5 Chord Progressions for a Song Bridge

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer
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SingerThe bridge of a song is supposed to be the section that takes the energy you’ve created in your verse-chorus structures and build on it. We’ve been looking lately at a few things that help to build that energy: dropping beats, and focusing on the dominant note. But what kind of chord progression does one use to build energy? It depends on what your chorus progression is doing.

The bridge exists mainly to give the listener a chance to be diverted away from the material of the verse and chorus. The standard format for songs that use a bridge is:

Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – BRIDGE – Chorus – Chorus

But a bridge needs to be more than simply a new melody. Because it needs to build energy, the bridge should also be doing a couple of other things.

How to Harmonize a Melody eBook - Gary Ewer

First, the melodic ideas should be shorter than the ideas of the verse and chorus. While verse and chorus melodies tend to be thought of in 4- or 8-bar phrases, bridges should present their melodic ideas as 1- or 2-bar ideas that are move back and forth between verse-style lyrics (“here’s the situation..”) and chorus-style lyrics (“here’s how I feel about that..”). This back-and-forth builds energy.

Secondly, the chord progression itself needs to offer something different from what’s been offered before. But it also needs to build energy. So what progressions work for a bridge?

When in doubt, bridges of major key songs will work well starting on a minor chord, and it’s quite common to use the vi-chord. Here is an example:

1) CHORUS:
C  Bb  F  G  C (4 beats on each of the C and Bb, 2 beats each for the F and G, and 4 beats for the final C)
BRIDGE:
Am  F  G  Am  Bb  F  Gsus  G

As you can see, whatever you choose needs to end on a chord that makes the listener not just want – makes the listener need to hear the chorus. This is achieved by ending the verse on the dominant chord (i.e., the V-chord). Dominant chords are resolved by moving to the I-chord, which is the first chord of our sample chorus.

Here are two more bridge progressions that would work, assuming your chorus is a standard progression that starts and ends on the I-chord. (Try 4 beats for each chord, but feel free to experiment):

II) Am  Em  F  C  Am  Dm  F  G

III) Am  Dm  Am  Dm  F  C/E  F  G

And what if your song is in a minor key? I find that bridges for a minor-key song work well if they dwell on the major, but not necessarily right away. So if your song is in C minor,  and your chorus begins and ends on Cm, you may want to give something like the following a try:

IV) Fm  Ab  Eb  Ab  Fm  Ab  Bb (4 beats each, hold the Bb for 8)

V) Bb  Gm  Eb  Ab  Bb  Eb  Fm  Gsus  G (4 beats each, with the Gsus and G at the end getting 2)

Your bridge progressions will build the necessary energy by concluding with a dominant chord because dominant chords like to resolve to I-chords. As with every musical decision you make, your ears will confirm if the musical effect you’re looking for – the building of energy – is actually happening. If it isn’t, try shortening up the beats on each chord as you approach the end of the bridge.
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15 Comments

  1. Hi Gary, your bundle looks very comprehensive, however, was it geared toward guitar players or is it instrument agnostic where the theory can apply to any instrument (in my case piano)?

    • Hi Darren:

      Definitely instrument agnostic. The chord progression eBooks show fretboard diagrams, but just as a “courtesy” to guitarists. The concepts and principles discussed are applicable to all songwriters, regardless of what instrument they use as their main one. They apply as well to piano-playing songwriters as to others.

      Cheers,
      -Gary

      • Thanks for your prompt reply Gary. Also, I am not a very experienced musician and have only been playing for 3-4 months, will there be any issues with my lack of musical experience/knowledge?

        • Yes, I definitely think that you’d learn from my materials. I’ve written them in such a way that they can be a help to beginners, but also helpful to experienced songwriters who need to put a magnifying glass on what they’ve been doing for years. I word concepts and ideas in a way that does not require a strong knowledge of music theory. In fact, I believe that my eBooks will be of interest to non-songwriters who have been curious how and why good songs work.

          If you get my materials, keep in mind that I’m happy to be a help in whatever way I can. So if you’re working on a song and you need an extra set of ears to listen to what you’re doing, I’m happy to do that.

          Cheers,
          -Gary

  2. Good day
    I am one of your customers who bought Essentials of songwriting bundle. I am kindly appealing to you to do us a video lesson of your books. Please put this into consideration Sir. It would help a lot of us. Your stuff is great. That’s my request.

  3. Pingback: Chord progressions | Pghboemike's Blog

  4. Very informative. I have 1000s of verse/chorus combinations that needed that something extra. I new it was the bridge that was missing, but really had no concept of how to create it. Thank you for showing me “the way”
    -Robert Boyle

    • Bb is not in the key of C major, but would be in a category of chords called altered chords. So though not in C major, it functions within the key by acting as a temporary “subdominant of the subdominant chord” (IV of IV).

  5. Thanks!
    i was having trouble with bridge progressions.
    every phrase was starting to sounds the same!
    this really helped!
    thanks alot!

    yours musically,
    Becky <3

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