Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website
The bridge of your song is usually the section that builds energy beyond what the chorus can do for you. Not all songs have bridges, and actually, whether your song needs one or not is more an issue of lyrical development than it is about melody. A bridge is able to take the thoughts and emotions of the chorus, and intensify them with a unique melody. Here is some advice for writing good bridges.
Writing a bridge requires you to think about what makes good verse and chorus melodies. Both verse and chorus melodies are created with the lyric very much in mind. And the kind of melody you write for both will relate strongly to the kind of lyric you are setting. For example, melodies that describe determination or forthrightness can use lots of repeated notes, while melodies that describe love and emotional warmth should use melodies with generous shape with motivic leaps.
Moreover, a verse lyric will describe situations, while a chorus tends to describe reactions to situations. And because reactions tend to hit us harder than descriptions, choruses have an innate way of building song energy.
The bridge takes the energy of the chorus and builds it even more. It does this in a variety of ways:
- Vocal range. The chorus melody will usually sit higher in basic pitch range than the verse. The bridge will usually sit even higher than the chorus, and hit the top notes of your singer’s range.
- Length of melodic fragment. Musical phrases tend to be either 2 or 4 bars in length. For a bridge, take the basic length of phrase and cut it in half. So songs that use 2-bars phrases as a basic norm should use 1-bar phrases in the bridge. This “fragmenting” of musical ideas creates an intensity of song energy, building to the final repeats of the chorus.
- Back-and-forth between descriptive and emotive lyric. While the verse, as mentioned, is used to describe situations, and choruses describe the resulting emotions, bridge lyrics tend to go quickly back and forth between situation and the emotions they cause. Your bridge needs to do this as a way of intensifying the passions of your song.
Because bridges are mainly used to intensify emotions, you may opt to not write a bridge for your song if the song topic implies muted emotions. A simple verse/chorus format works well in many cases. Another option to consider is a bridge that diminishes the emotional state of the song. If most of your song is highly energetic, you may want to use a bridge that allows the energy to dissipate a bit before rebuilding through your final verse and chorus.
Gary Ewer has written six songwriting e-books that will get you looking at songwriting in an entirely new way. Click here to read all about those songwriting e-books.