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Thread: how do you write a bridge? Song structure in general?

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    how do you write a bridge? Song structure in general?

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    Hey all,

    I've been playing guitar and making up stuff on it for a while, but I've only recently gotten serious about writing complete songs. So far, the hardest part for me has been the bridge. Now, I know you don't need one in every song, but it really makes a song sound more dynamic and musically interesting. So...
    I'm not looking for a formula, however I've noticed that in many songs, the bridge starts with the V or VII chord, almost like a key change. Or if the song is in a major key, the bridge will start with a minor chord. Do you guys have any other ideas?
    Also, my songs all tend to have the following format: v1, pre-chorus, chorus, v2, pre-c, chorus, bridge, outro. Are there any other formats that you've found also work? Ie., starting a song out with the chorus, or going back to the verse after the first "pre-chorus." Thanks!

    Brad

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    Aaron Cheney's Avatar
    Aaron Cheney is offline Favorite Chord: C 6/9
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    Lyrically, the bridge is the spot where you shed new light on the story. It's the plot twist. You're telling the listener something they didn't know before that puts the song in a whole new light.
    Musically, you're trying to do the same thing: interject something new into the song. You're right... a lot of bridges jump up to the IV or V to start. It's sort of a way to say "Hey! Something new is happening so listen up!" Often a different rythmic structure can work well too.

    As far as songs that use bridges differently, listen to Eleanor Rigby (Starts with a bridge and then a verse, then back to the bridge. No chorus at all.) or Every Breath You Take (Starts with a verse then straight to the bridge, then back to the verse. Again, no chorus. Then... there's like a second bridge later in the song.).

    There's no shame in using the song form you mentioned... there's a reason why it's so common. There is a point during the songwriting process where a song takes on a life of its own. If you listen carefully each song will tell you where it wants to go.

    A

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    the edzell is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron Cheney
    Lyrically, the bridge is the spot where you shed new light on the story. It's the plot twist. You're telling the listener something they didn't know before that puts the song in a whole new light.
    Musically, you're trying to do the same thing: interject something new into the song. You're right... a lot of bridges jump up to the IV or V to start. It's sort of a way to say "Hey! Something new is happening so listen up!" Often a different rythmic structure can work well too.

    As far as songs that use bridges differently, listen to Eleanor Rigby (Starts with a bridge and then a verse, then back to the bridge. No chorus at all.) or Every Breath You Take (Starts with a verse then straight to the bridge, then back to the verse. Again, no chorus. Then... there's like a second bridge later in the song.).

    There's no shame in using the song form you mentioned... there's a reason why it's so common. There is a point during the songwriting process where a song takes on a life of its own. If you listen carefully each song will tell you where it wants to go.

    A
    Great post!!! Let me add the song will tell you if you need a bridge, not the other way around.

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    FALKEN's Avatar
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    Dude you shouldn't worry so much about different sections of the songs and what they are called.

    John Lennon wrote his early songs by taking the blues and turning it into 16-bar sections. Most blues songs do not have a verse and chorus. some do not even have a harmonic structure, but just sit on one chord. Try writing a song with one chord!!!!!

    None of my songs have a "chorus". Just really catchy verses!

    Anywayz...

    The trick to writing a good bridge, or any contrasting section be it a chorus or whatever, is phrasing. the phrase being the melodic line, whether it is sung or instrumental. Most phrases begin on either the first offbeat, or as a pickup going into the first beat. When you change to a different section, your melodic line must start (and end) on a different beat. That is the trick.

    To get more variation, you can also vary the number of beats you play each chord - double or half them or whatever. The idea is to change up the rhythm!

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    dgatwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FALKEN
    The trick to writing a good bridge, or any contrasting section be it a chorus or whatever, is phrasing. the phrase being the melodic line, whether it is sung or instrumental. Most phrases begin on either the first offbeat, or as a pickup going into the first beat. When you change to a different section, your melodic line must start (and end) on a different beat. That is the trick.

