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Generally, what is is the name for the non-vocal parts of a song that are not interludes or preludes and not a guitar solo or instrumental verse/chorus? For example, right after the acapella vocal intro in Kansas' Carry on My Wayward Son.

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In certain context, it's a bridge – user1306 Jan 7 '13 at 4:26
Intro or pre-chorus may also be options. – Matthew Read Jan 7 '13 at 5:04

Lots of people, particularly in the rock and roll idiom, would call this the riff. It's an easily recognizable component that defines the song.

Lots of rock songs are similarly defined by, and built around, a particular riff, so it makes sense that one would refer to that section of the song as such.

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In pop/rock music, the commonest terms are:

  • Intro - a part that leads into the main part of the song
  • Verse - you know what a verse is
  • Chorus - you know what a chorus is
  • Bridge - sometimes called a Middle Eight, especially if it's eight bars long - a part that leads from verse to chorus, or vice versa, usually used just once in a song to add variety.
  • Pre-chorus - a part that leads into the chorus
  • Pre-verse - a part that leads into the verse
  • Instrumental solo - a section in which an instrument plays a melody. It often mirrors the verse or chorus's chord progression, but doesn't have to.

Pop/rock are informal; rules are made to be broken and you can invent your own names for parts if the de facto standards don't fit. Some songs have more than one verse melody, or more than one type of chorus, and it's quite common to see things like "chorus II".

In your example, you might choose to refer to the "vocal intro" followed by the "guitar intro". Indeed I'd write down the structure of the start of *Carry On Wayward Son" as:

  • Vocal Intro
  • Guitar intro (riff 1)
  • Guitar intro (riff 2)
  • Guitar solo (over riff 1)
  • Guitar intro (riff 2)
  • Guitar intro (riff 3)
  • Verse 1 (over piano)
  • .. etc.
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+1, I actually googled 'formal analysis of carry on my wayward son' when writing my answer, just to see if anyone had done it. :-) – NReilingh Jan 7 '13 at 15:47
+1 for the breakdown. I suppose riff 3 could also be thought of as an extension or "cadence" for riff 2, since it pops up again to close the piece... – Owen S. Jan 9 '13 at 16:37

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