How to Write a Pre-Chorus
Learn about the build up to your chorus
Last Updated: December 2023 | 2156 words (10 – 12 minute read)
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If you’re a beginner songwriter then you may be confused as to how to write a pre chorus that’s effective and distinct from your verse.
In this guide we’ll share everything you need to know to use a pre-chorus in your songs in the best way possible.
We’ll go over the purpose of a “pre,” melody and lyrics and finally lay out some tips to help you write better ones.
If you’re completely new to songwriting, I suggest starting with our beginner’s guide to writing a song first.
If you’ve already read that, let’s get into it…
What is a Pre-Chorus?
A pre chorus is exactly what it sounds like – a song section that precedes (comes before) the chorus of a song.
It’s a section that is markedly different from your verse, but also isn’t like your chorus. It does, however, help to build up (or break down) to the chorus.
It’s a transition section between two main parts of your song – the verse and the chorus.
A pre-chorus can be anywhere from 4-8 bars in length, and is most often found in pop music, but also has it’s place in R&B, Country, Folk and more.
Do I Need a Pre-Chorus?
Whether or not you use a pre-chorus is really a stylistic choice – meaning you can use one if you’d like, but there’s no hard and fast rules around that.
The most effective and engaging song structure does include the pre-chorus (usually twice) within it.
That’s because it’s an effective way to transition from a verse to a chorus, without having the change in energy be too drastic or sudden.
If you’re writing in the most popular styles of music, it probably makes sense for you to use a pre chorus as a tool in your arsenal.
How To Use A Pre-Chorus
Normally, you’ll use a pre-chorus to help build/reduce the energy on the way to the chorus.
As mentioned, it’s usually 8 bars long and happens right after the 8 bar verses of your song – both verses 1 and 2.
Every pre-chorus in your song will often have the exact same melody and lyric (with some slight variations, to keep things novel/unique, and not boring).
In the average pop song structure, the pre-chorus doesn’t occur before the final chorus, because that’s often preceded by a bridge/departure section.
But again, there are no hard and fast rules in artistic pursuits. So if you want to use 3 pre-choruses in your song, try it out. (Might get boring/stale by repeat #3 though, so be careful).
An Additional Hook Center
Another important way to use your pre-chorus is to focus on it’s hookiness/catchiness. The chorus is always the start of the show – the “hook” center of your song.
But you should also think of your pre chorus as an additional hook center. Not as hooky as the chorus, but still catchy enough that it’s something listeners look forward to hearing again.
Note: a hook is simply something in your song – a melody, sound, rhyme or lyric, etc. – that is extremely ear-catching and something listeners will latch onto and yearn to hear again, because it was so cool.
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Writing Your Pre-Chorus
Now that you know what a pre-chorus is and how you should be using one, let’s get into the actual writing of it.
If you know anything about how we approach songwriting at Deviant Noise, it’s that we love to start with the melody.
I find the most effective way to write any part of your song is to fit lyrics to a melody, rather than the other way around.
Just like we mentioned in our beginner’s guide to songwriting, you should start by freestyling melody ideas for your pre.
Normally, what I do is write the pre-chorus after I’ve already written both the chorus and verse sections.
The reason for this, is that once the chorus and verse are done, you can find the ideal transitional melody to use in your pre-chorus much easier.
We can sing our verse as it is written, and then transition into various pre-chorus ideas. We’ll know we’ve got something great when the transition into the chorus from the pre-chorus idea sounds right to us.
Since it will build up or break down into the chorus, the melodic range of your pre-chorus should usually be mid-way between your verse and chorus.
So if your verse starts low and you have a soaring chorus, you would have a middling pre-chorus melody – one that starts similarly low to the last note of the melody, but builds up to the starting note of the chorus.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. Experiment with different ideas and see what serves the song best overall.
In terms of hookiness, you should try to include catchy elements in your writing.
But one thing to note (in relation to melodic range) is you should keep your melody VERY singable. Don’t do a bunch of vocal acrobatics here (except for a hook’s sake).
Stay within an octave or 1.5 octaves, and use easy to follow melodic shapes.
Remember, your pre is a gateway between your verse and your chorus. So the idea here is to lyrically connect the ideas in your verse to the “one big main message” in your chorus.
But the real trick is in writing pre-chorus lyrics that are almost “stand alone” messages that will relate to both the first and second verses, as well as the chorus.
That’s because the pre acts as a “refrain” – a section that is repeated again and again.
That also means that just as the melody of your pre-chorus stays the same for each pre-chorus section you include in your song, the lyrics will also stay the same across those same sections.
So you only have to write a single pre-chorus lyric for use in the entire song.
Your song is an overall story. It has one big idea or message being said in the chorus, and the rest of the song is there to fill in the details and context of the story.
