Songwriting

Bridges: A Songwriter’s Rule Of Thumb

by Marty Dodson
Sep 27, 2015

One of the most difficult moments in the process of writing a song is “bridge time.”

I have been in many co-writes where we agonized over whether or not we need a bridge. At one point, early in my career, I came to my publisher to ask him if I needed a bridge in a song I was working on. He asked “Is there a river to cross?”. I had no idea what he meant, so he said “Don’t build a bridge if there’s not a river to cross. He went on to explain that, if you have said everything you need to say in your song, you don’t need a lyrical bridge. There’s no need to say the same thing again. If there is more to say, or if you need to throw in some surprise element that brings the song home, then write a bridge.

As I looked at my song, I realized that I had said everything that needed to be said. It was a nice, tight package. So, we added an interesting musical solo section instead. I use the “Don’t build a bridge…” line a lot. Last week, I threw it out in a co-write because my co-writer kept insisting that we needed a bridge and I thought we had said everything there was to say. When I said it, she said “It can’t be that simple.” As we continued to look at the song, she realized that there was nothing new to say and it really IS that simple. I discovered that she thought we needed a bridge because the song was not very long. But…

Adding something that you’ve already said just to make a song longer is not going to make the song better.

That’s like adding more flour to make your cake bigger. It’s not going to turn out well. So, if there’s something left unsaid that adds to the song, build a bridge. If there’s no river to cross, leave well enough along. Maybe a nice solo is just what you need!

Write on! Marty

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

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