In most songs, the bridge will happen after the second chorus. As you’re approaching the end of the bridge, you get two options:
- do your final chorus repeats and end the song, or
- do a third verse.
What you choose to do will have an affect on what the end of your bridge sounds like, so let’s take a look at both options.
Following a Bridge With a 3rd Verse
If your song makes use of a refrain instead of a chorus, you’re most likely going to follow your bridge with a third verse. That’s because a refrain is more typically understood as the finishing line(s) of a verse. So going from the bridge to the refrain often won’t sound right.
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Songs that use a chorus most commonly follow the bridge with the final chorus repeats, but it’s possible to instead follow it with a third verse, as we hear in this gem from 1980: “Why Not Me“, written by Fred Knobloch and Carson Whitsett, and performed by Knobloch (bridge starts at 2’22”, with verse 3 at 2’45”.)
Since verses usually have lower musical energy than choruses, a bridge that gets followed by verse 3 usually needs to wind down a bit in order to match the diminished power expected in the verse. Diminishing that musical energy usually means:
- lightening up drums/rhythm and other percussive accompaniments as the bridge comes to a close;
- generally becoming quieter;
- possibly making use of a pause or slowing of the tempo at the end of the bridge before verse 3 begins;
Going from bridge to a third verse also means writing a chord progression that moves smoothly from bridge to verse. “Why Not Me” uses a chord not often seen in pop music: the augmented 6th chord (built on the flat-VI degree of the key — F, in the key of A major — moving to E11.) That connects smoothly to A at the start of Verse 3.
Following a Bridge With Final Chorus Repeats
Following the bridge with the chorus is usually the most common approach. When you use this form, the main difference is likely going to be with the lyric. In this design, the bridge lyric gets the final say, so to speak. So any questions (real or implied) posed by the verse and still unanswered by the chorus must be satisfied in the bridge.
In “Single Ladies” (Beyoncé et al), the verse and chorus lyric can be summed up with “you snooze, you lose.” But in the bridge, we get more — what the singer truly wants: “Don’t treat me to these things of the world / I’m not that kind of girl…” In other words, though the subject seems to be that her former love interest “should have put a ring on it”, she’s really looking for something less material and more meaningful.
No matter what you follow the bridge with, there are options to how powerfully that bridge should come across. I addressed this somewhat in a recent blog post (“The Fluctuating Emotions in a Song’s Bridge“), mentioning that a bridge frequently uses lines of lyric that move quickly back and forth between narrative and emotional in style.
But you really do get a lot of leeway in how energetic you decide that bridge should be. You can use it to bring a highly energetic song down a bit and offer some contrast, or you can use it to build things up and find new levels of musical energy.
In any case, a song bridge is a great way to introduce contrast to your song — a new melody, new chords, new lyric — and in many cases can be one of the most interesting parts of a song, compositionally speaking.
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