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The bridge of a song is an opportunity to provide melodic, lyrical and harmonic variation. It allows the songwriter to expand on ideas presented earlier, and to avoid over-repeating verse and chorus melodies. The bridge is that section that usually occurs after the second chorus. Not all songs use a bridge, but if constant repetition of melodies and lyrics are worrying you, a bridge can solve your problems. Most of the time, you’ll want your bridge to offer something new to the listeners with regard to chord progressions. But what should that new direction be?
In most cases, you’ll be safe in assuming that the bridge of a song mainly in a major key should start on a minor chord. That “opposite mode” approach will provide an alternative sound that will be fresh.
Here are some examples of chord progressions for bridge sections. Assume that the song is in F major:
- Dm Am Bb C Dm Eb Bb C (opt. repeat) then return to chorus.
- Gm F/A Bb C Dm Gm Csus4 C
- Dm Cm Bb Eb Ab Db C
You’ll notice that the Eb chord in the 1st and 3rd samples above add a bit of harmonic complexity to your progression, as it attempts to briefly erase the sound of F major from the listeners’ ears. The bridge is a nice time to do something like that: try moving briefly into new key areas.
Here’s an example of a bridge progression that features a brief key change as a way of keeping the song fresh:
Dm E7 A D Bm D Esus4 E Dmaj7 E7 A D Bm Am Dm C (Return to F major)
Bridges with a key change need to be used with care, because they take the listener much further away from the original key. If you write in a basic pop style, you’ll likely want to avoid anything too adventurous here. The best approach in pop bridges is to use altered chords, like the Eb.
An altered chord can be the beginning point of a key change, but in the first three progressions above they simply colour an existing progression without making an attempt to change key.
In addition to using the bridge as a way of becoming more harmonically complex, you should be sure that your bridge is doing the other things that need to be done:
- Make sure your lyrics move quickly back and forth between “storyline” type statements to emotional responses.
- Allow melodic shapes to be a bit shorter than what you might use for a verse or a chorus.
- If your song is primarily energetic or fast, consider using the bridge as a way of dissipating energy before the final choruses.
- Point number 3 notwithstanding, most bridges are great opportunities to build song energy in preparation for the final choruses.
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