    To get more variation, you can also vary the number of beats you play each chord - double or half them or whatever. The idea is to change up the rhythm!
    Well, that's one way to get contrast. I disagree with the whole 'must' bit, though. A good bridge should either by rhythmically different, have a different feel, a different progression, or ideally, some combination thereof.

    Personally, I prefer to do the change in feel as an instrument break, say Vs Ch Vs Br Ch Inst Br Ch. In that form, the bridge should connect the verse and chorus stylistically, and the instrument break should naturally flow into the bridge at the end (which is what gets a little tricky at times...). However, in such a scheme, the bridge really needs completely different changes or else it doesn't feel like a bridge. (Well, IMHO, it does anyway, but....)

    A bridge is also a nice place for a key change... or a false key change, for even more fun. Here's one I like. For example purposes, I'm starting in C.

    Verse ends on a C major chord. 2 beats per chord unless noted.

    Ab Bb Eb Eb/G
    Ab Bb Cmin(4 beats)
    Ab Bb G7 Cmin
    Db/F Ab/Eb Db Ab/C
    Bbsusp4 Bb(1 beat) Bb/Ab(1 beat) Csusp4/G
    Gsusp4(1 beat) G(1 beat)

    Back in C.

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    Let the song dictate what happens when and where...

    If you spend too much time trying to analyze structure and components, the song will end up sounding sterile and void of emotion...

    I've written stuff where I've actually dropped a riff or progression that I figured would be the perfect bridge, but when playing the song, it just didn't flow into it...

    In the end, it's the music that makes the call...


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    Unsprung is offline Force of Nature
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    Most all of the songs I've written certainly don't follow "traditional songwriting form" of into/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/outro. Several of my songs are intro/verse/verse/chorus/verse/verse/chorus/BLAM it ends. And that's my stuff with lyrics. All of the surf guitar instumentals that I've created/noodled with for the past 15 years, I've had to "force" myself to create some kind of "chorus" and a bridge for, simply because it would be rather monotonous to hear the same "verse" played repeatedly for 2-3 minutes.

    Matt
    Fast cars and loud guitars!

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    Good Friend is offline girls like musicians
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    ok ok the truth

    Writing a bridge to a song is pretty hard. Well, its hard if you want it to be a true bridge rather than just some novelty change up. Simply changing rhythm or moving to some "minor chord" is not enough and its a stab in the dark at making a bridge what it could really truly be if you knew more about what you were doing.

    It seems like you are wanting your bridge to break the monotony and take the song to a new height before returning back. If that is the case you are talking about "modulation". Modulation occurs when the song changes to a new key. NOT JUST GRABBING SOME NEW CHORDS. First you must establish tonality in the original key. Make sure the listener knows what key you are starting in. Then you can modulate correctly (powerfully, smoothly). Then for the modulation to sound true and strong you must establish tonality in the new key. Establish tonality by using alot of the I, V, III, and IV chords, or if using odd chords use alot of I, V, III, and IV notes in the melody. There are only a few kinds of modulation:

    SHIFT MODULATION: This is the sleaziest and easiest. This is what most amateur songs have. Basically you just choose a new chord and go for it. It takes no skill and it shows. The only way a shift modulation can sound good is if the new key repeats the same chords like a sequential modulation. Alot of 60s music uses that kind of shift. Like when the whole verse and chorus moves up one fret for the end of the song.

    SEQUENTIAL MODULATION: This is when a short melody repeats then repeats at a different pitch, carrying the song into the new key. Like in the song "When Love Comes Knocking at Your Door".

    RELATIVE KEY MODULATION: This is when a song starts in a key, then changes to its relative major or minor. Like if you started in A, you would change the key to F#m, or from C to Am. Now be careful when doing it this way because relative chords are closely related anyways, so using secondary dominants will help make it obvious that the key is truly changing and not just using its relative casually like most songs do anyways. Remember, tonality must be established for the new key to be apparent to the listener.

    PARALLEL KEY MODULATION: The song starts in a major or minor, then modulates to the major or minor of the same chord. For example, you start in A and end up in Am, or start in E and end up in Em. Alot of old Kinks tunes do this.

