When writing your next song, don’t underestimate the impact of a great bridge. It can add a new exciting tone and feel to your song, tell a new chapter to your song’s story, and, most importantly, keep your listeners interested.
Not every song needs a bridge – there are plenty of hit songs out there that consist of only verses and choruses – but there are often times when a well-written bridge changes a song from good to great.
Writing an effective bridge for your next song is easier than you may think. With these songwriting tactics, you can develop a bridge that will help keep your listeners engaged all the way through your song.
What Is a Bridge In A Song?
In a song, a bridge is a particular section that a songwriter will use to create unique contrast with the rest of the song.
The bridge is a section that adds a new and musically different section to the song and usually serves as a necessary shift or development for the listener.
There are no rules as to where you have to place the bridge in terms of the structure of the song, but in pop music, it is most commonly placed after the second chorus. The listener has already had a chance to hear and get accustomed to the verses and choruses, and they are ready for something new.
A bridge should contrast from the other sections of the songs – this contrast can come from a dynamic shift, melodic shift, tonal shift, or even a change in key. This section of the song should be able to tie (or “bridge”) your song’s story together while adding new feeling to it.
How you write and employ your bridge is up to you and your own creativity – and once you have these tips and tricks in your toolbox, you can use them to your advantage!
10 Ways to Write a Great Bridge for Your Song
- Introduce a new melodic hook
- Make a dynamic shift
- Insert a good ol' key change
- Come up with the proper placement
- Utilize different lyrics
- Go for a solo instead
- Change up the tempo
- Change up the rhythm
- Switch it up with a new chord progression
Break the Rules
1. Introduce a new melodic hook (or multiple melodic hooks)
We all know that some of the best pop songs are known for their undeniably catchy hooks that get stuck in your head and keep you coming back for more. Most of the time, the main hook is found in the chorus melody or first introduced as an instrumental or lyric-less hook in the intro section. But you can also use hooks as a great way to create an interesting and musical bridge.
One of the best pop songs (in my opinion) to come out this past summer is Katy Perry’s ‘Never Really Over.’ This song hits you with hook after hook, the most prominent being in the chorus. When the song gets to the bridge, the chords and dynamics don’t change at all, but she introduces yet another hook that keeps us engaged.
The first significant shift in this bridge hook is the rhythms. Perry shifts from the tongue-twisting 16th-note rhythm of the chorus hook to a rhythm that has more of a quarter-note triplet feel, allowing the bridge lyrics to breathe more and let the emotion of the song sink in more (“thought we kissed goodbye, thought we meant this time was the last”).
The hook is also followed by a repetition of a lyric from the pre-chorus (“I guess it’s never really over”), but the song lyrics now have a new melody attached. This ties this section together nicely with the other sections and brings back a familiar lyric, while providing just enough of a shift to keep things interesting.
Finally, to tie it all together, she brings back the bridge hook one last time after the final chorus to conclude the song. Writing bridges like this is very effective, because you’re not just looking at the bridge as a one-off component of the song, but as an integral hook that helps make the song what it is.
2. Make a dynamic shift
Any song, regardless of whether it has a bridge or not, should include shifts in dynamics. The word dynamics refers to the volume of sections, phrases, and notes in a piece of music. A dynamic shift in a section of a song can make it louder or softer than the previous or following section. This creates an arc for your song and helps convey the emotions you want to express to your listener. A dynamic shift or multiple dynamic shifts can be placed anywhere in your song, depending on where you as a writer feel it makes sense, but if you’re looking for a way to develop your bridge, this is a great place to start.
If you have a high-energy song with layers of synths and pulsing drum beats, try letting your bridge come down dynamically with just piano and vocal or more subdued production. If you have a soft piano ballad, try taking things up a notch in the bridge with driving rhythms and powerful vocals.
A great example of a dynamically shifting bridge can be found in Fifth Harmony’s ‘Sledgehammer’ (co-written by superstar artist and songwriter Meghan Trainor). The chorus explodes with the power of all five vocalists singing at once, along with heavy synths and EDM-inspired drum beats. By the time we’ve reached the end of the second chorus, we need some sort of shift to give the listener a break from the intense high energy of the first 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The songwriters address this by executing a superb dynamic shift for the bridge.
3. Insert a good ol’ key change
Let’s be honest – everyone loves a good key change. Yes, they can be overdone, but when you execute them correctly you can literally lift your song up and get your listeners excited! Key changes in pop music most commonly shift upwards a half or a whole step – but, again, there are no rules. Pop legend Whitney Houston broke the norm by modulating 3 half-steps down from Gb to Eb in her hit song, ‘How Will I Know.’ And there are plenty of songs that shift to the relative major key or relative minor, or take a left turn to a completely unrelated key.
