Think of the timeless ballad “Something,” from the Beatles’ Abbey Road, in which George Harrison muses on his lover’s allure over a wistful chord progression in the key of C.
He sings a verse and loops back for another by way of the song’s signature guitar line, but the second time he lands not on a C chord, the I, but on an A major—a striking change, especially after the appearance of A minor a couple bars before. And with that, “Something” launches into another zone—it’s in a different key, with a new drum groove, harmony vocals enter (“You’re asking me will my love grow . . . .”), the lyrics darken, and the melody soars above the verse. The intensity and tension build . . . and then release as Harrison drops back into the original key of C, taking us out with a sweet guitar solo and a closing verse.
That dramatic departure in the middle—just eight bars long—is the bridge, also known as the middle eight. The bridge creates a welcome contrast to the repeating verse-chorus sections of a song, and is a short break about two-thirds of the way through that refreshes our ears for the ending. It’s not the centerpiece of the song—it doesn’t usually contain the hook or title—but often the bridge provides a great song with its most sublime moments. Just think of the beautiful harmonic, melodic, and lyrical turns in the bridges in “Over the Rainbow” (“One day I wish upon a star . . . ”), “Crazy” (“Worry, why do I let myself worry . . . ”), or “Yesterday” (“Why she had to go . . . ”).
For songwriters, the question is: How do you create these kinds of transporting moments in your own songs? As with everything in songwriting, there’s no formula for constructing a bridge, but taking a close look inside some classic songs can help you get started. Here are seven ideas to try, with examples from the pop and rock canon.
Read the full lesson
, published in the September 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar
Here is the accompanying playlist.
For more songwriting tips and lessons, see The Complete Singer-Songwriter