Keyboardist songwriter

Creating a Good Chord Progression For a Pre-Chorus

A pre-chorus is not a mandatory section of a song. In fact, most songs don’t use them. But in some circumstances, a pre-chorus can be a vital addition to the structure of a song.

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It sits between the verse and chorus, and its main purpose is to better prepare the listener for the arrival of the chorus, particularly when:

  1. The verse seems very short; and/or…
  2. The verse uses a repetitive melodic cell, or is otherwise somewhat unadventurous; and/or…
  3. The verse and chorus melodies are the same or similar; and/or…
  4. The verse chord progression is very simple, and/or is the same as the chorus chords.

In other words, your verse may sound great, but if it sounds like the chorus is arriving too soon, you’ll want something to make the listener wait a bit for that chorus. That’s where a pre-chorus fits the bill nicely.

There are lots of examples of pre-choruses, but one that seems very instructional — a kind of textbook example — is Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue,” which I’ve mentioned before on this blog.

Pre-Chorus Chords

So what should a chord progression in a pre-chorus do? It needs to serve as a good transition, of course, but it works best if it builds musical energy while making that connection.

With chords, musical energy is built when tension builds. Since most chord progressions (particularly in pop songs) are all about the journey away from and back to the tonic chord, a pre-chorus progression is usually constructed in such a way that its final chords want to seek out the tonic chord.

In “Stuck Like Glue”, which gives us a rather short pre-chorus of 2 bars, only two chords are necessary:

  • Verse: Db  Ab  Gb  (4 times)
  • Pre-chorus: Ebm  Ab
  • Chorus: Db  Ab  Gb…

In other songs, the pre-chorus can be longer, perhaps 4 bars or more. In those cases, the number of chords will be greater, of course, but the job is the same: to build musical energy by seeking out the tonic chord.

However many chords you use will depend on how long your pre-chorus section is. But just to give you an idea of some of the possibilities, here’s a list of chord progressions you can experiment with.

Feel free to change them up, and to use them as a basis for improvising something else. They should work in practically any genre or time signature. I’ve written them in C major, and have made the assumption that your verse is going to end on a V-chord (G in the key of C major) and that your chorus is going to start on the tonic (I) chord.

But you may find that they’ll still work even if your verse ends on something different, like a IV-chord or even the tonic chord.

  1. Dm  C/E  F  G
  2. F  Am  G___  F  Am  Gsus4  G
  3. Bb F  Dm  G  Bb  F  Dm  G
  4. F/C  C  G___ F/C  C  G  G7
  5. Em  Am  F  Dm  Em  Am  F  G

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook bundle includes“Writing a Song From a Chord Progression”. Discover the secrets of making the chords-first songwriting process work for you.

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