One of the most popular song structures that songwriters use in modern music is the type that contains a bridge. From pop to rock, country and R&B, most songwriters include a bridge in their songs. It’s not always necessary; in fact, there are several songs that have done pretty well without having a bridge. In other cases, a bridge is the secret sauce that pulls the song together.
However, bridges aren’t always easy to write. Here are five things to keep in mind when including a bridge in your song.
Try on a New Melody
Changing the melody in the bridge ensures that the song has a third layer, which is different from the verses and chorus. People naturally have short attention spans and often get mentally tired somewhere between the second verse and the second chorus. A new melody breaks that up, especially if it’s sung at a higher pitch than the rest of the song. One good example (and there are many) is John Legend’s “Ordinary People,” when he changes the melody and raises the pitch with the bridge before slowing it back down again with the final chorus.
Make the Transition Smooth
Whether you slow down the tempo or speed it up for the bridge, the seamlessness of the transition can affect how well you finish the song. Making it almost seem like an extension of the second chorus could allow it to flow into the final stretch to make that last chorus more memorable than the first two. The listener will notice and possibly appreciate the change if it’s done right. Bruno Mars does this rather well with the bridge of “Locked Out Of Heaven” and how he slows down the final chorus before closing out the song.
Change up the Keys
Yet another way to make the bridge interesting is to change up the keys to alter how the song sounds going toward the end. This also encourages the listener to stay interested in hearing the rest of the song. Once the bridge is over, depending on how you change the key, you can slip right back into the key of the chorus or continue ending on a high.
Precede or Follow With an Instrumental Interlude
It might help to have an instrumental piece inserted before or after the bridge to add some drama and distract the listener just a bit. This could even end up giving your song another dimension before or after the bridge. Taylor Dayne’s “Love Will Lead You Back” has a lovely guitar section before she sings the bridge. Another alternative is to make the bridge itself an instrumental or spoken word interlude. Toni Braxton’s “Spanish Guitar” features a passage that is spoken in Spanish by a male vocalist before she goes back into a pre-chorus and then ends the song on a high.
Use it to Introduce a 3rd Verse
Some songs have a third verse, which may give the listener resolution (in story-telling songs, for example) or to introduce a new perspective. A bridge can help to break up the predictability of the song and then surprising the listener with the third verse. However, unless your music is known, or your song is pretty short, you probably should stay away from writing a song with three verses. Most people are not likely to listen to your song all the way to the end when you’re new, even if your song is awesome.
Including a bridge in a song could be what makes it stand out, since having great verses and well-constructed choruses is not always enough. And while you may not always need a bridge for a song to make it complete, it is a good idea to know what works and what doesn’t so that it fits whenever you do it.