Sometimes I'll play a song that I think is finished for some friends and someone will say, "The song needs a bridge!!".
First of all it makes me feel like that person feels the song is not that "stout" and maybe needs something more in the song...but...does it need a bridge?? Maybe it just needs better, clearer verses? Maybe it needs a better chorus? But, does it REALLY need a bridge. Well, I was thinking about a song I'm working on this morning and have that same dilemma and thought I'd throw some thoughts about bridges down on this morning's blog. Along with my own personal rules on bridges.
Rule #1: If you put in a bridge it MUST be the climax of the song...it song must reach its PEAK on the last word of the last line of the bridge. If it doesn't do that....LEAVE IT OUT!!!
Rule #2: The bridge must "plow new ground". If you just rehash what's in a verse or chorus and you aren't adding new "stuff" in a "new way"....LEAVE IT OUT!!!
Rule #3: Does a bridge fit the genre of the music you are writing??? For example: if you are writing a bluegrass song, a bridge many times can be the "kiss of death". The genre itself tends to reject songs with bridges. Now...there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule...but...overall a majority of the bluegrass world doesn't have much use for a bridge in a song. On the other hand...country music, gospel, and others tend to embrace a bridge...BUT...even then see Rule 1 & 2!!!! :)
Rule #4: A bridge should take a musical detour from the verse and chorus to add excitement to the song at about the 2:00 minute point give or take. It should raise the song to a new level musically and many times the bridge will lead into a key modulation or other to re-energize the ear of the listener. In addition to a lyrical climax...the bridge should also bring a musical climax to the song. If it doesn't....LEAVE IT OUT!!!
Rule #5: WHEN IN DOUBT.....LEAVE IT OUT!!! In my opinion if there is ANY doubt that the bridge doesn't meet rule 1-4...I leave it out.
So...with these 5 basic rules in mind I'll go back to my song this morning and lay these rules over the top of the bridge and see if it breaks any of the rules. Knowing basic rules of songwriting is helpful and as mentioned they are made to be broken as LONG AS YOU BREAK THEM FOR A GOOD REASON!! If you consciously break a rule for the benefit of the song...that can be effective and very kewl sometimes but you should understand basic rules of songwriting before breaking them.
Good use of a bridge can do great things for a song but it can also destroy a song if not used properly. I hope these rules that I use, might help you decide if a bridge is REALLY needed in your song and also if it is a quality bridge. I'll let you know what I decide and if a bridge did or didn't work on my song today in a future blog and maybe post the demo of the song. :) Of course as always, this is my 2 cents and your mileage may vary.
Have a great day...stay warm...and remember: Write more - whine less!!!