A bridge, which usually comes after a second chorus, accomplishes three things: 1) it intensifies song energy by presenting new melodies that are typically higher, louder and busier; 2) it explores more complex harmonic progressions; and 3) it presents new lyrics that alternate quickly between situation/description and emotional response. In short, a bridge gives a song extra mileage by avoiding repetition of verse and chorus material.
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Bridge chord progressions typically begin by taking the song in a new direction, and that concept has been around in musical composition for centuries. Composers of Classical symphonies (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, etc.) did a similar thing. A typical first movement of a symphony presents two themes, followed by what is called the development section – a change to take their symphony in a new direction by developing themes and ideas already presented.
But songs are much shorter than symphonies. So your new direction has to be something that can get back on track, back to the familiar territory of the chorus, within 8 bars of music or so.
Bridge lyrics do it by combining the typical duty of a verse lyric – describing situations – with the typical duty of a chorus lyric – emote. So a bridge lyric often has a line of description, followed quickly by a line of emotional response. (Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” is a good model for this).
Bridge melodies do it by moving the upper range higher, allowing the highest notes to represent an important climactic moment. (Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” shows this characteristic trait.)
Bridge chords go in a new direction not by changing key, but by centering on a chord other than the tonic chord. So you’ll often see bridge sections starting on a chord other than the I-chord.
Verse progressions often (but not always) tend to be a little bit ambiguous, tonally speaking, as they serve to describe the story being told. Chords for a chorus switch to being strongly rooted in the key of the song.
So given that, here are some chord progression suggestions for a bridge of a song that’s in the key of G major (transposable to any key, of course). Each progression implies a return to the chorus, and assumes the chorus starts on a I-chord:
- Em F C D Em F Am D
- Am G/B C D Am G/B Gm/Bb Dsus4 D
- Eb Ab Db Gb Eb Ab C D7
- Em Am Em Bm C G F D
- Bm7 Em C Am Bm7 Em F F#sus4 F# Bm7 Em C Am Bm7 Em C D7
Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website
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