The Golden Rule for Writing an Emotionally Moving Bridge

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So what is the key to an amazing bridge?

In a word: Contrast

First off, let me preface. This blog is going to get into the different parts of song form. I will use terms like: Verse, Bridge, PreChorus, Refrain, Chorus, Etc.

If these seem totally unfamiliar, check out Pat Pattison’s book Writing Better Lyrics (not affiliated). His chapter on song form is eye opening. 

This book is basically the bible for song writers. So much amazing material in here. I digress…

OK enough on Pat Pattison, because I could go all day.

The Breakdown:

With a typical song we will be writing about a them. Love, hate, new relationships, lost relationships, family, friends, etc.

Usually as the writer, I will use the verses to add details, tell the story and paint a picture.

Verses are used to get into the specifics.

When it comes to a chorus, I am looking to lay down a repeatable memorable hook.

An anthem if you will.

Something that can be repeated and remembered by listeners.

Usually the chorus will contain the general idea of the song, and the verses will speckle detail and move the story along.

Looking at the song form:

Verse // Chorus // Verse // Chorus // Bridge // Chorus

Writing a good bridge is absolutely in key.

In traditional song form, the bridge will set the scene for the final chorus.

And you want the last chorus to be the most powerful emotional chorus to end the song on with impactful moment.

And that is where we get into the golden rule of bridge writing:

Contrast

Take the listener in the exact opposite direction you took them during the verse and chorus.

Create thematic contrast.

It will help engage the listener and add depth to the story you are telling.

 

Example:

Let’s take a look at the Grammy Winning Song Daughters by John Mayer.

The theme here talks about parenting, and the impact it can have on a woman and her relationships later in life.

The verses start, introducing a girl John, or whoever the storyteller might be:

VERSE 1:

I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change
And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me

Then Chorus 1. Here we get to the main idea. An emotional testament to the importance of good parenting.

Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too

Now verse two. We get a new perspective learning about the father leaving. More colors being speckled onto the theme.

Verse 2:

Oh, you see that skin?
It’s the same she’s been standing in
Since the day she saw him walking away
Now she’s left
Cleaning up the mess he made

Now Chorus 2:

So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too

Now the Bridge:

Boys, you can break
You find out how much they can take
Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on
But boys would be gone without the warmth from
A woman’s good, good heart

Boom. Complete opposite direction.

This is first time we are hearing about boys, and their part of this story.

What is the exact opposite of a song about Daughters? In Mayer’s words, Boys.

Well played Mr. Mayer.

John is far from the first writer to do this though.

I will not go into the exact details of these but check out the songs below to get the idea.

Another Example:

  • One Call Away – Charlie Puth
    • The verses talk about strength, positive emotions, etc.
    • When the verse hits, we hear words like “weak”, “hope is gone”

So if you are writing a song about a theme, just go to the opposite of that theme for your bridge.

If your song is about the flaming passion of a new relationship, write a bridge about the cold loneliness of when you are apart.

If your song is about the lows of your past relationships, throw in a bridge talking about your hopefulness for the future.

Getting the idea?

It is so simple, yet so powerful.

Your homework, as you are listening to songs this week, be active in dissecting those songs.

Figure out what tricks the writer is using to create emotion.

Specifically, see if you can find some example of songs that incorporate bridges with thematic contrast.

If you find any, comment the names of the songs below.

Thanks,

Peter