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Building Bridges
By Dan Rivers - 05/25/2011 - 05:16 PM EDT

What’s A Bridge?

The bridge is the section that creates a major relief in the music – a different musical sound that connects song sections . It creates strong contrast to refresh the ear.

The easiest way to tell someone what a bridge is, is to listen to

Over the Rainbow Harburg And Arlen (Someday you’ll wish upon a star)

Notice the change to staccato notes from the sustained notes of the rest of the song.

Here’s a summary of what it does;

Musical relief from the melody.

A different angle.

A summation of the story.

A different time. Looking back or ahead.

A telescope and a microscope picture.

Adds a new dimension to the chorus and hook Rhyme scheme change


Length of line changes

Doesn’t include the title or hook

Go from specific to general or vice versa

Change the rhythm

May change range

May change person (I to she)



Song Form

Before we talk about how to create the bridge we need to understand song form

Here are some basic formulas

AAA Verse Verse Verse Typical of folk songs think Dylan

ABAB Verse Chorus Verse Chorus

AABA Verse Verse Bridge Verse

ABABCB Verse Chorus Verse Chorus Bride Chous

ABC Verse Chorus Bridge Often used twice

This common lettering can be confusing . B and C can mean the Bridge or the Chorus depending on the form .

All the forms come from one master formula!

Master Formula Verse Verse Chorus Verse Chorus Bridge (Verse) Chorus (the last verse is often omitted ) You can eliminate as many sections as you want but the rest must remain in order.

Bridge placement

Between the last two chorus’s

Verse 1 Chorus Verse 2 Chorus Bridge Chorus

AABA After two verses of 8 bars each an 8 bar bridge with different music and then the last 8 bar verse (often a repeat of verse 1)

Example of AABA: Smoke Gets In your Eyes

Now that you know where it goes:

Do you really need it? Not in every song. Don’t use it to lengthen the song. Use it when you have something else to say or if you feel you need the contrast.



The numbers below refer to the position of the scale of the root of the chord. This is the basis of the Nashville number system. Nothing will help your ear to recognize chords more than this.

It’s easy. You’ve all heard musicians call out something like 4-5-1. Here’s what it means.

In the key of C for example C is the first note of the C scale so the C Chord is the 1 chord. F is the fourth note of the C scale so the F chord is the 4 chord. G is the 5th note of the C scale so it’s called the 5 chord in the key of C .

If you use a different key –you have to use the scale for that key to find its number.

The same number in any key always has the same function. For example the 5 chord in any key is dominant –creates tension and wants to go to the 1 Chord.

If you understand this number system you can easily transpose the following ideas to all keys!




Start with a new Chord - Anything -and I mean anything -that hasn’t been used in the song before. Try some of these instead of the dreaded predictable 2 minor to 6 minor eg : Key of C Dm Am

3b 4 5 Key C : Eb F G Key G: Bb C D

3 4 1         Key C : E F G Key G: B7 C G

3m 7 6         Key C: Em7 A

5m     KEY C: Gm

Parallel minor     Key C Cm

Relative minor     Key C: Am

2maj 4 Key C: D F


           Have Fun !      Dan Rivers

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