The bridge, sometimes called the “middle 8”, is the section that typically sits directly after the second chorus in many songs. There can be many reasons for using a bridge in your song, and no matter what the reason, the main purpose is to offer new melodic and lyrical material that contrasts with the verse and chorus. In short, it helps prevent listener boredom. There’s no rule that says you must use a bridge, but it’s a great way to take your song temporarily in a new direction before returning to the already-heard chorus.
Here’s a quick list of ways to use that section directly following the second chorus.
- The standard 8-bar bridge. This kind of bridge requires two things: i) a new melody; and 2) new lyrics and lyrical approach. Because most standard bridges tend to build energy, try to keep musical phrases short, work them upward in range, and have the bridge end on a chord that connects well with the chorus. Lyrics that work well are the “short-snapper” kind of lyrics, where questions are posed and quickly answered, or situations described with an immediate emotional response from the singer. Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” is a great example.
- The energy-dissipating bridge. This works well if your song is already high energy. This kind of bridge starts with a similar energy level as the second chorus, and then dissipates toward the end, offering a nice contrast to the constantly high energy of the song. Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” would fit into this category.
- The instrumental solo bridge. Instead of trying to come up with a new lyric and melody, this is the best place to insert an instrumental solo. How you use the bridge has options that depend on the instrument you’re soloing on. Typically, the instrumental solo picks up on the energy of the song thus far (think of Van Halen’s guitar solo in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”), but if your instrument is flute, acoustic guitar, violin, etc., you might try something counterintuitive and bring in a contrasting softer section.
- The ad hoc bridge. This is any idea that you’ve invented for your particular song that doesn’t really fit into the usual expectation of a bridge. They’re often inserted in less predictable places within the song. The purpose is usually the same: to offer a section that contrasts somehow from whatever has been going on. You might try changing tempo (Lionel Ritchie’s “Say You, Say Me”), developing a vocal motif (Queen’s “Somebody to Love”, though it’s more of an ending than a bridge), and the vocal/instrumental section in Harpers Bizarre’s version of “The 59th Street Bridge Song.”
There are no rules that govern whether or not a song should have a bridge. But certainly if your song is needing a relief from a verse and chorus melody that are the same or similar, or if your lyrics need to go in a new direction, the bridge is the perfect section to create for that purpose.
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