Songwriting “Take It To The Bridge”…Please!

The bridge is falling down and I’m bummed! I understand the philosophy, we’re in a sound bite, short attention span place right now with most everything. No one wants to invest the time in listening to a whole record, an EP is about right. I get it, but it’s such a classic songwriting tool I hate to see it go the way of the album. It’s hard to find one on country radio for the past few years, don’t bore us, get us to the chorus…. and keep us there seems to be the rule.

In my coaching it comes up at least once with new writers wanting to know what the difference between the bridge and the rest of the song is. Do I need one? If I write it where does it go? How long should it be?

The easy version is that the bridge should be a departure from the other elements of the song. My friend John Braheny put it as well as anyone when he said the song is a journey along the main road, the super highway and the bridge is the exit or detour we take to get a different view along the way. Great while you’re there and it always leads you back to the main highway. Good bridges are usually another hook in a song. Just check out most Beatle songs. “Life is very short and there’s no time….” from “We Can Work It Out”, or the bridge in “She’s Leaving Home” sometime. Just as memorable as the chorus is and…one more hook.

We should be talking about a new melody, new meter, chord changes, rhythm, not too long maybe four/eight lines and a place to introduce new info lyrically. They really work well in songs that have lot’s of repetition in the chorus. Gives the listener a break and something new before you haul ‘em back to the big hook. Almost always happen after the second chorus and usually doesn’t contain the chorus lyric. Not every song needs it but I’m hearing more and more that could use it. It’s just a beautiful thing when it surprises you and shows you the cool old part of town before you get back on the highway.

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Dedicating all my blogs this year to the memory of John Braheny. I still ask every songwriter or artist I coach to pick

up his book before we start talking. 

There is also a college scholarship in John's name, through the California Copyright Conference (John was a past president)'s the link:

Image: Google Images


Mark Cawley's songs have appeared on more than 15 million records. Over a career based in LA, London, and Nashville his songs have been recorded by an incredibly diverse range of artists. From Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross and Chaka Kahn to The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing and Pop Idol winners in the UK. He has had #1 records in the UK and throughout Europe as well as cuts in Country, Jazz & R & B. His groundbreaking website Song Journey created with Hall of Fame writer Kye Fleming was the first to mentor writers from around the world one-on-one online. He is currently writing and publishing as well as helping writers and artists worldwiide with a one-on-one co-active coaching service, iDoCoach.