become increasingly limited.

With the chord as the major building block, you can do wonders by introducing a single new one to the progression. The new chord will introduce new ideas also (don't trust me, just try it!).

Songwriting Skills

Major "engine" in the process of creating a major melodic - and musical in general - beauty!

Songwriting is a separate skill, not necessarily dependent on the musical literacy and formal training as such.

The effectiveness of the overall flow will depend on whether or not we know what we want to achieve in the first place.

The intuition will serve as a cornerstone when creating and recording, and that in turn will be founded on the experience the songwriter has acquired.

However, music is both an art and a craft, so songwriting will run more smoothly if songwriters care about learning first and seek expression later.

The Listener

It's funny; pop music songwriters seek to appease the listener of their songs (perhaps overly so, to the point of blatant servility), while a contemporary classical composer seems to entirely ignore the listener.

So, does pop songwriting have to follow the former? Is the listener "their majesty"? Do good songs qualify as such just because they are popular; is popular music the same as good music? And by the same token: when songs are unpopular, is it because they aren't any good?

I'd say: neither of the above can be a flat-out "yes" (or a "no" for that matter). What applies to the overall result, applies to the constituent parts also, especially when talking about nuances!

So, How Do I Write a Decent Pre-Chorus?!

With everything considered, I'll list below a few points which need to be taken into account, and should help the flow or initiate the process for the less experienced.

Song Structure

First, you got to ask yourself one question: does your song really need a pre-chorus. Do you need to create anticipation; perhaps the song is already beautiful!

Adding a pre-chorus to Sting's Englishman in New York for example, would ruin the specially extended jazzy bridge and the overall song structure. So, don't insist unless you're sure it will lead to good results.

The Song's Chorus

Popular music always features a chorus, but the way it sounds is what matters. When the pre-chorus occurs, it needs to add what's needed , rather than create complications which will later make you scratch your head, thinking how to resolve them...

If the chorus requires suspension, add it to the pre-chorus, not unlike the pre-chorus solution of the now legendary Smells Like Teen Spirit .

Verse-Chorus and General Usage

You see, the fact that you wrote a pre-chorus you like, doesn't mean you have to use it before each a nd every one of the choruses. Use it only once if you so prefer; the song's structure can remain simple, with a surprising "twist" at a given spot. Do not be afraid to think outside the box.

Songs don't need to have a repetitive form or structure. The classic of System of a Down mentioned above is an excellent example in this regard!


At times, a single chord can define the pre-chorus well. Other times, no chord at all will do the trick; stops with leaving in only the vocal to prep the chorus can be quite effective!

Genre Specifics

The same melody can create a completely different impression in rock, compared to EDM, for example.

This isn't to say that you need to closely follow any example or a "canon" for that matter. Yet, a rock song will likely require a rock pre-chorus. Choose wisely, without dogmatizing on the one hand, and ignoring the tradition on the other!

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