The Pre-Chorus Can Make Your Song More Memorable

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer, Senior Instructor, Dalhousie University, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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The pre-chorus (sometimes called the “rise” or “climb”) is an occasionally-used element situated between a verse and a chorus. It’s not crucial to the life of a song, and many songs don’t use one. But a pre-chorus can help to increase the energy between a verse and a chorus, and set the chorus up to be more a center of attention. Here’s how it works.

Verses differ from choruses in several ways:

  1. A verse melody is generally pitched lower than a chorus.
  2. The chorus melody uses the tonic (key) note and tonic chord more often than a verse melody.
  3. In the balance between what I call strong and fragile progressions,the chorus will feature more strong progressions than the verse will.
  4. The verse lyric is more narrative; it tells the story. The chorus is more emotion-laden, and communicates how the singer is feeling.

These basic differences, in addition to extra instrumentation and louder dynamic levels usually found in a chorus, are the main reason for the higher energy of the chorus, and this is where the pre-chorus comes in.

The pre-chorus is situated between the verse and the chorus, and despite it’s position, it’s main job is not to connect the verse melody to the chorus melody or chords. Most songs don’t actually need that. It’s main job is to help build energy, and by doing so can make the chorus more memorable.

The prechorus does several things:

  1. It helps raise the pitch level from the lower verse melody to the higher chorus melody.
  2. It increases the dynamic (volume) level.
  3. It enhances the lyric content of the verse, and makes the emotion of the chorus even more poignent.

To give a literary example, read the following:

Verse: “We used to be so good for each other, but now someone has taken you from me.”
Chorus: “What do I do now?!”

A pre-chorus enhances the verse, and gives the text and emotion of the chorus more punch:

Verse: “We used to be so good for each other, but now someone has taken you from me.”
Pre-chorus: “All those walks, those smiles, those times…”
Chorus: “What do I do now?!”

As you can see, this text-representation of a song shows that the song would have existed without the pre-chorus, but the pre-chorus enhances the emotion, builds it up, and pulls the listener in. Then the chorus can practically wail!

So here are some tips for writing a pre-chorus:

  • The pre-chorus melody should differ from a verse and a chorus melody
  • Let the general direction of the pre-chorus melody be upward.
  • It’s most likely (but not exclusively necessary) that a pre-chorus chord progression will end on the dominant (V) chord, especially if the chorus begins on a I-chord.
  • Let the lyric explain the emotion that the singer is about to unleash, rather than having it be the emotion itself.

A pre-chorus is quite distinctive, and so it comes under the heading of “be careful how you use it.” Using it too often can be trite and predictable. But a pre-chorus may be the element that’s missing from your song, that can really enhance the chorus and make it more memorable.

Posted in Melody, songwriting and tagged , , , , , , , .


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