In songwriting, the bridge is a passage that contrasts all that has come before. It leads listeners on a brief detour, then transitions back into more familiar material–such as the chorus or another verse.
The term comes from the German Meistersingers, who were craftsmen of lyric poetry, music composition, and a capella songs. The Meistersingers called a contrasting transitional section a steg, German for “bridge”. Much later, during World War II, German composers who fled Nazi Germany found work in the U.S. on Broadway and Hollywood. As they did, they introduced the term “bridge” to U.S. composers and lyricists.
What’s a bridge made of?
The contents of a bridge section contrasts everything else the listener has heard up to that point. The goal of the bridge is to renew the attention of listeners and give them a satisfying feeling of having been led off into the wilderness, taken on a bit of an adventure, then guided back into familiar territory. After a bridge section, the chorus and verse sections should feel new again.
A bridge can be instrumental or contain vocals. If there is lyrical content in a bridge, it tends to contain entirely new information, insight, or even some kind of game-changing dramatic event.
Musically, bridges often modulate into a different key and then lead back into the song’s original key toward the end.
A bridge usually occurs sometime during the latter half of a song, after listeners have acclimated to the sounds of the other sections such as the verse and chorus. The bridge is sometimes also called the “Middle Eight” because it occurs roughly in the middle of a song and contains about eight measures.
Bridges appear often in western pop music.