8 Tips For Writing a Song Bridge

A bridge’s main purpose is to create contrast from the rest of the song.

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The Beatles - I Want To Hold Your HandNot every song needs a bridge, so if you’ve never included one in your songs before, it may be that it’s never felt necessary. There are times, however, when a bridge can sound like the missing bit that finally breathes life into your music. A bridge provides a new melody, deepens lyrical meaning, and takes a song in a slightly new direction before returning to either a repeat of the chorus or a new verse. When it’s done well, a bridge provides a pleasant sense of contrast from the rest of the song. Here are 8 things you need to know about writing a song bridge.

  1. Write your bridge to happen after the second chorus. Most of the time, you’ll insert the bridge after a second go-through of the chorus: Verse 1 – Chorus – Verse 2 – Chorus – BRIDGE
  2. Create a new chord progression, one that explores an “opposite mode” from the chorus. For songs in a major key, it’s not unusual to have a verse focused primarily on minor chords, switching to major for the chorus. An effective bridge should therefore either switch temporarily to a minor key, or at least focus on using minor chords.
  3. Good bridge chord progressions tend to be “fragile” in nature. In other words, a bridge is a good place to allow the music to move briefly to a new key, or use so-called “altered” chords (i.e., ones “borrowed” from a different key, like flat-III, flat-VIII, etc.)
  4. Create a new melody, one that differs in shape and feel from the verse and chorus melody. Because the bridge heightens the emotions, you may want to experiment with a melody that explores the upper regions of the voice.
  5. Allow bridge lyrics to deepen the emotional impact of your song. Verse lyrics tend to describe, while chorus lyrics usually centre on an emotional response to the verse. A good bridge lyric goes deeper and tells us more by alternating quickly between describing situations and being emotional. All in all, a bridge lyric needs to heighten the emotional level of your music.
  6. If your song needs a 3rd verse (to continue a story), allow the bridge energy to dissipate so as to properly connect to verse 3.
  7. If your song feels complete by the end of the bridge, follow it with a repeat of the chorus. In that way, a bridge will build energy so that the final run-through of the chorus is even more powerful.
  8. Allow the final chords of a bridge to connect smoothly to what happens afterward. It’s not common to end a bridge on a tonic chord, because it has a way of killing energy. It’s better to end a bridge with some sort of “open” cadence: a V-chord, for example, or some other non-tonic chord. That chord will cause the listener to want to hear more, and sets up a return to a verse or the chorus very well.

These are basic guidelines, and for every one of the tips listed above you can probably create a list of hit songs that do something different. For example, The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand” uses a bridge in a typical sort of way (“And when I touch you I feel happy inside…”), starting on a minor chord, and changing the basic sound of the instrumentation. But it does the untypical thing of repeating the bridge a little later.

I’ve recently completed a video that describes these and other ideas related to why you might include a bridge in your song:

Before you look for ways to break out of the norm and be creative, try some of the suggestions above. You may find that a bridge will be that missing bit of your song that pulls everything together and helps the listener make a connection.

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Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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18 Comments

  1. Gary—I want to write lyrics—but I don’t play any instruments and can’t write the music sections–what course is there for me? (ps: I am a journalism grad just getting into lyrics-which I try to write some of each day/week).

    • Hi Erika:

      The best advice that comes immediately to mind is to try to partner up with someone who writes music and is looking for a lyricist. You can probably do a search for that individual at your university, or through social media. You might even find that by working with a person who writes the music that that will eventually inspire your own musical ideas – perhaps a musical ability you never knew you had.

      Good luck Erika!
      -Gary

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  3. I am a songwriter with several respectable demos out, one becoming an album of 11 songs recorded at home in 1999. I am proud of some of the songs but had no singer. I recorded myself so there would be a guide vocal for the singer when he or she was found. Layne Staley died. Wish he was still with us and wish his voice was on some of my songs

  4. I know basic music theory and made several respectable demos, one of which became an album by happy accident (I am confident in my songwriting but I could not get the singer I wanted. So, I did it myself as a guide vocal for the real singer, whom I did not run across. My voice stayed on the songs. I am considering my first release in fifteen years.

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    • Thanks for writing, Ron. And the thing is, the most important principle in songwriting (in my opinion, anyway) is the need for contrast. Whether that’s contrasting tonalities, melodic shapes, dynamics, or whatever – contrast is crucial. By creating a bridge that you can come back to so that it’s serving not just as a bridge, but as some other kind of “unidentifiable” type of section, may be a very creative way of ensuring that your song has a good amount of contrast and variety.

      -Gary

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