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 verses will usually have the same melodic phrases, but different lyrics and the 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)
Creating contrast with lyrics
When writing the lyrics for your next song, think of the bridge as a car approaching a crossroad – you can go on ahead, or turn left or right.
Here are some examples:
- Plot twist impacting the outcome of the story. This could be positively, negatively or neutral.
- Complete change in emotion. If your song is happy throughout, the bridge could be grim and bleak.
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 you’re creating a contrast with the verse and chorus.
Creating contrast with composition
Creating contrast using your composition can be achieved in several ways. Here are some examples:
- Slowing down the tempo
- Changing the beat
- Changing the key signature
- 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 will intrigue the listener and keep their attention.
Creating contrast with performance
How the song is performed can dramatically change how it is perceived by the listener. You can say the phrase “I love you” in many different ways and the listener will feel differently each time.
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.
Creating contrast with production
Lastly, your instruments and 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.
For example if you’ve got a beautiful and elegant piano based song, adding in a saxophone during the bridge will create contrast and make this section stand out as being different.
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 more committed than the other, and they are wondering why.
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 has longer notes 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 the:
So pick one, or more and experiment with crafting a bridge.