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For years, I have been understanding the bridge as the part leading into the last chorus, and pre-chorus as the part leading into the choruses before last. But recently I found out my understanding might be incorrect after learning of the term "middle 8". What I have been calling the "bridge" might be the "middle 8", and what I have been calling the "pre-chorus" might be the "bridge", but then where would the "pre-chorus" be?

I have been reading a lot of results on Google but none succeeded to provide a satisfactory answer to my question; and a lot of them just outright have conflicting opinions, so I think it's best to bring the question here. If it helps, the context here would be about pop music in general.

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A bridge is a section of music that provides contrast to the verse (and chorus, if present). Wikipedia provides a concise definition:

a bridge is a contrasting section that prepares for the return of the original material section.

Middle 8 is just a term for a bridge that's eight bars long.

A classical example of a bridge/middle 8 comes in Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm". It's a standard 32-bar AABA song form: two verses (8 bars each), a bridge (8 bars), and a final verse.

Pre-chorus refers to a section that introduces a chorus, unlike a bridge, which leads back into the verse.

A pre-chorus can be heard in Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". In the below video, it's the repetitive section from [0:42] to [0:59] ("Hello, hello, hello, how low?") which is lyrically and musically distinct from both the preceding verse and the subsequent chorus.

None of these musical sections are defined by leading into a final verse or chorus, though one can often find them there.

See also Wikipedia: Song Structure.

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    One thing to be aware of is that these terms change a bit over time. They are flexible anyway. – ttw Jan 19 at 20:31
  • "unlike a bridge, which leads back into the verse." The wikipedia page you linked goes against the idea that a bridge necessarily comes before a verse. – Edward Jan 20 at 2:50
  • Middle 8, to me, has always been the 'different bit before the finale' no matter how many bars it actually is. A bit late for xmas, but I'd assume everybody would recognise "What would your daddy do when he sees your mama kissing santa claus? aaahhhh ah" – Tetsujin Jan 20 at 7:58
  • Ever played 'middle 8s' that were not actually 8 bars? I have, plenty! – Tim Jan 20 at 8:36
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Wikipedia is ok as a guide but is not, much as it would like to be, a definitive source of truth--we must all have seen stuff there that's just plain wrong. The terms actually seem to be used interchangeably in practice to mean simply what the word "bridge" means in its more common usage (e.g., road or rail bridge), i.e., "A connecting or transitional passage" in music. "And early morning when I wake up/ I look like Kiss but without the makeup/ And that's a good line to take it to the bridge"--which comes next and is, in this case, a contrasting section that prepares for the chorus.

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