In songwriting, there’s nothing worse than feeling stuck for ideas. In a lot of cases of songwriter’s block, the culprit is not understanding basic song structure. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle will lay out song form in a clear, easy-to-understand way, using sound samples to demonstrate. Read more..
A bridge is the section of a song that normally occurs after the second chorus. Also called the middle-8, a bridge usually takes the song in a new direction, exploring new harmonies and melodic ideas. Analyze the bridge sections of a dozen songs, and you’ll likely see a dozen different ways that that can be done.
The one most important aspect of a song’s bridge is (or at least should be) the providing of new melodies and chord progressions that serve as a contrast from what’s gone on before. While you should consider a bridge to be optional, it can be a vital part of keeping listeners interested.
“Second Hand News“, by Fleetwood Mac from their “Rumours” album, is an example of how a song can work really well even without a bridge. It uses a 2-part verse melody, where the first part features chord choices that move away from and back to the tonic, and a second part where the dominant chord (the V-chord) plays a more important role. It then moves to a wordless quasi-chorus-like section.
If there were to be a bridge, it would likely happen at about the 2-minute mark, but I think you’d have to agree that a bridge in this song would just feel disruptive. One of the charms of “Second Hand News” is its simplicity, particularly the simplicity of the lyric. Where bridges often complete a story, or offer a tantalizing new angle, there just isn’t that need here. Sometimes, simplicity is a song’s most charming quality.
Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know“, one of the strongest songs to grace the Billboard Hot 100 for the past several years, is another song that seems to do just fine without a bridge. The song certainly doesn’t need the extra mileage that a bridge offers, coming in at 4:03. But it also doesn’t need the extra time to complete the lyric, which is “finished” after Kimbra’s verse.
But there are times when a song will benefit (or definitely require) a bridge:
- If, by the end of the second verse (or second chorus) the lyric is incomplete.
- If there is too much similarity between verse and chorus, where that similarity is not a positive attribute of the song.
- If the entire song feels too short. (In this case, you may need to adjust the lyric of the second verse to be purposely incomplete, allowing a bridge to serve an important function.)
A song bridge that exists only to extend the length of a song may sound boring to an audience. So on that third point above, be certain that if you decide to include a bridge, allow your lyric to provide important information that the listener will need to make sense of the entire song.
And if you need help understanding how bridge chord choices and melodies usually work, read this article. It will help you devise a bridge that will usually help to build song energy, an important quality of most bridges.
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