Guitar and Piano

How Bridge Chords Work in Most Songs

A bridge (or middle-8) is the section that usually follows the second chorus of a song. Back in the earlier days of rock & roll, that bridge was likely to be strictly an 8-bar section, but these days the definition has allowed for a lot more creativity. In general, though, you can expect a bridge to do any or most of the following:

  1. Present a new melody and chord progression.
  2. Offer new lyrics (that typically finish the song).
  3. Introduce a new key.
  4. Be followed by the final chorus repeats, or go to a 3rd verse.

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The first point above speaks to the reason why you might use a bridge at all. In most pop songs, once the listener has heard the verse melody and chorus a couple of times, it seems right to offer a new melody and chord progression, if only to keep things from getting too repetitive.

Melodies in a bridge will often move higher in a bid to generate some musical energy. But what should a chord progression do? What makes a good bridge progression? Here are some tips to experiment with:

  1. For songs where the chorus is in a major key, start the bridge on either the vi-chord or the ii-chord. If your song is in C major, that means starting your bridge on either Am or Dm.
  2. Allow the first half of your bridge to stay in this new key, or even move into other key areas. So your C major chorus will get followed up by a progression that emphasizes the key of Am (perhaps Am  Em  F  Am…), and maybe even move on from there (maybe Bb  F  C/E  Dm…).
  3. Allow the second half of your bridge to move back toward the original key of the song. Let’s say you’ve planned for an 8-bar bridge, where the first half of it moves into the relative minor (Am  Em  F  Am). It’s now time to get things moving back toward C major. So you might follow those 4 chords up with: Dm  G  F  G. That G chord will move smoothly back to C major.
  4. Bridges will tolerate quick changes of key. It’s OK if your bridge progression takes the listener quickly from one key area to another (Am  Bb  F  D7  Gm…), but the closer it gets to finishing, the more solidly the progressions should bring the listener back to the original key.
  5. Not every song needs a bridge. If your verse and chorus progressions are longer and more involved than the standard 3- or 4-chord variety, your song doesn’t need a bridge. You might follow the second chorus with a 3rd verse, or perhaps an instrumental solo.

Here’s a short list of 5 progressions that might work well for a song bridge. To start with, strum each chord for 4 beats (i.e., 1 chord per bar), but feel free to experiment. The first three assume a chorus in a major key, and the last two will bring you back to a minor key chorus:

  1. Am  F  Bb  F  C/E  F  Am  G (vi  IV  bVII  IV  I6  IV  vi  V)
  2. Dm  F  Dm  Am  Dm  F  D  G  (ii  IV  ii  vi  ii  IV  V/V  V)
  3. Am  Em  G  Am  Dm  C  F  G  (vi  iii  V  vi  ii  I  IV  V)
  4. C  Bb  F  G  C  Dm  Esus4  E  (I  bVII  IV  V  I  ii  Vsus4/vi  V/vi)
  5. G  G7/F  C/E  Cm/Eb  Dm  F  Dm  G  (V  V4-2  I6  i6  ii  IV  ii  V)

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

Gary

Chord Progression Formulas“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle explores 11 principles of songwriting, and will take your own music to a new level of excellence. That bundle package includes several chord progression collections, plus the eBook “Chord Progression Formulas” – a vital text for any chords-first songwriter.

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2 Comments

  1. This is great. Thanks very much.

    On another point, I wanted to buy the ebundle of material, but I don’t have a PayPal account. Can I buy it just using a credit card?

    Thanks again,

    Matt Brock

    • Hi Matt:

      Yes, a PayPal account is not necessary. When you click the “Buy Now” button, the first screen you see will give you the option to pay with a credit or Visa Debit card.

      Cheers!
      -Gary

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