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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 or "Montgomery-Ward" 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, Satin Doll (Standard - 1958), Are You Lonesome Tonight? (3/4 time; Elvis Presley - 1960), and Winchester Cathedral (New Vaudeville Band - 1965).

C7 / / / / / / / F / / / / / / /
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]

Gm7 / / / C7 / / / F / / / / / / /
Am7 / / / D7 / / / Dm7 / / / G7 / / /

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

C7 / / / C13 / / / Fmaj7 / / / / / / /
D7 / / / Am7 / D7 / G7 / / / Dm7 / G7 /

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

Gm7 / / / C7 / / / F / / / / / / /
D7 / / / / / / / G7 / / / G+ / / /

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

Gm / / / C7 / / / F / / / / / / /
Am / / / D7 / / / G7 / / / / / / /

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

C / / / F7 / / / D7 / / / G7 / / /
C / / / F7 / / / D7 / / / Db7 / / /

Rock And Roll Bridge

In the late 1950s and 1960s, songwriters added the "IV" chord in front of the three-chord trick to create the "IV-I-IV-V" rock and roll bridge progression shown in the first example below in the key of C. This progression was used to write the bridge progressions to All Shook Up (Elvis Presley - 1957), Rockin' Robin (Bobby Day - 1958), Sea Cruise (Frankie Ford - 1959), Runaround Sue (Dion - 1961), Chains (Cookies - 1962), and I'm Looking Through You (Beatles - 1965). Dominic Pedler in his book The Songwriting Secrets of The Beatles described it like this: "Back in the pop and rok scene of the fiftes and early sixties, key-switching of all types was surprisingly rare, while middle eights (with a few spectacular exceptions) were mundane affairs...The convention was invariably to start the bridge with a direct move to the IV chord, and after some innocuous filler, end with an Imperfect cadence on V before resuming the verse on I. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)...shows the most primitive of such bridges in action, with the eight bars divided into the following format:"

F / / / / / / / C / / / / / / /
F / / / / / / / G / / / / / / /

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

Maybe Baby (Buddy Holly - 1958)
[added F chord]

F / / / / / / / C / F / C / / /
F / / / / / / / G / / / / / / /

Lollipop (Chordettes - 1958)
[added F chord & II-V for V substitution]

F / / / / / / / C / F / C / / /
F / / / / / / / D7 / / / G / / /

Great Balls Of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis - 1958)
[added four bars of G7 chord]

F7 / / / / / / / C / / / / / / /
F7 / / / / / / / G7 / / / / / / /
G7 / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Alley Cat (Bent Fabric - 1962)
[added bar of F chord]

F / / / / / / / C / / / / / / /
F / / / / / / / / / / / G7 / / /

Glad All Over (Dave Clark Five - 1964)
[added F chord; dominant seventh substitution]

Ab / / / / / / / C / F / C / / /
F / / / / / / / G / / / G+ / / /

Ain't She Sweet (Milton Ager - 1927)
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Beatles - 1968)
[added C chord]

F7 / / / / / / / C / / / / / / /
F7 / / / / / / / C / / / G7 / / /

It's So Easy (Buddy Holly - 1958)
You Got What It Takes (Marvin Jackson - 1960)
Any Way You Want It (Dave Clark Five - 1964)
Hearts Of Glass (Blondie - 1979)
[II-V for V substitution]

F / / / / / / / C / / / / / / /
F / / / / / / / D / / / G / / /

(They Long To Be) Close To You (Carpenters - 1970)
[mediant & dominant seventh substitution]

F / / / / / / / Em / / / A9 / / /
F / / / / / / / G / / / / / / /

I Can Help (Billy Swan - 1974)
[backcycled & F for D7 substitution]

F / / / G / / / C / / / C7 / / /
F / / / D7 / / / G7 / / / G7+5 / / /

Misery (Beatles - 1963)
[mediant substitution]

Am / / / / / / / C / / / / / / /
Am / / / / / / / G7 / / / / / / /

Devil In Her Heart (Beatles - 1964)
[parallel major/minor & II-V for V substitution]

F / / / Fm / / / C / / / C7 / / /
F / / / Fm / / / D7 / / / G / / /

World Without Love (Peter & Gordon - 1964)
[parallel major/minor, IIm-V for V, and tritone substitution]

Fm / / / / / / / C / / / / / / /
Fm / / / / / / / Dm7 / / / Ab / G7 /

I Will (Beatles - 1968)
[backcycled substitution]

F / Em / Am / / / Dm7 / G7 / C / C7 /
F / Em / Am / / / D7 / / / G7 / / /

Anna (Go To Him) (Beatles - 1963)
[extended form; II-V for V substitution]

F / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
C / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
F / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
D / / / / / / / G / / / / / / /

The following progression substitutes the "D7" for the "F" chord creating the IV-I-II-V rock and roll bridge substitution. It is followed by several examples with further chord substitutions.

