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Bridge Construction

Rich Scott (693) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Beginner · Tempo: 140
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

Bridge Construction
By Rich Scott


The bridge (also known as the break, middle eight, release, channel, or inside) is the eight-bar B section of a 32-bar AABA song form. You will also find bridges of various lengths in the verse/chorus/bridge and blues with a bridge song forms. Regardless of the song form, the purpose of the bridge is to provide a contrast to the surrounding sections. In addition to modulation, contrast can also be created by introducing a new chord progression. The bridge usually occurs only once, is generally not longer than eight bars, has a melody different from other song sections, and contains two or four lines of lyric that do not include the song title or hook. Below is a discussion of four formulas used to create bridge progressions that every songwriter should know inside out. Notice that three of the four formulas end on a half cadence ("V") setting up the return to the tonic ("I") chord in the A section.

Commercial Bridge

Tin Pan Alley songwriters routinely relied on the "I-IV-II-V" chord sequence to quickly create an eight-bar B section to complete their songs. This progression known as the commercial bridge, shown below in the key of C. This progression was used to create the bridge progression to many songs including If You Knew Susie (Like I Knew Susie), Easter Parade, Are You Lonesome Tonight? (3/4 time; Elvis Presley - 1960), and Winchester Cathedral (New Vaudeville Band - 1965).



D7 / / / / / / / G7 / / / / / / /


Several examples of the commercial bridge progression with chord substitutions are shown below. The type of substitution employed is shown in brackets below the song title.

When You're Smiling (Standard - 1928)
On The Sunny Side Of The Street (Standard - 1930)
[ii-V for V substitution]



Am7 / / / D7 / / / Dm7 / / / G7 / / /


Pennies From Heaven (Standard - 1936)
[ii-V for V substitution]



D7 / / / Am7 / D7 / G7 / / / Dm7 / G7 /


From Me To You (Beatles - 1963)
[ii-V for V substitution]



D7 / / / / / / / G7 / / / G+ / / /


The Night Before (Beatles - 1965)
[ii-V for V substitution]



Am / / / D7 / / / G7 / / / / / / /


Things We Said Today (Beatles - 1964)
[shortened/repeated commercial bridge progression; tritone substitution]



C / / / F7 / / / D7 / / / Db7 / / /


Bridge Construction