What is a bridge and how do you write one? Music producer and Ableton Certified Trainer LNA walks you through the art of bridge-building with these 5 simple techniques, ready for use in Ableton Live or any other DAW.
Bridge, also known as C-part or middle eight, is a contrasting section of a song with many potential functions. It may deepen the meaning of the lyrics, continue the story of the song or introduce new rhythms and melodies. It may also create variation, interest and change to the arrangement or add some tension, movement and structure.
“The general structure of a great song usually includes a chorus, verse and bridge that are fused harmoniously together. The chorus often provides a platform for the catchiest ideas in the song, while the lyrics stand out for evocative ideas. Lastly, the bridge comes in as an opportunity to incorporate a change in the song pace.” (Joanne Cooper, 2020)
The bridge is usually situated in the second half of the song, right before the last chorus. In this sense, it acts as a staircase to the grand finale of the song.
One of the most typical song structures is ABABCB, where C stands for bridge (or C-part). However, a bridge is not mandatory – everything depends on your vision for the song and its structure.
Tutorial Tip! To learn more about song structures and arrangement, watch this tutorial.
Click the headline to see what dynamics and tension look like in one of LNA’s pop songs.
Her song consists of continuous build-ups, lifts and drops, each chorus being a bit bigger than the previous one. In the bridge, the dynamics drop completely to gather energy for the final chorus.
The easiest way to create a bridge like this is to use the same elements you’ve already used – just strip them down for a moment and add on to them towards the end. Also, try automating the frequency in Auto Filter – a great tip to be used all over the song to add movement and tension.
A simple, yet effective way to add variation and interest in the bridge is to change the rhythm of the song.
Choose a desired drum part and freeze and flatten it to be able to manipulate it as an audio file. Then extend it or make it shorter, change its pitch or even reverse it by using Ableton’s tool tabs.
Once you’re done, add an Auto Filter to bring the new rhythm in smoothly.
If you’re using synths in your song, try creating a mood change with a new chord progression in the bridge. Play around to find some interesting new chords in both major and minor, then mix them boldly together. Maybe you can even change their pitch to make them an octave higher or lower?
As you can see from the tutorial, there are some third-party plugins to ease your workflow, but they aren't necessary. E.g. Scale Mode, found in Ableton’s clip view, is an excellent tool, showing which notes belong to a selected scale.
To polish up the new chord progression, add an Auto Filter and adjust its LFO controls to create a cool pulsing effect.
If your song has lyrics, you probably want to have some in your bridge as well.
It’s quite common that the bridge changes perspectives of the song by adding a plot twist, introducing a resolution to a problem or having a look into the future. The lyrics are usually accompanied by an alternative melody.
Click the headline above to see what kind of lyrics LNA created for her song!
An alternative melody can be created by singing but also by a new instrument. You can play it in yourself in Ableton or with a physical instrument – or you can ask a skilled friend to do it for you to add a whole new level to the song-making process.
However, you may want to introduce the new instrument to your listeners earlier in the song, e.g. in transitions and fills. This way, it doesn’t come in too abruptly but complements what we’ve heard before and fuses nicely together with the whole.
Photos: Tima Miroshnichenko, cottonbro studio, Monstera, Anna Pou & Anna Shvets / Pexels