If you’re brand new to songwriting the idea of a “bridge” section can seem a bit confusing. But it’s a mainstay in the world of writing songs, so it’s important to learn about it.
In this post, we’ll go over what a bridge is, how it’s used and how you can write one that’s effective.
If you’re brand new to this craft, I highly suggest you check out our beginner’s guide on how to write songs first.
If you’ve already read that, or you know a bit about the craft let’s get into the bridge section…
What Is a Bridge In A Song?
A bridge is essentially a “departure” section about two-thirds of the way through a song, that changes things up to add interest and keep a listener’s engagement.
It provides contrast and serves as a musical and lyrical change from the rest of the song. It most often occurs after the second chorus, right before a song’s final chorus.
Not all songs have to have a bridge, and there are various different types of song bridges out there. They’re most prevalent in music genre’s like Pop, R&B and Rock.
Why Use a Bridge in a Song?
It’s a way to break up the repetition of the verses, pre-choruses and choruses of your song.
Most songs have are quite repetitive in nature if you think about it – the lyrics rhyme, the instrumental motifs repeat, the sections occur more than once.
A bridge works as a way to take the listener somewhere else. It increases their engagement with the song since you’re providing them with some novelty.
A good formula that applies to many things in song craft is introduce, repeat, change.
You introduce an idea (the verse/pre-chorus/chorus), repeat that idea and then change it up somehow.
It’s an effective way to keep your listeners interested in the song.
How Long Should a Song’s Bridge Be?
There’s no single answer to this question. As with anything in art, you can do it however you’d like.
But that doesn’t mean there are no guidelines or best practices you can follow.
Most often, a bridge will be 8 bars in length. Sometimes you’ll find a bridge that is 4 or 16 bars, but that’s definitely not the norm.
In most Pop music, the bridge lasts about 8 bars or repeats twice for 16 total bars before heading back into a final chorus section.
How to Make the Bridge of a Song
Let’s talk a bit about how to write a song bridge.
Again, let me be clear – there are no hard and fast rules to songwriting or any art form. But there can act as tips on how to approach your song’s departure section.
Your “bridge” doesn’t have to be a typical “bridge” in any way.
The trick is…
Take the Listener Somewhere Else
The whole concept behind the song bridge is that you’re offering your listener some novelty – something new to experience.
So you want to do things that are atypical from the rest of your song.
It’s a “departure” section, because you’re taking the listener somewhere they haven’t been before, and then returning them home with the final chorus.
Key, Rhythmic or Harmonic Changes
Some of the things you can play around with are the key, the rhythm or the underlying harmony.
During your bridge section, experiment by trying to write a small section in a different key that’s related to your song’s original key. Make sure the transition is smooth, and not too far out there, so as to completely jar the listener.
In terms of rhythm, you can play around with the intensity of the song during this section. Maybe it breaks down or builds up in energy.
Or you could try writing an entirely new chord progression just for this one section. Changes in harmony can alter the emotion felt from music – and that can be great for a bridge.
If it’s different from the rest of the song, but still fits it’s overall aesthetic and feel, it will work.
New Melodies, Lyrics, Instruments
You don’t only want to change up the foundation of your song during your bridge. You’ll also likely want to write entirely new melodies and lyrics. Of course this is much easier, if you also change up the harmony and/or rhythm of your song, but it’s not necessary.
If your melodies were bright and soaring in the rest of the song, write something more subdued and dark for the bridge. If your lyrics were sad and hopeless in the song, write lyrics that offer some hope or light for the bridge.
You can also try introducing entirely new instruments during the bridge to add even more contrast and novelty. Be careful not to do way too much, though, or you may overwhelm the listener, rather than pull them in deeper.
Again, it’s about taking your listener somewhere new and unexpected. Offer the opposite perspective or a different take on the ideas in your song.
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Recycle Song Section Material
There’s no rule saying your song’s departure section has to be a typical “bridge.” There are ways to take the listener somewhere new, without actually creating new melodies, harmony, or lyrics.
You can take material from other song sections and recycle and re-use them in a new and interesting way.
That could mean using the “bridge” section as an additional hook center – where you repeat the hooks of your chorus in a novel and new way.
You could use effects to completely transform the instrumental/composition of your song while repeating one or two main pre-chorus lyrics, for example.
These are often called “diversified” verse or pre-chorus sections.
Again, the idea is to give the listener something new. There are many creative ways you can take what you’ve already got and present it in a new way.
Think of it like using leftovers for an entirely new meal the next day.
Try a Solo
Another great way to take the listener somewhere else is to include an instrumental solo section. In rock music, this is where you’d normally get a guitar solo.
The bridge or departure section is the perfect place to let instrumentalists shine.
You could also just ask a producer to let the bridge of your song be a down-and-dirty “break” where the rhythm is just begging for people to dance to the instrumental.
Or if you’re a very talented vocalist, you can use the bridge section to showcase your ability to sing riffs and runs. The rest of your song is simple and singable for the listener, but you get to show off during your departure section.
There are a ton of ways to make a bridge effectively. Think outside the box.
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Keep it Simple
One thing to keep in mind when you’re writing your song’s bridge, is the simpler you keep it, the more likely someone will latch onto it.
This isn’t always true, and again, the bridge is supposed to be a distinct and novel showcase for your song. But there’s no doubt that listeners are more likely to latch onto something if it’s simple to grasp.
A lot of effective bridges will adhere to the principle of keeping things simple and singable.
Build Tension and Drama
One of the most effective ways to write and use a bridge is to continue ramping up tension and drama.
Every great story uses tension and drama to make someone feel a certain type of way. A song is pure emotion embodied in sound.
So you can very easily build up the tension and “stress” within your bridge so that the final payoff (i.e. your last chorus) hits so hard that your listener will never forget it.
Ramp up the intensity, or break down the energy to a point where the listener is just begging you to take them back to the chorus.
That’s a killer bridge.
Writing a bridge for a song isn’t something that’s always necessary. But it’s a really great song section that is sorely missed whenever it’s sparsely found in popular music.
Repetition and memorability is great – and a cornerstone to great songwriting. But novelty and defying expectations is something every human loves and craves.
You can use a bridge to give it to them.
The only way to get great at writing a song bridge is to do it over and over again. So practice your bridge writing in every song you create, even if you don’t end up using it.
If you really want to level up your songwriting skills, I highly recommend you join HitSongsDeconstructed – they’re the best resource on the internet I’ve found on how to write hit songs.
Thanks for reading this post on how to write a bridge for a song. I hope it helped.