The ‘bridge’ is a part of the song that usually comes after the second or third chorus and it is used to give musical variation and depth to the rest of the song. Typically the melody or underlying music will change to support the new lyrical idea. The bridge provides a new perspective and overall understanding of the song as a whole, and may even pause briefly, just before the last climactic chorus.
Recently, during a songwriting session with a friend we were discussing the parts of a song and one of my collaborators asked, “What is a bridge of a song?”
The bridge is like a chorus that is only played once
If the concept of a bridge is confusing for you, you can think of it like a chorus that is only repeated once. It expresses a big idea, just like the chorus, but because it is only played once, it is an important contrast for the rest of the song.
The music and lyrics of a bridge are a way to express a deeper meaning to the rest of the content of the song because the tone (musically and lyrically) can change drastically.
Even though the chorus is the part of the song that is repeated the most, the bridge stands out because it’s the only part of the song that is played only once.
Usually there will be a big dramatic pause at the end of bridge, just before the last big, bold chorus. This reinforces the idea that the bridge is an important way to give the listener some new sounds and variety, just before jumping back into the comfortable and familiar chorus.
The music and the lyrics of the bridge change
The bridge is a perfect place to add a different soundscape and lyrics to the song.
If the rest of the song where happy the bridge could be bittersweet. This contrast gives an extra meaning to the happiness of the previous lyrics and music.
For example, if the verse and the chorus are about the happiness of being young, the bridge can be a reflection of growing old.
If the verses and choruses are about being happily in love, the bridge can be about the fear of breaking up or the difficulties while in a relationship.
It also works in reverse, if the rest of the song is dark and bleak, the bridge can be a brief glimpse of hope or light at the end of the tunnel.
Because the lyrics change the music can also change to support this different perspective or idea.
Another way to look at it, is that the music changes and this now inspires different lyrics. The lyrics and the music support each other.
Sometimes the music and lyrics stay the same, but the dynamics of the song change
Okay now that I finished explaining that the music and the lyrics change, I would like to mention that sometimes the music and lyrics don’t change at all but the way they’re performed and the dynamics change.
If the song has been very high-energy and loud so far, then the bridge might be the same chorus but performed in quieter and more gentle, thoughtful kind of way.
This change in dynamics still serves the function of providing a contrast and giving a new meaning to the rest of the song.
Check at the end of this article for some examples of different song bridges and to get inspired for your next songwriting session.
Not all songs have a bridge
Now you might be asking yourself if your song absolutely needs to have a bridge. Answer is, No.
Not every song needs to have every single type of song section (bridge, chorus, verse, middle 8, etc.) possible.
It depends on your specific vision, your idea, and if you’re able to make it work at all.
Perhaps the only mistake you could make would be to try and force something to work “just because other people do it that way.”
Learning how to write good bridges is a skill that every serious songwriter would find useful. However, just because it exists doesn’t mean that you need in your song.
At the end of the day, use your best judgment and taste and stylistic preferences when writing your song. Don’t feel obliged to use a bridge or write a bridge just because other people do.
A fun exercise might be too try and write a bridge for your song and to see if it works. If it works, keep it. If it doesn’t, no problem – you can always write a bridge into your next song.
How can I learn to write a bridge?
Now that you know what a ‘bridge’ is you might be curious about how you can learn to write one. The best way to begin is to listen to music you like and learn how to identify the bridge.
What you’ll discover is that the idea of a bridge isn’t always exactly the same in every song. Different genres use bridges in different ways, and this is part of the fun of songwriting.
Also, learn how to identify the different parts of the song such as the intro, verse, chorus, etc. This will help you to get a feeling for where a bridge might be useful in your next song.
From there you can start experimenting with different chord progressions and which changes create a different mood or feeling where you can write lyrics for a bridge.
Final Thoughts About Writing A Song Bridge
At the end of the day, follow your gut and follow your intuition about what feels good and what feels right about the music that you like and the music that you want to be making.
All the”rules” about songwriting are only guidelines, you should never feel restricted or tied down to doing things a certain way.
The purpose of having rules is to help you understand the craft of writing songs, so that later on you can break those same rules to achieve your artistic vision.
I’ve included some examples of bridges just below this article so you can start to learn what a bridge sounds like and how it functions inside of a song. Enjoy!
Here are some examples of famous bridges so you can get a better idea, and to solidify the idea:
Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys – Bridge at 2:14
Check out how the bridge from the Beach Boys song ‘Good Vibrations’ dramatically shifts in tone and feels like an entire mini-song inside of the rest of the song.
I like this example because it shows that you can change the feel of the song while expanding on the original message of the verses in the courses.
The message of the song is “good vibrations” and that message doesn’t change throughout the bridge even though the bridge is a dramatic change in musical tone from the rest of the song.
The way the bridge still maintains the same core message of the rest of the song is a way of expressing how committed the songwriter is to the idea. Of course, this message is, “Goooooood vibrations!”
Then there’s a big pause and then the huge and catchy chorus of good vibrations starts all over again and you’re transported back into the happy and euphoric feelings of the beginning of the song.
Single Ladies by Beyoncé – Bridge at 2:00
This song is another great example of how dramatically the tone and feeling of a bridge can change compared to the rest of the song. The rest of the song has a happy a cheerful sound, with a humorous kind of regret expressed with the lyrics.
Finally, during the bridge, the darker heartbroken feeling is fully acknowledged and the lyric is more directly honest about the heartbreak of not having the first lover that she wanted and not to judge her for choosing the second lover who “put a ring on it” and committed. Phew! Such drama. 😅
You can see how the bridge allows this more direct and honest message to come through, despite the cheerful-sounding verses and choruses.
An example of a bridge where are the lyrics and music stay the same but the dynamics change is the song:
Help! by The Beatles – Bridge at 1:31
This song is fairly short compared to the standard pop song of today. Nevertheless, you can see how a sort of bridge is created at one minute and 31 seconds Mark.
This bridge doesn’t change the underlying chords or melody. In fact, it’s a repetition of the chorus. However, the dynamics are much quieter and the lyric is performed in a more saddened, introspective way.
The whole song the singer is asking for help, in a frantic kind of way. The quieter chorus that serves as the bridge of this song, shows a more emotional, sad dimension to the plea for help.