Songwriter-Guitarist tuning

Deciding If Your Song Needs a Bridge (Middle-8)

A bridge is the section of a song that typically comes after the second chorus in verse-chorus songs. In verse-only songs, like “I Should Have Known Better” (Lennon & McCartney), the bridge will usually come after the second verse.

For many songwriters, the question of whether or not to use a bridge (or any other optional section like a pre-chorus, instrumental solo, etc.) comes down to musical instincts. Sometimes, by the time you’ve reached the end of the second chorus, it just sounds good to move on to the new melody, chords and lyrics that a bridge offers.

Hooks and RiffsHooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how a good hook can make the difference between songwriting success and failure. With great examples from pop music history.

But if you’re really stuck, and you find yourself not knowing whether a bridge would help or hurt your song, here’s a list of tips and tricks for getting the most out of a bridge:

  1. If ending the song after the second chorus sounds too abrupt, a bridge can help. It extends the song by offering a new melody, chords and lyrics, and often a new key.
  2. If the lyric doesn’t seem finished once the second chorus has happened, a bridge gives you an opportunity to add more.
  3. If, generally speaking, the song doesn’t have much contrast between sections (e.g., if the melody of the verse and the chorus sit in the same basic range), a bridge can give you an opportunity to present a new melody in a new basic range.
  4. If the verse and chorus both sound powerful and energetic, a quiet bridge can provide a new approach that will be welcome to the audience. (John Newman’s “Losing Sleep” is a great example of this. Please watch my video that describes this technique from the vantage point of the lyrics.)
  5. If the song really needs a climactic high point, a bridge can offer an opportunity that sets it apart from whatever happens in the verse and chorus. A classic rock example of this is Ambrosia’s “How Much I Feel“, (starting around 2:40, with the climactic high point at 3:20), but you can hear this in more modern songs that use bridges as well.

A good lyric is key to a good bridge, because it’s not just that the lyric is different — it’s usually integral to the fuller meaning of the song. It provides not just “information”, but perspective on why the singer is communicating these thoughts at all.

So if you decide that because your song seems short without it, you want to go with a bridge, consider the fact that the bridge needs to sound vital to the structure of the song, and you’ll need to do more than simply add 8 meandering bars. They really need to sound important, and so you’ll need to go back to the drawing board to come up with a great lyric, melody and chords for this new section.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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