What is a Bridge (Middle 8) in Song?
I don't know about you, but when I was younger I used to freak out when my dad drove across bridges suspended over water.
There was an obvious reason for using the bridge; to connect us from the start of our journey to its end, but there was just something so unsettling about being so high up over the river, and having to trust in this structure that could fail me at any time.
All I knew was I wanted to cross over to the other side as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, adding a bridge to your song structure can be just as nerve-racking. You may have said, "(Sigh) I just want to get to the end of my song as quickly as possible" but you can't seem to figure out how to build your bridge.
Maybe you tried before and it just didn't seem to fit. Or maybe this is your first time and you don't know how to start...either way don't worry. Hopefully by the end of this you will.
Lyrically, the bridge is the section of your song that (a) gives your audience time to reflect on your story, or (b) gives them the "climax" or conclusion of the story you just shared through your verses and chorus.
If you're going for reflection time, it may be easier to think of a bridge as your micro-diary or journal where if you weren't clear about your emotions throughout your song, you're free to spill your guts in this section.
Tell your listener exactly what you're feeling. In the example below, at 2:32 of her song, "See You Again", Carrie Underwood directly sings that she feels like her heart is breaking but that she'll hold on knowing (she'll see whomever again)...
Notice how her lyric at the end of her bridge flows right into the words of her chorus.
Now if you're trying to wrap-up a story with a conclusion in your song, it may be easier to think of a bridge as the arc OR plot-twist of a movie. What happens as a result of your song's story? Where are you taking us on this journey we're on? Have we arrived?
Musical Bridge (Middle 8)
Bridges are also called "middle 8's" because they usually occur in the middle of common pop songs and often take up 8 bars (i.e. eight counts of 4 beats), but not always.
For instance, skip to 2:52 seconds in Anna Kendrick’s song "Cups", and as soon as the 3-person group starts clapping hands, start counting "1...2...3...4...2...2...3...4..." (count both numbers AND dots) on each beat up to "8...2...3...4", and notice as soon as you're finished the song immediately leads back into her chorus.
This is the "Middle 8".
Now also notice from this song that bridges can be used to give your singer a break (sometimes there's just nothing more to say). So maybe you'd like to use your bridge for a music interlude.
Now there are also smaller breaks you can give your song. They're called...well...breaks (lol), but back to this lesson.
Musically, the bridge is usually a stark contrast from the sound of the rest of your song.
So feel free to introduce a different rhythmic pattern of your beat, introduce a new melody developed from your core chords, or an entirely different melody altogether.
Rules for adding Bridges to your Song's Structure
Hooks are very powerful, so I hope you choose to use this power for good.
- Build Bridge Melody from Core Melody - Again, you (or your musician) are allowed to let loose and write something new, or build from your core melody. Try writing the same notes in a different key.
Try adding dubstep!. But whatever you do, make sure your bridge smoothly returns back to the core melody and/or chorus after it's finished.
- Connect Your Bridge - Write your bridge 3/4 the length of your song (middle 8) when everything's pretty much finished. Make it 1/2 the size of your verses...but don't hold yourself to this rule.
- Don't Burn Your Bridge, Lyrically - Remember, this moment is for reflection. What's the result of the story you've shared? Or how do you feel? Conclude your
story. Don't add more to it...that's what verses are for.
- Above all else KEEP WRITING – The more you work on writing lyrics the better you'll get.
Learn How To Structure Your Bridges
Join my Songwriting Training Group and get FREE access to my Song Structure Vault, and songwriting guidance
All the best,
Do you have any questions? Post in the comments below.
Share this article with other aspiring songwriters if you like this page.