Tips For Writing a Pre-Chorus Melody

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Concert crowdAsk songwriters the main differences between verse and chorus melodies, and hopefully they’d tell you:

  1. Chorus melodies are higher, verse melodies are lower.
  2. Chorus melodies are usually made up of short, repetitive melodic ideas that are strung together, while verse melodies use more notes and often wander a bit more.
  3. Chorus melodies make the tonic note more important than what you’d often find in the verse.

But when it comes to describing the main structural qualities of a pre-chorus melody, you might get a lot of blank stares, even from songwriters who write good pre-chorus melodies. That’s because it’s a tough question to answer: What are the main characteristics of a good pre-chorus melody?

A pre-chorus is an optional song section that joins the verse and chorus together. Not every song needs one, but you’ll want to consider a pre-chorus if:

  1. the verse and chorus melodies are very similar-sounding;
  2. the verse is short;
  3. the chord progression of the verse is short, perhaps only one or two chords;
  4. the chorus melody sits a lot higher in pitch than the verse melody;
  5. the energy of the chorus is dramatically higher than that of the verse.

ad_4_2016But none of those statements tell you what to do to create a good pre-chorus melody. There’s no consistent formula that applies to writing one, but here are some tips to think about as you consider adding a pre-chorus to your song:

  1. Most songs can, structurally at least, exist without a pre-chorus. Take a listen to Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart“, and you’ll notice that it’s quite possible to imagine the chorus happening right after the verse. The problem that the pre-chorus melody solves is that the verse, like point #2 above, is too short. It’s a similar situation with John Lennon’s “Imagine” – the verse could move directly to the chorus without that 1-bar pre-chorus. So first make sure your verse chords connect properly to the chorus, and then insert a pre-chorus.
  2. Move the pre-chorus melody gradually upward. Most pre-chorus melodies start where the verse leaves off, and then moves higher and higher, eventually connecting to the chorus melody.
  3. Make a pre-chorus melody heavily reliant on short, repeating melodic cells. There is a building of energy that happens when melodic ideas repeat quickly (think of Katy Perry’s “Firework” as a good example of this), and helps the verse move easily to the chorus.

One other tip: instead of a pre-chorus, you can consider writing a two-part verse. The difference is that a two-part verse has two sections of equal length, where the end of the first part would not necessarily join properly to a chorus, and needs that second part.

A classic example is found in the song “Hurting Each Other“, made most famous by The Carpenters, but listen to this fantastic version by Ruby and The Romantics. Part 2 of the verse builds just as a pre-chorus does, but it’s equal in length to the first part, and is a necessary part of the verse structure — not an add-on, as a pre-chorus is.

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Gary EwerGary Ewer is the author of a set of songwriting manuals, “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle, designed to get you writing better songs.

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