A pre-chorus is what it’s name implies – a section of music that occurs before the chorus. It is a transitional section, enabling the music to move forwards and “prepare” us for what is to come (the “hook” of the chorus). Hence sometimes songwriters refer to pre-choruses as “channels”. These sections can also be called "transitional bridges" or a "build", They can vary in length considerably, from just one line, to a whole series of lines. Let's look at a few of differing lengths:-
Here, the pre-chorus (beginning with the words “so I start a revolution from my bed”) is six lines long!
It’s also worth a look at the first chords of each section:-
Verse 1 (C)
The verse and chorus sections have the same chord structure (based on C). Thus the pre-chorus in this instance provides us with a break from harmonic progression of these sections.
“Imagine” (by John Lennon) is an example of a pre-chorus of just one line. Here it is:-
“Imagine all the people, living for today” (this is lyrically modified each time it comes round). The pre-chorus line begins on a shift away from C (to F chord), and the harmonic pace changes (the verse chords change at the beginning of every bar, the pre-chorus changes chords twice in each bar. This rate of change continues in the chorus section).
Never Be Lonely
“Never Be Lonely” by The Feeling has a pre-chorus of three lines, which begins with the words “At least there not lonely”. Here’s the opening chords of each section:-
Verse – (C)
Pre-chorus – (F)
Chorus – (Ab) !
So as with “Yesterday”, the pre-chorus begins on the sub-dominant chord of C major (F). However, something rather unexpected happens at the chorus, namely the chord of Ab – a complete contrast to what has gone before. This chord falls on the flattened sixth step of the scale of C major. Why does it work when it appears to be a totally unrelated chord? The reason is because it shares a common note - C - with the tonic chord (Ab is Ab-C-Eb, C is C-E-G). At the end of the line, the music has returned to the chord of C, and so holds in check this sudden unexpected harmonic shift.
Here’s an example of a song combining the elements of verse, pre-chorus, chorus and bridge.
It’s “Last Request” by Scottish singer/songwriter Paulo Nutini.
Here’s the structure of the song, with the first chord of the section in brackets:-
Verse 1 (F)
Pre-chorus (Bb) (beginning with the words “I just want you closer”)
Coda (same chords as Chorus)
Notice again how the pre is beginning on the subdominant (Bb – we are in the key of F), and the chorus returns to the tonic for it’s first chord. Both the pre-chorus and the bridge (which also begins on Bb) are relatively short being just two lines each.
Songs can also combine some or all the aforementioned elements – the verse, pre-chorus, chorus and bridge, and even another section which is termed “coda” – (also known as an "outro") the ending material.
Instrumental Intro (G)
Verse 1 (G)
Instrumental link (G)
Verse 2 (G)
Instrumental link (the intro again) (G)
Verse 3 (G)
Instrumental link (G)
Instrumental end (same chords as link)
Again, I’ve shown you the structure of the song together with the first chord of each section. Coldplay songs are often ambigious in the modality. What we mean by this is that we are often unsure whether or not the song is in a major or minor key. Although the verse starts on G, the chord sequence moves through Em, Bm, and Am – chords that are associated with the key of E minor or B minor. There is no pre-chorus. The music leaps (almost from nowhere) into the chord of A, and then falls back to E minor, which is where it finishes for the end of the chorus.
So is this song in G major or E minor or B minor?
If the song was in G, we would expect to hear the dominant and subdominant chords of G major (D and C respectively) . However, these are absent in the material. So even though the opening chords to most of the sections are G, it is actually more rooted in E minor, and finally settles on B minor in the coda. This harmonic restlessness perfectly reflects the “troubled” sentiment in the lyrics.
The first part of this three part look at song structure. This page focuses on the most basic type of song structure - repeated verse, and how repeated lyrical lines can help to give shape to this type of musical form.
The second page on song structures examines the attributes of the "chorus" or "refrain" section, with reference to Elton John's "Candle In The Wind" and Snow Patrol's "Run". Also featured here is a look at the role of the bridge in song form (also known as the "middle 8" or "breakdown").
An introduction to the section on this website about music composition, with a brief summary about what can be found in each section (writing melody, understanding song structures and how to develop them, and general music composition and arrangement tips).
This page comes from the equipment review section of the website. If you're a keyboard based songwriter or composer, it's highly likely that you're going to be needing a sustain pedal. Since electronic pedals vary hugely in build quality, polarity and whether or not they can perform "half-pedaling", it's worth looking around at the differing options before making a purchase.