Song Form: 5 Options for What to Do After the Bridge

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Kelly Clarkson - Mr. Know It AllThere are several benefits to creating a bridge for a song. In the first place, it’s a great way to “gain mileage”, as it’s an easy way to extend the length of your song. It helps avert listener boredom by introducing new melodic material. And it allows you to send your song into a new harmonic region with a fresh as yet unheard chord progression. The most common way to proceed after a song bridge is to come back with a few repeats of the song chorus. But you should be willing to experiment with other options for what to do after a song bridge.

A bridge usually happens after the second chorus in a song, but bridges are especially useful, and practically necessary, in songs that may not use a chorus at all. Queen’s “Love of My Life” from their “A Night at the Opera” album is a prime example of this. It starts the bridge (“You will remember-x/ when this is blown over) directly after the second verse, and it moves the song into minor region.

But what are your options for continuing after this? Rather than the typical back-to-the-chorus method, consider these possibilities:

  1. Instrumental solo: This is the option used by Queen in “Love of My Life”, followed by a shortened version of the end of the verse.
  2. Quiet version of the chorus: It’s somewhat normal to use the bridge to build some energy, and come back with a powerful rendition of the chorus. But try instead a quiet version of the chorus that reduces instrumentation, eliminates background vocals, and brings everything down to a quiet level before building once more to an energetic, climactic ending. This is what we see in songs like “Mr. Know It All” by Kelly Clarkson, and Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me“.
  3. Return to a built-up version of the verse: Similar to returning to the chorus, this works really well for songs that have short verses and no chorus, or a that only use a short 1-line chorus/refrain. The Kinks’ “Lola” uses this method after the bridge.
  4. Return to the verse as a repeated outro: Not very common, but this is used to great effect in Mark James’ “Suspicious Minds“, recorded by Elvis Presley. After the bridge, which is distinctly different from the rest of the song (new tempo, and new time signature), the verse returns, and that first part of the verse is repeated until the fade.
  5. Return to the second part of the verse: If your bridge is essentially an instrumental version of the verse, simply bring the vocals back in for the second half of the verse. A good example is Chicago’s “Love Me Tomorrow” from Chicago 16.
There’s another possibility here that doesn’t really fall into any particular category, which is to use a bridge that serves also as an intro for a new song. It can be a great way to create an interesting segue from one song to the next.
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Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website
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4 Comments

    • Hmmm… that’s a good question. You really have me thinking. In a sense, if a song takes a new direction, it’s a bridge, but only really if it comes back to something familiar, like a chorus or new verse. So if it keeps going in the new direction, or just ends… is it really a bridge, or just a creative ending? Probably just a creative ending.

    • Hi Mike:

      Most of my music in recent times has been written for choirs, published by Kelman Hall Publishing (Ontario) and my own company, Pantomime Music Publications. You can find links to my music at http://www.pantomimemusic.com, (scroll to the bottom of the page) but I don’t have recordings there. Most of my music, when it’s recorded, is recorded by someone else, and it’s usually choral groups. But I think I do have music (PDF) samples on that page.

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