Personally I love bridges.
They’re fairly short and you don’t have to match them with anything (unlike verses which should ideally have the same number of syllables and the same rhyme structure).
Also there are quite a few shortcuts to writing a bridge that make it a whole lot quicker and easier to get the job done.
Lets talk about a few of those…
1. Place The Bridge After The Second Chorus
The most common format for commercial modern songs is:
2. Verse 1 (including a pre-chorus)
4. Verse 2 (including a pre-chorus)
Once you’re familiar with this format writing a song gets a whole lot easier because the meat of the songwriting work is in writing 2 verses, a chorus and a bridge.
2. Contrast Is Vital
One of the biggest reasons for having different sections in your song (verses, choruses and a bridge) is to keep your listener engaged with contrast between the sections.
With a bridge you’ll often start on a minor chord (or even change to a minor key or some other “fragile” chord) if the rest of the song is in a major key.
This makes the bridge contrast with the rest of the song keeping your listeners interest.
If you’re uncertain of what chord to start a bridge on try the 6m chord (Am in the key of C or Em in the key of G).
That’s a good standby to try out.
Also you usually change the rhythmic feel of your bridge.
3. The Bridge Is Often The
Musical And Emotional High Point Of The Song
This is the chance to hit the highest notes and deliver the strongest emotional message or lyrics of the song.
It’s not always the case but a great starting point to try with the melody of a bridge is one interval higher than the highest note you sing in your chorus.
In some cases you’ll realize that to make your bridge the musical high point of the song you need to drop the rest of the song a few keys so it can be sung effectively.
4. A Good Idea Will Make It Rock!
A bridge is the perfect place to say something or reveal something that pulls your whole song together, completes your story line (if there’s a story in the song), puts an entirely new spin on the meaning of the song or delivers the message of the song in a different way.
Think through some ideas that will really make your bridge stand out.
Can you do something with a story line that catches your listener by surprise or completes a story?
Is there something you’d really like to say that isn’t said in the verses or the chorus?
Write down a few different ideas until you find one that jumps out at you and begs to be written.
5. Bridges Are Usually Short
There are always exceptions but 2 lines of lyrics over 8 bars of music is usually enough for a bridge. (That’s why the bridge is sometimes referred to as the “middle 8”).
Longer than 8 bars and it tends to put the song out of balance and lack emotional punch.
The first line of lyrics usually rhymes with the second line but it doesn’t have to.
Your key focus should be on delivering emotion effectively in the bridge. If you get that right it will usually sound good.
6. The Bridge Leads Into the Next Chorus
Usually you want to leave your listener hanging and eager to hear the chorus again after your bridge.
So the most common chord used at the end of a bridge is the 5 chord (G or G7 in the key of C, D or D7 in the key of G).
You should also think of how you plan on singing that next chorus.
You might have a huge bridge and then drop down to a soft start for the final chorus. Or have your bridge end softly to match the soft start to the next chorus.
If you’re going for a huge final chorus then you might want your bridge to have a huge build and ending to lead into that final huge chorus.
7. The Bridge Writing Shortcuts
# Use a different rhythmic feel in your bridge.
# Try starting on the 6 chord (Am in the key of C) or any minor or “fragile” chord.
# Start the bridge melody one interval higher than the highest note you sing in the chorus.
# End the bridge on the 5 chord (G or G7 in the key of C).
# Try 2 lines of lyrics over 8 bars of music
# Rhyme the end of the first line of lyrics with the end of the second line.
# Make your bridge lead into the final chorus.
# Make your bridge the emotional and musical high point of the song.
Here are two examples of songs with this kind of bridge:
I Got Nothing – Darius Rucker
I’m Already There – Lonestar…
So Many Exceptions…
This is a list of starting points to give you a great chance of writing a bridge that works.
There are many exceptions to these guidelines the most obvious one being that often the last chorus is the emotional high point of the song.
Sometimes the final chorus is sung in a higher key to achieve this meaning your bridge would end on the 5 chord of the new chorus key.
There are amazing bridges in songs that are longer than 8 bars and there are great songs that don’t have a bridge at all.
But you’ll usually build your songwriting craft more quickly if you understand how and why the most common forms are used.
Then when you break those guidelines you’ll know why you’re doing it and what you’re trying to achieve.