#7 What Is A Bridge?
What is a bridge? You might call it a middle section or a break but it seems to have all but disappeared from some popular music along with solos and instrumental hooks. It's a bit of a mystery because a well written bridge can be a thing of beauty capable of lifting a song out of the ordinary all by itself .
It's most likely that the bridge evolved as a method for providing a brief distraction from the central theme of the song. It introduces a fresh musical idea that cleverly leads the listener back to that central theme. This gives the performer a chance to re-energise the outbound choruses and take the listener to a big finish. It is a tool to add colour, tension and possibly an extra lyrical argument that build's on the listener's journey through song.
There have been some truly great bridges or middle sections written that take the whole tune up another level such as Ira Gershwin's 'I Can't Get Started' (on an episode of "Gilmore Girls), listen to Ella Fitzgerald sing the Nelson Riddle arrangement here -https://youtu.be/0HzofomuZtI
Bad Finger's 'No Matter What' - is probably one of the all time great bridges here https://youtu.be/rIGP-ZMOOXQ
For a masterwork bridge It's hard to go past Paul Simon's 'Still Crazy After All These Years' - https://youtu.be/yVK3tTBJze4
Paul McCartney's 'Blackbird' is simplicity itself for the bridge giving the song a little breather from the complex shuffle of chords introducing a slightly bluesy vibe for a moment. https://youtu.be/RDxfjUEBT9I
These are all quite old tunes that come from a different era when life was perhaps more groundbreaking for songwriters but the humble bridge remains just as valid today. A bridge is an opportunity to rest and re-energise your main musical theme.
That brief pause can be critical for your listener. If your chorus is as good as you think then re-launching it from the bridge will add weight, gravitas if you like, to your musical and lyrical message. Then you can bring it all home from your bridge and into the big choruses to the end.
If you don't usually write a bridge then here's a few ways to experiment.
Construct your bridge by modulating (changing key) from your chorus to a new chord that has possibly not yet made an appearance in your song. Try going down to the relative minor chord from a major. This is the closest chord relationship as it shares all the notes of the major chord scale, for example : C to Am.
Alternatively you may like using a dominant 7th chord which will seem to lead up a 4th like: C-C7-F. Finally you could try modulating to the minor chord built on the third of the scale by using what is called a secondary dominant (the dominant of Em in this case ) using the semitone down from the tonic to get there, like this : C-B7-Em.
There are some great resources out there on more advanced music theory you may find very useful for your songwriting. You don't need to be across all of it by any means but learning a few new tricks will always lift your game. Remember there are endless ways to create an interesting bridge. Add a few of the great techniques of the past into your songwriting toolbox. You never know when you will be desperate for a killer bridge for your next hit.
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