If we take a look at the different sections you see in songs, you’ll most likely be familiar with a verse and a chorus, every song has them and they’re incredibly common.
However, bridges you don’t always see.
In today’s post we’ll be looking at bridges in songwriting. We’ll be looking at the definition of a bridge, along with how it can be used and some examples.
What is a bridge?
A bridge is used to create contrast in a song, it is the section that stands out as being drastically different. It doesn’t feel like another verse, or a continuation of the chorus. It is its own entity.
A typical song structure is:
Repetition occurs frequently in songs, melodically and lyrically. Both your verses will usually have the same melodic phrases, but different lyrics and your chorus will usually be the same throughout.
With all this repetition going on, a bridge is always eagerly awaited.
How does a bridge create contrast?
If a bridge is supposed to provide contrast to a song, how is this contrast created?
This can be done in one of four ways:
- Production (specifically your instruments and sounds)
When writing your lyrics for your next song, think of your bridge as your revelation. It could change the story completely, it could be a twist in the plot, positively or negatively impacting the outcome of the story. If your lyrics focus on a scenario that is bleak and grim, your bridge would be the complete opposite. It might contain lyrics that insinuate a sprinkle of hope and happiness.
However, your lyrics don’t necessarily have to involve a revelation or a plot change. You could keep it more subtle, by changing the rhyming scheme or the length of each lyric line. Each change will impact the listener in a different way, but each will still create contrast.
Creating contrast using your composition can be achieved in several ways such as slowing down the tempo, changing the beat or key signature, or focusing on a different selection of notes. The tone of your lyrics may not change, however a sudden slow down in tempo and a shift of an octave in your melody intrigues the listener and keeps their attention.
You don’t have to change your melody or any composition in your song, instead you could focus on how it’s delivered, how you perform the melody. If your entire song focuses on power singing with strength and courage, your bridge may show a timid and vulnerable side, therefore you may sing with softness.
Lastly, how you choose your instruments and go about your sound design can drastically change the mood and create contrast instantly. This could be a completely different tone for your rhythm guitar, or the introduction of an edgy synth that the listener wasn’t expecting.
Examples of bridges
Example 1 – Changing your lyric lines to create contrast
Our first example is a song I wrote in June 2017 called ‘Why Am I Waiting Around?’ The story is about how one person in a relationship is committing more than the other, and this person is asking themself “if they don’t even love, what is the point of all this? Why am I wasting my time?”
And it’s a very rare occurrence that I write about love.
Here are the lyrics for the first verse and chorus:
- You have to listen
- To me this time,
- You’re patiently waiting
- Like everything’s fine.
- But you have no clue
- What’s in my head,
- Your eyes are somewhere else
- Not on me instead.
- If you can’t tell me you love me
- Why am I waiting around?
The verse has short lyric lines packed into groups of 4 following a rhyming scheme of -A-A. The chorus has no rhyme.
For the bridge we had:
- Oh, you’re leaving this heart bruised
- Whilst you’re leaving my mind confused
- When all I want are three simple words
- So if you can’t tell me
- No, if you can’t tell me
- Well I won’t wait…
Here the bridge is structured completely differently to the verse and chorus with almost a triple rhyme, and the lyric lines are much longer. The last three lines change the emotion that drives the song, they’ve had enough, they’re no longer willing to wait.
Example 2 – Changing your melody to create contrast
Continuing on with the example song ‘Why Am I Waiting Around?’ It’s a great example of also using the melody in the bridge to create a contrast with the rest of the song.
Let’s first listen to a snippet of the verse and chorus:
The verse mainly focuses on low notes, each phrase is short and brief, whereas the chorus is slightly more drawn out focusing on a slightly higher set of notes.
Let’s listen to how the bridge creates contrast:
Compared to the rest of the song we focus on the highest notes in the song, some repeated to cause more drama. Here we feel the heat rising, the revelation occurring and the anticipating change that will surely happen.
It’s your turn
With this new knowledge about bridges in songwriting and how you can create bridges for your songs, go ahead and start creating some today!
You can easily create subtle or dramatic contrasts by focusing on changing your lyrics, composition, performance and production. So pick one, or more and experiment with crafting a bridge.