An excellent modulating bridge to listen to for inspiration is Taylor Swift’s ‘Getaway Car.’ The song starts in the key of C Major and stays there for the first 2 verses and choruses, but then modulates up a whole step in the bridge to D Major. This makes for an exciting surprise for the listener – not only are we hearing a new key, but we are also hearing new melodies and lyrics. The bridge perfectly introduces the plot twist of the song that sets the scene for the final chorus, which is also in this new key.
What’s great about this major key change is that it’s new for the listener, but also carried out in a somewhat subtle way. You can tell that something is different, but it’s not immediately obvious that there was a modulation. Swift doesn’t use this change as a last-resort effort because she has no other way to make things interesting – she uses it only to serve the song in the way that it needs. This is a good rule of thumb not only for bridges and key changes but for any song element in general. Don’t just insert something weird/cool/different just for the heck of it – add it because it will actually make your song better.
4. Come Up With The Proper Placement
You need to determine which part of your song needs the bridge the most. You might decide to go verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. In this format, the bridge is used to provide a change for what would otherwise be double chorus monotony.
You might also decide to go with the AABA format, which is verse, verse, bridge, verse. This is a traditional song format that was often used in pre-1960s pop music or country.
The idea here is to experiment and figure out where the bridge might fit best.
5. Utilize Different Lyrics
While the bridge offers songwriters many unique opportunities, the chance to move in a different direction lyrically is one of the most important. You can give listeners a different perspective with your bridge or provide them with closure to something you didn't expand on in the verses.
Bridges can be used to deepen emotional understanding or express completely new emotions.
In using different lyrics, you might also consider singing in a different vocal range or vocal placement. Move into falsetto, jump up or down an octave, or plan on using harmonies during the recording process.
Remember, contrast is what you're going for.
6. Go For a Solo Instead
Instead of writing a vocal bridge with new lyrics, you might even consider using it to feature an instrumental solo. In a rock song, the typical move would be a guitar solo. However, it all depends on the context of the song and what it's asking for. A mellow jazz or folk tune might benefit from a piano solo, while a pop track could benefit from a synth solo.
It is still a good idea to consider different instrumentation so that you can build tension.
7. Change Up The Tempo
Changing the tempo of a song can be quite challenging, especially if you can't do it naturally while maintaining the groove and flow that the listener got into. If you do decide to change the tempo, you want to make sure you can get back to the original tempo in a seamless manner.
Instead of speeding up or slowing down the song by a particular number of beats, you might consider going half-time or double-time. These changes are much easier and don't disrupt the flow of a song as much.
You might also consider changing the time signature instead of the tempo to add contrast.
8. Change Up the Rhythm
Instead of changing up the tempo or time signature, you might consider changing up the rhythm.
Let's say you have your snare drum on the 2 and 4 throughout the song, creating a disco-like rhythm. You might consider taking the snare off of the 2 and keeping it on the 4 for the bridge to give the listener a half-time feel.
Not only does this create contrast for your bridge, but it also changes the energy level to provide tension and release for the eventual return.
9. Switch It Up With a New Chord Progression
One of the simplest and most effective ways to create contrast with a bridge is by changing up the chord progression. When you switch to a new chord progression, it might not be necessary to change instrumentation or dynamics.
You could consider going from a major-sounding chord progression to a minor-sounding chord progression or vice versa.
10. Break the Rules
When it comes to songwriting, there are no hard and fast rules. If a bridge doesn't feel right, you don't need it in there. There is no reason to try and reach for something if it feels unnatural or out of place.
Experiment and see where your heart takes you. It might be to somewhere unexpected and that's a good thing!
Does Every Song Need a Bridge?
It is not necessary to have a bridge in your song if you don't feel like it needs one. Songwriters will often use bridges to enhance or extend their songs, adding a unique element to the song's energy. If you can't find a way to naturally enhance your song or renew interest with a bridge, you might consider not having it at all.
Why Do You Need To Add a Bridge In A Song?
As for the argument of adding a bridge to a song, remember that a bridge serves many crucial purposes. It is also worth noting that different genres make use of bridges in different ways, all of which aim to elevate the listener's experience.