Dream Lover (Bobby Darin - 1959)
I'll Get You (Beatles - 1964)
One After 909 (repeated; Beatles - 1970)

F / / / / / / / C / / / / / / /
D7 / / / / / / / G7 / / / / / / /

Return To Sender (Elvis Presley - 1962)
[added bar of F chord]

F / / / / / / / / / / / C / / /
D7 / / / / / / / G7 / / / / / / /

Back In The USSR (Beatles - 1968)
[dominant seventh substitution with a restated tag]

F7 / / / / / / / C7 / / / / / / /
F / F/E / F/Eb / D7 / G7 / / / F7 / / /
C / / / D7 / G7 /

Oh! Darling (12/8; Beatles - 1968)
[dominant seventh, II-V for V, & tritone substitution]

F / / / Ab / / / C / / / C7 / / /
D / / / / / / / G / Ab / G / G+ /

I Call Your Name (Beatles - 1964)
[relative minor & II-V for V/tritone substitution]

F7 / / / / / / / Am / / / / / / /
D7 / / / / / / / Ab7 / / / G7 / / /

What You're Doing (Beatles - 1965)
[mediant & relative minor substitution]

F / / / Am / / / F / / / Am / / /
D / / / / / / / G / / / / / / /

This Boy (12/8 time; Beatles - 1963)
[relative and parallel minor/major & backcycled substitution]

F / / / E7 / / / Am / / / C7 / / /
F / / / D7 / / / G7 / / / / / / /

You Won't See Me (Anne Murray - 1974)
[relative and parallel major/minor & half step substitution]

Dm / / / Fm / / / Bo7 / / / C / / /
D7 / / / / / / / G11 / / / G7 / / /

Till There Was You (from "The Music Man" - 1957)
[parallel major/minor, dominant seventh, & descending minor cliche substitution]

F / / / Fm / / / C / / / A9 / / /
Dm / Dm(M7) / Dm7 / D7 / G / G9 / G+ / / /

The following progression omits the "I" chord creating the "IV-V" rock and roll bridge variation. It is followed by several examples with further chord substitutions.

Ballad Of John And Yoko (Beatles - 1969)

F / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
F / / / / / / / G7 / / / / / / /

I Saw Her Standing There (Beatles - 1963)
[added two bars of F7 to delay resolution]

F7 / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
F7 / / / / / / / G7 / / / / / / /
F7 / / / / / / /

Ticket To Ride (Beatles - 1965)
[shortened & repeated]

F7 / / / / / / / / / / / G7 / / /
F7 / / / / / / / / / / / G7 / / /

Blues-Based Bridge

The "IV-I-V-IV-I" blues-based bridge is created by using the last eight bars of a twelve-bar blues progression shown in the first example below in the key of C. This progression was used to write the bridge progression to Raunchy (Bill Justis - 1957).

F / / / / / / / C / / / / / / /
G7 / / / F7 / / / C / / / / / / /

An example of the blues-based bridge progression with a chord substitutions is shown below. The type of substitution employed is shown in brackets below the song title.

All My Loving (instrumental; Beatles - 1963)
[ii-V for V substitution]

F / / / / / / / C / / / / / / /
Dm / / / G / / / C / / / / / / /

Rhythm Changes

The term rhythm changes originated in the late 1940s by bebop musicians to refer to the chord progression or changes to the 1930 Gershwin standard I Got Rhythm. Legend has it that jazz musicians of the time were encouraged by their recording companies to write new songs using popular chord progressions to avoid paying royalties to the original songwriters. The most popular chord progressions used were the blues and the rhythm changes. Like the blues, many chord substitutions are possible within the progression. The rhythm changes consist of a 32-bar harmonic structure following the AABA song form. The "III-VI-II-V" B section/bridge progression to the rhythm changes follows the circle of fifths. The standard rhythm changes bridge progression also known as a "Sears" bridge is shown below in the key of C. This progression was used to write the bridge progressions to numerous jazz tunes based on the rhythm changes. An example of the use of this progression in a non-rhythm changes song including Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue (Ray Henderson - 1925), Sherry (4 Seasons - 1962), and Bits And Pieces (Dave Clark Five - 1964).

E7 / / / / / / / A7 / / / / / / /
D7 / / / / / / / G7 / / / / / / /

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

Ah-Leu-Cha (Charlie Parker - 1948)
[ii-V for V substitution]

Bm7 / / / E7 / / / A7 / / / / / / /
D7 / / / / / / / Dm7 / / / G7 / / /

Turnpike (J.J. Johnson - 1953)
[ii-V for V & tritone substitution]

Bm7 / / / E7 / / / Em7 / / / A7 / / /
Am7 / / / D7 / / / Abm7 / / / Db7 / / /

Additional Resources

If you want to learn more about Bridge Progressions, take a look at the following lessons:

A Bridge To Be Crossed - An in-depth look at the bridge of Cherokee (gregfishmanjazzstudios.com)

Blues With A Bridge (MoneyChords)

Building Bridges (Guitar Noise)

Chord Substitution (MoneyChords)

Rhythm Changes (MoneyChords)

Satin Doll (MoneyChords)

If you would like to learn more about Chord Progressions, try exploring the following website:

MoneyChords.com

Olav Torvund's Guitar Pages

The Maximum Musician

Rich Scott, is a singer/songwriter with a degree in education. He is also the owner/webmaster of MoneyChords.com, a popular guitar lessons website. His most recent book is "Chord Progressions For Songwriters," a series of twenty-one chord progression lessons that every songwriter (and guitarist or keyboard player) should know inside and out.


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