A bridge’s main purpose is to create contrast from the rest of the song.
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Not every song needs a bridge, so if you’ve never included one in your songs before, it may be that it’s never felt necessary. There are times, however, when a bridge can sound like the missing bit that finally breathes life into your music. A bridge provides a new melody, deepens lyrical meaning, and takes a song in a slightly new direction before returning to either a repeat of the chorus or a new verse. When it’s done well, a bridge provides a pleasant sense of contrast from the rest of the song. Here are 8 things you need to know about writing a song bridge.
- Write your bridge to happen after the second chorus. Most of the time, you’ll insert the bridge after a second go-through of the chorus: Verse 1 – Chorus – Verse 2 – Chorus – BRIDGE…
- Create a new chord progression, one that explores an “opposite mode” from the chorus. For songs in a major key, it’s not unusual to have a verse focused primarily on minor chords, switching to major for the chorus. An effective bridge should therefore either switch temporarily to a minor key, or at least focus on using minor chords.
- Good bridge chord progressions tend to be “fragile” in nature. In other words, a bridge is a good place to allow the music to move briefly to a new key, or use so-called “altered” chords (i.e., ones “borrowed” from a different key, like flat-III, flat-VIII, etc.)
- Create a new melody, one that differs in shape and feel from the verse and chorus melody. Because the bridge heightens the emotions, you may want to experiment with a melody that explores the upper regions of the voice.
- Allow bridge lyrics to deepen the emotional impact of your song. Verse lyrics tend to describe, while chorus lyrics usually centre on an emotional response to the verse. A good bridge lyric goes deeper and tells us more by alternating quickly between describing situations and being emotional. All in all, a bridge lyric needs to heighten the emotional level of your music.
- If your song needs a 3rd verse (to continue a story), allow the bridge energy to dissipate so as to properly connect to verse 3.
- If your song feels complete by the end of the bridge, follow it with a repeat of the chorus. In that way, a bridge will build energy so that the final run-through of the chorus is even more powerful.
- Allow the final chords of a bridge to connect smoothly to what happens afterward. It’s not common to end a bridge on a tonic chord, because it has a way of killing energy. It’s better to end a bridge with some sort of “open” cadence: a V-chord, for example, or some other non-tonic chord. That chord will cause the listener to want to hear more, and sets up a return to a verse or the chorus very well.
These are basic guidelines, and for every one of the tips listed above you can probably create a list of hit songs that do something different. For example, The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand” uses a bridge in a typical sort of way (“And when I touch you I feel happy inside…”), starting on a minor chord, and changing the basic sound of the instrumentation. But it does the untypical thing of repeating the bridge a little later.
I’ve recently completed a video that describes these and other ideas related to why you might include a bridge in your song:
Before you look for ways to break out of the norm and be creative, try some of the suggestions above. You may find that a bridge will be that missing bit of your song that pulls everything together and helps the listener make a connection.
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