Starting a Song Bridge With a Minor Chord

When simplicity is a design feature of your song, don’t complicate the bridge.

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Jack Johnson - I Got YouConventional wisdom tells us that song bridges sound great when they move away from a song’s original key. So a song that starts in B major, for example, might have a bridge that moves the tonality to G# minor or perhaps C# minor.

For major key songs, however, that have a very simple harmonic design (i.e., those that use just 2 or 3 different chords), there’s probably no need to move the music into a minor key at all, as long as the first chord of the bridge is minor.

In other words, your bridge can also stick to chords from the major key, as long as the first one is minor. The benefit of doing that is that your song’s chords remain simple, strong, and suited to the uncomplicated nature of the music you’re writing.

A perfect example of this is Jack Johnson’s “I Got You“, the first single from his new album, “From Here to Now to You“. The song is in B major, and most of the verse and chorus chords are B – E (I – IV), with F# at the end of the 4th phrase.

The bridge then starts with a vi-chord (G#m), but there is no attempt to move the music into that key: B remains every bit as important, and very much the tonal centre:

Bridge chords:

G#m  B  G#m  B  G#m  B  C#m  E  B

“I Got You” shows us simplicity can be a design feature, not something that remains when you can’t think of something more complex to do. When simplicity is a purposeful part of a song’s design, you can clutter up your music by trying too hard to be imaginative or creative.

So in that regard, the bridge for a song that limits its chordal accompaniment to 2 or 3 chords probably doesn’t need to move off and explore new keys. Keep it simple: choose a minor chord from your major key’s chord list as a starting bridge chord, and then keep the music in the original key.

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