Here are a few ways in which a bridge can enhance your song:
- Providing tension and release
- Adding tonal and chordal variation
- Providing a dynamic shift
- Building anticipation with a shift in energy
- Showcasing new lyrics and instrumentation
- Splitting up repetitive song sections
- Giving the song closure or a unique direction
- Recapturing the listener's attention
If your song is starting to feel a bit repetitive, you might consider adding a bridge to break things up. Not only can a good bridge be a pleasure to listen to, but it can also give the listener more excitement when you get to the final chorus.
How Long Should a Bridge Be In A Song?
On average, a bridge in a song will be anywhere from 4 to 8 bars. Traditionally, songwriters would refer to bridge sections as "middle 8" sections. The reason for this nickname was that the bridge would usually occur in the middle of the song for around 8 bars.
How Many Bridges Should a Song Have?
Typically, songs will only have one bridge. Now, that's not to say that a bridge can't have more than one bridge. However, if your song has two or more bridges, you might refer to them as transitions or interludes.
If you do decide to use two bridges, it is crucial that you maintain your listener's interest by having an awaited musical room behind the bridge's door. If your bridge isn't going anywhere, you risk contorting the musical structure to a point of no return.
Can a Bridge Be At The End of a Song?
If the section is at the end of the song, you would not refer to it as a bridge. A bridge connects two portions of a song. Most of the time, the bridge will bring you back to the chorus Any portion of a song at the end is a tag or outro.
What Is The Difference Between Verse, Chorus, and Bridge?
Verses and choruses are typically repeated throughout the song. While the chorus usually repeats the same hook over and over, the lyrics for the verse will change. The bridge, on the other hand, will come around one time and use a completely different musical idea than both the verse and the chorus, acting as a transitional portion of the song.
Are Bridge and Pre-Chorus the Same?
While the bridge and pre-chorus are different parts of the song, they do have similarities. For starters, they both typically use melodies that are different from the verses and choruses. More often than not, the lyrics will also be different.
The reason that we differentiate the bridge from the pre-chorus is that they have different objectives.
The pre-chorus is meant to transition us from the verse to the chorus. It is typically very short, much often shorter than 4 bars. The bridge is meant to take the song in a new direction temporarily.
What Comes After the Bridge In a Song?
More often than not, a verse or chorus will come after the bridge. The idea with a bridge is to give the listener something different that will eventually return to the song's motif.
How To Use A Bridge in AABA Format
The B section in the AABA format is the bridge, while the A sections are the verses. The title or hook for this format is typically placed at the tail end of each A section. The bridge section will come around one time after a few verses before one final verse at the end.
This form of songwriting was very popular in traditional pop music from the 1960s and before.
How To Use A Bridge in Verse/Chorus/Bridge Format
The bridge in a verse/chorus/bridge song serves as an emotional or stylistic shift. It is meant to differ melodically from the verse or chorus, giving the listener something new to enjoy. The verse sets up the overall theme while the chorus contains the motif or main message. The bridge is there to break up that theme before a final return.
Can a Guitar Solo Be a Bridge?
Oftentimes, a guitar (or instrumental solo of any kind) will be used in place of a traditional bridge. The bridge section might also appear before or after a solo.
3 Great Examples of a Bridge In a Song
Little Lion Man - Mumford & Sons
This modern classic changed folk music's place in the pop world forever. With some of the most memorable "ahhs" in history with harmonies that seemed to build forever until the end, the ferocious crescendo is what propelled this bridge to fame. You can hear this same method all over organic folk and rock tunes now, from Fleet Foxes to 30 Seconds to Mars and beyond.
Finesse (Remix) - Bruno Mars Feat. Cardi B
Another classic example of a hip-hop or RnB bridge comes from Cardi B's "Finesse" remix. It's somewhat of a quirky romantic interlude with the two singer's going on about their love for one another. These kinds of bridges are extremely popular in duets or any song where there is another featured singer.
You can hear the same thing in songs like "The Girl is Mine" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson and "Just Give Me a Reason" by P!nk and Nate Ruess.
Love On Top - Beyonce
"Love On Top" is a great example of how to substitute lyrical or progression shifts with key changes. In fact, there are four key changes throughout the course of the "bridge," which are there to bring the point home that her love interest is her top priority. Sometimes, a good change in key is all you need to give the listener contrast.
Writing Your Next Song Bridge
Writing a bridge can be intimidating, but the more you practice, the better you will get! When you get frustrated or reach writer’s block while writing a bridge, just take a step back and remember that your bridge doesn’t have to have four key changes and a zillion new hooks to be great. Even the most simple bridges can be the best. Some songs don’t even have a bridge – and that is perfectly okay, too.
Keep working on your songwriting and bridge-writing with these tactics, and you’ll take your songwriting to a whole new level!