A Chart For Creating Bridge Chord Progressions

A good bridge progression is one that builds musical energy, one that finds release in the return to the chorus.

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Synthesizer keyboardYou’ve decided that your song is in C major, and so far the chords are coming together fine. You find yourself using lots of C, Dm, Am, F and G chords, and it’s all going well. Now you decide that your song is a bit short, that you’ve got more you need to say in the lyric, and so you decide to add a bridge. How do you create a new chord progression for the bridge, one that makes that section distinctive but also partnering well with the rest of the song?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article that shows how you might create chord progressions for the verse, pre-chorus and chorus of such a song in C major. It showed a verse that centred on the key of A minor, then moved to C major for the chorus. That’s a typical situation for C major songs: starting in minor, finally reaching major in the chorus. In between, it showed how to create chords for a pre-chorus.

So what about the bridge? The bridge section is hard to pin down, because it can run the gamut from being very similar to the verse and chorus (such as you might see in Jack Johnson’s “Don’t Believe a Thing I Say“, from his “From Here To Now To You” album, to something much more complex, adventurous and lengthy.

I wanted to give you something you could use as a guide, something that might help with creating chord progressions — and thereby offering a blueprint — for how a bridge might unfold. This is in no way meant to say that this is how bridges must work; the possibilities are as near to endless as they can get.

First, take a look at this chart, and then read the description afterward carefully:

Chord Suggestions for Song Bridge

  1. Notice that the bridge is described as being in 2 parts. The first part centres in on the Am chord, much like the verse did. The second part moves on to targeting the G chord, just as with the pre-chorus, which builds tension and momentum toward the eventual return of C major for the chorus.
  2. The suggested chords for the first part of the bridge focus in on A minor. The typical way to use this chart is to play an Am chord, then jump upward into the list, to any chord you like. You can then move sideways if you wish, but the general direction should be downward through the list.
  3. The suggested chords for the second part focus on G. And similar to creating chords in the first part, you jump upward into the list, and move down.
  4. There is no requirement to start on the “key” chord (the circled chord) for each section. You can start anywhere in the list, but then move downward toward the key chord.
  5. This is only one of many possible ways of creating bridge chords. Your instincts might tell you to create something entirely different, and if you like what your instincts are telling you, do it!

So using the steps above would give you the following sample progressions (assuming a chord change every bar):

1. Am  Bb  G  Am  Dm  G  F  G

2. Bb  Dm  G  Am  C  Dm  F  G

3. G  Am  Dm  Em  F  G   Dm  G

Bridges are wonderful sections for introducing some added musical energy, as well as for doing something very creative. Let your imagination go. And also keep in mind that of all sections in a song, the bridge can be the most forgiving one for doing odd things. A progression that really wanders, for example, can make the tighter, stronger progression of a chorus all the more welcome when it returns.

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Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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4 Comments

  1. Great article! Can you explain the rationale for including a Bb, as that does not seem to be a standard progression chord in the key of C. I am only a beginner in the theory of songwriting so please forgive me if I have made an error!

    • Hi Mark – The rationale behind Bb is to attempt to pull the key of the music away from the original key. So A minor is a typical direction to move for songs that are primarily in C major. But you’ll also find that music takes subtle turns in a bridge, and that’s what the Bb does… it pulls things momentarily toward F major (the Bb being the IV-chord of F major). There are actually lots of possibilities for moving in different directions, and the Bb is just one idea.

      Hope that helps!
      -Gary

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