How to write the bridge of your song (without losing your mind!)
Almost every songwriter has been there before - you write a chorus and verse, sometimes even in one sitting, and everything seems to be going great, but once you try to write something for the bridge, you draw a blank. This article will show you how to get over that obstacle, with a few tried and true strategies to make bridge writing easy! First of all, it’s important to understand the purpose of the bridge: To present a noticeable change and contrast in the direction of the song, to reignite the listener’s interest, and set up the last chorus to come back with more impact.
We’re mostly going to go into strategies about writing music for the bridge, but if your bridge is going to have a lot of lyrics, here’s a quick tip for that: It can help to think of the bridge lyrics like the big battle scene of the song. It’s the time in the song where all the conflict is revealed, comes to a head and then is finally resolved. A perfect example of this is the song “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles. While the verses of her song tell a story and the choruses sum up the message, the bridge really goes deepest into revealing what the song is about: “You’re neither friend nor foe / Though I can’t seem to let you go / The one thing I still know is you’re keeping me down”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEXhAMtbaec&t=2m24s Musically, the goal of a bridge is similar, to create significant contrast, and then resolve back to the chorus. So now moving onto the instrumental side, here are 3 methods to stop getting stumped on the bridge and finally write a good one easily!
1. Bring down the volume, so you can build up to a loud chorus, or pop back into it! By creating a change in dynamic, you may find you don’t even have to change your chords from what you were doing in the verse and the chorus. Bringing the intensity way down and preparing it to climb back up, can create a change of feel that will help inspire you to come up with a new melody or lyrics, which is sufficient change for a bridge. The hardest part of the bridge is coming up with new chords that sound contrasting, so this is one way to avoid that challenge and still create that contrast, but in a much easier way. This is one of the most common strategies for all kinds of pop music, because it’s simple and catchy. Listen to how Bruno Mars does it in Treasure - The chords don’t change at all from the verse and chorus, but they bring the volume down, introduce a new lyric, and the band builds up to the loud chorus again. Simple and sweet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPvuNsRccVw&t=1m55s
Here’s another strategy that’s much different: 2. Write a new chord progression that’s different from the verse and chorus, that is in the same key, but doesn’t resolve to the key as much. This means using less of the “I” chord or “tonic” chord, which is the same chord as the key, the one it lands and resolves back to. To expand on that, let’s say your song is in the key of C, a good strategy to help you write the bridge would be to come up with a chord progression that doesn’t use C as much. Maybe you would start your bridge on a chord like D minor or F, and only use that C chord once or twice in the bridge, instead of prominently. This builds up tension musically, so that you will feel a sense of release when the chorus comes in. For example, the bridge in All of Me by John Legend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=450p7goxZqg&t=3m15s The chorus starts on Ab major, which is the key of the song, and sits on that for a full bar, so it feels very resolving. But in the bridge, he starts on the Bb minor, and only quickly uses the Ab major for a short chord in the middle, so it feels more tension-building, and that helps the bridge to feel contrasting, and create a feeling of resolve once the last chorus comes in. Here’s one more very common approach to the bridge:
3. Add an instrumental solo! Keep the same chords as a verse or chorus, but just put in an instrument solo. Don’t Stop Believing by Journey is a classic example of that. There is no actual bridge here except the guitar solo over the same chord progression already used through most of the song. But many times that’s all you need! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k8craCGpgs&t=3m0s So those are three simple ways to get started writing a awesome bridge: 1. Bring down the volume to create a buildup, keep the same chords, but change the vocals 2. Write a new chord progression in the same key, but with less of the tonic or root chord, and write your bridge vocals over that. 3. Keep the same chords as the verse or chorus, but take an instrumental solo! It’s important to note these are just starting points, you can still get creative with them! Maybe instead of an instrument solo you want to throw in a rap section. Maybe you want to change to a minor key and go back to major for the chorus. Also, you don’t even have to write a bridge, you could cut straight to an outro instead. The 3 strategies I focused on are just some of the simplest, most reliable ways to help you get started if you really want a neat bridge and you’re feeling stuck. I also want to share one more thing - a little secret about the writing process of a bridge, that will apply to any of these strategies. This is the most important part to not getting stuck on this section of the song. Sometimes, by the time you get to writing the bridge of a song, you may be a little bit tired from putting so much energy into the choruses and verses. So try taking a break from your song, before writing your bridge! Here’s exactly what I do sometimes. I will write a verse and chorus, record it on my phone, and just leave it at that for a while. Then, I will come back to the song at a later date, and just play through what I’ve already written, and when I get to where the bridge would be...suddenly it is so much easier to come up with ideas for it. By writing the bridge in a different sitting, or even days or weeks later, it will be easier for you to come up with a section that sounds contrasting and brings in a change of feel, because you’ve created distance from it, and cleared your head to jump into this bridge section fresh. Even just the passing of time, and being able to reflect on what you’ve written after the fact, can bring in new lyrical ideas that you feel add depth to the story of what you covered in your verse and chorus.
Another simple technique is to double the same lyric lines and add in some note extensions and kick the the range a bit higher.
I hope this gave you a lot of good tools for writing a bridge, so that next time you are stuck, you can try any of these strategies as a starting point to jump off of and get your bridge writing flowing! Happy songwriting!
Written by Owen Korzec, AOTM consultant, singer songwriter, and recording artist