About seven years ago I wrote a blog post about the best way to create chord progressions for a song’s bridge. I had created a graphic to show how a bridge progression could work, and I thought I should repost that image here, and then show you how it works:
The image works for 8-bar bridges, but you can also use it as a guide for writing longer sections, even ones that aren’t specifically bridges.
In this graphic, the first four bars will emphasize A minor as the key, and then you move on to the right side of the graphic, which emphasizes G as a kind of target. That’s because G is the dominant chord of C major, and you want the end of your bridge to sound like it wants to return to C major.
Here are some tips for using the graphic:
- The graphic assumes that the song’s chorus is in C major. So of course you can transpose it to any key you’d like.
- The graphic assumes that your bridge is in the key of A minor.
- Think up-and-down when you work with the graphic. For the first four bars of your 8-bar bridge, you’ll create little progressions that keep moving back to Am as a kind of temporary tonic chord. So for example, start your bridge by playing the Am chord, then jump upward to any other chord on the left hand side of the vertical line.
- Gradually work your way downward. So let’s say you’ve played Am, then you jump up to, let’s say, Bb. From there you should move downward or sideways. For example, after Bb you could move sideways and play Dm, then downward to G, then downward again to Am. That would give you a progression of:
Or, let’s say that you decide to jump up to F after your Am starting chord. You could then go to Dm, then to Em, and then Am, giving you:
In general, you move downward through the list, with the option to move sideways as the arrows show.
After four bars of bridge, it’s time to move on to the right side of the chart and start creating progressions that make G sound like a target. It’s good if your final progression in the bridge has a G as its chord, but that’s not vital.
So using the right side of the chart in the same way as the left side, you might create the following:
That final G prepares the music perfectly for a return to C major.
Now… to experiment!
If you use this chart literally, you’ll not go wrong. But the best songwriters are creative people, and so you must not feel that you’re stuck using the chords in the order that you see them in the chart. Feel free to experiment.
For example, you can jump up in the chart, start down, and then (if you like the sound of it) reverse direction and start moving upward again before finally moving down.
Of you could play the Am chord, then jump up to Em, go back to Am, and keep doing that for four bars before moving on to the right side of the chart.
Remember that this chart is simply a tool for helping if chord progression ideas aren’t coming immediately to mind. You can start using the chart, and then abandon it after four bars. Or you could try writing a bridge that uses only the right side — or only the left side — of the chart.
Whatever you do, as always, use your ears as your guide. It’s just a way to help you create chord progression ideas to experiment with, and in that regard, there’s no right or wrong.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook bundle includes several chord progression eBooks, including “Chord Progression Formulas”. Learn how to create chord progressions within seconds using these formulas.