Bridge (music)
In music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, especially western popular music
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

, a bridge is a contrasting section which also prepares for the return of the original material section. The bridge may be the third eight-bar phrase in a thirty-two-bar form
Thirty-two-bar form
The thirty-two-bar form, often called AABA from the musical form or order in which its melodies occur, is common in Tin Pan Alley songs and later popular music including rock, pop and jazz...

 (the B in AABA), or it may be used more loosely in verse-chorus form
Verse-chorus form
Verse-chorus form is a musical form common in popular music and predominant in rock since the 1960s. In contrast to AABA form, which is focused on the verse , in verse-chorus form the chorus is highlighted...

, or, in a compound AABA form, used as a contrast to a full AABA section.

The term comes from a German word for bridge, "Steg," used by the Meistersingers
A Meistersinger was a member of a German guild for lyric poetry, composition and unaccompanied art song of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. The Meistersingers were drawn from middle class males for the most part.-Guilds:...

 of the 15th to 18th century to describe a transitional section in medieval bar form
Bar form
Bar form is a musical form of the pattern AAB.-Original Use:The term comes from the rigorous terminology of the Meistersinger guilds of the 15th to 18th century who used it to describe their songs and the songs of the predecessors, the minnesingers of the 12th to 14th century...

. The German term became widely known in 1920's Germany through musicologist Alfred Lorentz and his exhaustive studies of Richard Wagner's adaptations of bar form in his popular 19th century neo-medieval operas. The term entered the English lexicon in the 1930's as its translated guise "bridge" via composers fleeing Nazi Germany who, finding employment in Hollywood and on Broadway, used the term to describe similarly transitional sections in the American popular music they were now writing.


Lyrically, the bridge is typically used to pause and reflect on the earlier portions of the song or to prepare the listener for the climax. The term may also be used to refer to the section between the verse and the chorus, although this is more commonly referred to as the pre-chorus or link. The theme "The Song That Goes Like This
The Song That Goes Like This
The Song That Goes Like This is a song written by Eric Idle from the musical comedy Spamalot. The song's melody is intentionally treacly and insipid, and is essentially a parody of the love songs written by composers like Andrew Lloyd Webber....

" from the musical play Spamalot
Monty Python's Spamalot is a musical comedy "lovingly ripped off from" the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Like the film, it is a highly irreverent parody of the Arthurian Legend, but it differs from the film in many ways, especially in its parodies of Broadway theatre...

spoofs in its lyrics the abuse of the bridge in romantic songwriting: Now we can go straight / into the middle eight / a bridge that is too far for me. Similarly, in the Axis of Awesome song "This Is How You Write a Love Song", the lyrics humorously map the movement of the song from chorus to chorus using bridges. Additionally, Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

 makes an in-joke
An in-joke, also known as an inside joke or in joke, is a joke whose humour is clear only to people who are in a particular social group, occupation, or other community of common understanding...

 regarding the use of bridges in popular music in their song "The Crunge
The Crunge
"The Crunge" is a song by English rock band Led Zeppelin from their 1973 album Houses of the Holy. It was also released as the B-side of "D'yer Mak'er".-Overview:The song evolved out of a jam session in the studio...

," with Robert Plant
Robert Plant
Robert Anthony Plant, CBE is an English singer and songwriter best known as the vocalist and lyricist of the iconic rock band Led Zeppelin. He has also had a successful solo career...

 asking at the end, "Where's the confounded bridge?" The song, humorously, does not have a bridge.

Classical music

In classical music, bridges, also known as transitions, are also common although they are much freer in form and length. Formally referred to as a bridge-passage, they are used to delineate separate sections of an extended work, or to smooth what would otherwise be an abrupt modulation such as the transition between the two themes
Theme (music)
In music, a theme is the material, usually a recognizable melody, upon which part or all of a composition is based.-Characteristics:A theme may be perceivable as a complete musical expression in itself, separate from the work in which it is found . In contrast to an idea or motif, a theme is...

 of a sonata form
Sonata form
Sonata form is a large-scale musical structure used widely since the middle of the 18th century . While it is typically used in the first movement of multi-movement pieces, it is sometimes used in subsequent movements as well—particularly the final movement...

. In the latter context, this transition between two musical subjects is often referred to as the "transition theme" ; indeed, in later Romantic
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

 symphonies such as Dvořák
Antonín Dvorák
Antonín Leopold Dvořák was a Czech composer of late Romantic music, who employed the idioms of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. Dvořák’s own style is sometimes called "romantic-classicist synthesis". His works include symphonic, choral and chamber music, concerti, operas and many...

's New World Symphony
Symphony No. 9 (Dvorák)
The Symphony No. 9 in E Minor "From the New World", Op. 95, B. 178 , popularly known as the New World Symphony, was composed by Antonín Dvořák in 1893 during his visit to the United States from 1892 to 1895. It is by far his most popular symphony, and one of the most popular in the modern repertoire...

 or César Franck
César Franck
César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck was a composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who worked in Paris during his adult life....

's Symphony in D minor
Symphony in D minor (Franck)
The Symphony in D minor is the most famous orchestral work and the only symphony written by the 19th-century Belgian composer César Franck. After two years of work, the symphony was completed 22 August 1888. It was premiered at the Paris Conservatory on 17 February 1889 under the direction of ...

, the transition theme becomes almost a third subject in itself.

The latter work also provides several good examples of a short bridge to smooth a modulation
Modulation (music)
In music, modulation is most commonly the act or process of changing from one key to another. This may or may not be accompanied by a change in key signature. Modulations articulate or create the structure or form of many pieces, as well as add interest...

. Instead of simply repeating the whole exposition in the original key, as would be done in a symphony of the classical period
Classical period (music)
The dates of the Classical Period in Western music are generally accepted as being between about 1750 and 1830. However, the term classical music is used colloquially to describe a variety of Western musical styles from the ninth century to the present, and especially from the sixteenth or...

, Franck repeats the first subject a minor third higher in F minor. A two-bar bridge achieves this transition with his characteristic combination of enharmonic and chromatic modulation. After the repeat of the first subject, another bridge of four bars is needed to lead into the transition theme in F major, the key of the true second subject.

An example of a bridge-passage used to separate two sections of a more loosely organized work occurs in George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

's An American in Paris
An American in Paris
An American in Paris is a symphonic tone poem by the American composer George Gershwin, written in 1928. Inspired by the time Gershwin had spent in Paris, it evokes the sights and energy of the French capital in the 1920s. It is one of Gershwin's best-known compositions.Gershwin composed the piece...

. As Deems Taylor
Deems Taylor
Joseph Deems Taylor was a U.S. composer, music critic, and promoter of classical music.-Career:Taylor initially planned to become an architect; however, despite minimal musical training he soon took to music composition. The result was a series of works for orchestra and/or voices...

described it in the program notes for the first performance: "Having safely eluded the taxis ... the American's itinerary becomes somewhat obscured. ... However, since what immediately ensues is technically known as a bridge-passage, one is reasonably justified in assuming that the Gershwin pen ... has perpetrated a musical pun and that ... our American has crossed the Seine, and is somewhere on the Left Bank."

External links

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