How to Know When and If Your Song Needs a Bridge

Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website
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guitar1What makes a song memorable, among other things, are patterns. Repeating elements are predictable ones, and every song needs something that keeps recurring. But there’s a problem with patterns: the human mind gets bothered, and a little bored, if the pattern never breaks. Presenting… the bridge.

A bridge usually occurs after the second chorus of a song, and helps to break up that pattern of verse – chorus – verse – chorus. It’s often called the “middle 8”, because it’s typcially 8 bars long.

More than simply breaking up a pattern, songwriters often use the bridge to help build energy, and they do this in a number of ways:

  1. Increase instrumental activity. In the bridge, the drums typically become more energetic, and basic instrumental range is higher.
  2. Increase volume. A good song will display a contrasting dynamic range throughout, but the bridge is usually the loudest, setting the song up for the return to the chorus.
  3. Add details to the lyrical meaning. Verse lyrics tend to be narrative in character, telling the listener “what’s going on.” Chorus lyrics tend to be more reflective, indicating how the singer feels about the situation. Bridge lyrics usually take the listener further, and are emotive more than narrative.

Not every song needs a bridge, but you’ll get a definite feeling that something is needed once you’ve finished that second verse. Just don’t assume that it’s a bridge that you need. Try other things: i) an instrumental solo; 2) an instrumental verse; or iii) a third verse or chorus that’s been transposed higher.

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