    PIVOT CHORD MODULATION: The song changes to a new key using a chord common to both keys. This is another tricky one because tonality can be blurry if you dont watch out.

    Modulation in chords has nothing to do with the beat or the rhythm. Unless you are changing the underlying meter of the song, the beats mean practically nothing. Simply adding more snare hits or something is not going to do anything UNLESS the modulation is solid from a harmonic perspective.

    If you want to add a changing feeling try this (which you should be doing already if you are a skilled songwriter). You can make a song feel like its speeding up or slowing down by using augmentation or diminution of the melody rhythm. Meaning you just increase or decrease the number of notes you are singing from part to part. "Across the Universe" has a perfect example of how melodic augmentation and diminution work. You will also find it in a ton of other beatles tunes and practically every other great song as well.

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    guitarmonkus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Good Friend
    Writing a bridge to a song is pretty hard. Well, its hard if you want it to be a true bridge rather than just some novelty change up. Simply changing rhythm or moving to some "minor chord" is not enough and its a stab in the dark at making a bridge what it could really truly be if you knew more about what you were doing.

    It seems like you are wanting your bridge to break the monotony and take the song to a new height before returning back. If that is the case you are talking about "modulation". Modulation occurs when the song changes to a new key. NOT JUST GRABBING SOME NEW CHORDS. First you must establish tonality in the original key. Make sure the listener knows what key you are starting in. Then you can modulate correctly (powerfully, smoothly). Then for the modulation to sound true and strong you must establish tonality in the new key. Establish tonality by using alot of the I, V, III, and IV chords, or if using odd chords use alot of I, V, III, and IV notes in the melody. There are only a few kinds of modulation:

    SHIFT MODULATION: This is the sleaziest and easiest. This is what most amateur songs have. Basically you just choose a new chord and go for it. It takes no skill and it shows. The only way a shift modulation can sound good is if the new key repeats the same chords like a sequential modulation. Alot of 60s music uses that kind of shift. Like when the whole verse and chorus moves up one fret for the end of the song.

    SEQUENTIAL MODULATION: This is when a short melody repeats then repeats at a different pitch, carrying the song into the new key. Like in the song "When Love Comes Knocking at Your Door".

    RELATIVE KEY MODULATION: This is when a song starts in a key, then changes to its relative major or minor. Like if you started in A, you would change the key to F#m, or from C to Am. Now be careful when doing it this way because relative chords are closely related anyways, so using secondary dominants will help make it obvious that the key is truly changing and not just using its relative casually like most songs do anyways. Remember, tonality must be established for the new key to be apparent to the listener.

    PARALLEL KEY MODULATION: The song starts in a major or minor, then modulates to the major or minor of the same chord. For example, you start in A and end up in Am, or start in E and end up in Em. Alot of old Kinks tunes do this.

    PIVOT CHORD MODULATION: The song changes to a new key using a chord common to both keys. This is another tricky one because tonality can be blurry if you dont watch out.

    Modulation in chords has nothing to do with the beat or the rhythm. Unless you are changing the underlying meter of the song, the beats mean practically nothing. Simply adding more snare hits or something is not going to do anything UNLESS the modulation is solid from a harmonic perspective.

    If you want to add a changing feeling try this (which you should be doing already if you are a skilled songwriter). You can make a song feel like its speeding up or slowing down by using augmentation or diminution of the melody rhythm. Meaning you just increase or decrease the number of notes you are singing from part to part. "Across the Universe" has a perfect example of how melodic augmentation and diminution work. You will also find it in a ton of other beatles tunes and practically every other great song as well.
    A damn good post...
    It's turtles all the way down...

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    32-20-Blues's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by guitarmonkus
    A damn good post...
    Yep. I can't follow all of it, but its always impressive to see someone who knows their theory.
    [QUOTE=ez_willis;2773888]IMO, live, quality rock and roll musicianship peaked while recording The Last Waltz. [/QUOTE]

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