So when you write your lyrics for a pre, they should expand on the themes you talk about in your verses. If, in your chorus, the main message is you love a lavish lifestyle then maybe your verses are all about your journey to riches.
Your pre-chorus could expand on that theme by talking about all your hard work building up and how proud you are of your accomplishments.
The idea is to have a catchy refrain section that will lead seamlessly (and universally) into your main theme.
Another interesting way to use the lyrics of your pre-chorus is to do something unexpected.
For example, you could throw a wrench in the overall story arc, which puts the chorus in a different light than first expected.
Or you could put a twist on the lyrics of your verse, essentially altering the original meaning of what you said.
There are many different ways to make your pre-choruses interesting to your listeners through your lyrics.
Just remember, it should be a little bit catchy, and universal to the song’s story (since it will repeat exactly as is).
Tips for a Better Pre-Chorus
There are several different ways to write a great pre-chorus, both melodically and lyrically. But there are some genearl guidelines and tips that can help you write better ones.
Follow these tips and try to internalize them as a mindset you approach all your songwriting with.
The chorus section of a song is usually the most simple section of a song. It’s infinitely singable, and it’s extremely simple to follow and latch on to.
Your verse, since it’s adding more context to the story, can often be more complicated – melodically, lyrically and even rhythmically (not complex, but a little less simple than your chorus).
Your pre-chorus, then, should be somewhere in the middle of all of that.
Since it’s the transition from the verse to the chorus, you should begin to simplify both the melody and the lyrics during your pre-chorus, so that you can smoothly move right into the chorus.
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Setup the Chorus
Another thing to always remember when writing your pre is that your whole goal is to setup the chorus.
Your chorus is the climax of the song – the payoff that the listener is waiting for and entitled to. So y our pre-chorus should work to set it up for maximum effectiveness.
This means that not only should you make your lyrics/melody/rhythm simpler, but you should also work on making the transition between pre-chorus and chorus more IMPACTFUL.
There’s a lot you can do in this regard – too much to explain in depth here.
But think of it like this – your pre-chorus should alley-oop the chorus to you so it’s an easy slam dunk when it hits.
Sorry for the bad basketball analogy…
Subtle Mood Shift
Because it’s a transition section, you’ll want to play around with the instrumental, the melody and the rhythm of the pre-chorus section.
You can think of it as a subtle mood shift you’re trying to achieve.
The pre-chorus is distinct from both the verse and the chorus, and it is used to setup the energy level of the chorus itself.
That means you’ll need to subtly change the “vibe” of the song as you enter the pre-chorus, away from the verse’s established “vibe.”
Don’t make it a drastic shift in mood – that can be jarring.
But subtly shift how the section feels, again so you can setup the chorus for maximum impact.
Study & Get Your Reps In
Really the best way to understand how to put together an effective pre-chorus is to listen to lots of great songs that use one!
You’ll get so much more from studying your favorite songs, than from reading guides and books about the subject.
Pick a few songs, and study them inside and out. Study the song’s verse lyrics and melody. Pay attention to how the vibe shifts during the pre-chorus (different melody, different instruments, different rhythm/lyrics/etc).
Then pay attention to how the section builds up and transitions into the chorus.
What are you hearing? Try to replicate it yourself.
And importantly, put in the work. Getting better at writing a song is just like working out – you gotta put in those reps. That’s the only way to build this “muscle.”
So listen a lot, analyze it, and then write a lot for yourself.
You’ll have a mastery over pre-choruses in no time flat.
Frequently Asked Questions
A pre-chorus is a song section that helps to build the energy of a song towards the chorus, which is often a climax point. A pre-chorus comes after a verse section and right before the chorus section.
No, you don’t need a pre chorus in every song – it is a stylistic choice. However, song structures that feature a pre-chorus are often seen as being more engaging and compelling to listeners.
Pre choruses are usually 4 or 8 bars long, with 8 bars being the most popular option.
No, the pre chorus repeats (almost exactly) the same content each time with slight variations and developments on the main musical ideas, to add some novelty and interest for listeners.
A pre-chorus isn’t a necessary section in any given song – but it’s often a very effective one to include. It’s a chance to really catch your listeners attention/engagement and set them up for the knock-out punch in your chorus.
If used properly, it can be so powerful. But like anything with this art, writing a great pre-chorus can feel like catching lightning in a bottle.
Don’t get discouraged, and just keep trying different things. And always remember to feed yourself new inspiration in the form of other songs.
Just be careful – overconsumption will lead to a loss in creativity. So for every song you “study,” make sure you’re also writing 2-3 songs. You want to produce more than you consume.
Do that consistently, and you’ll start making absolutely amazing music with incredible pre-choruses.
If you really want to level up your songwriting skills, I highly recommend you join HitSongsDeconstructed – they’re the best resource on the internet I’ve found on how to write hit songs.
Thanks for reading this guide on how to write a pre chorus for beginners! I hope it was helpful.
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