Bridge (music)

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Bridge (music)
The ragtime progression (E7-A7-D7-G7) often appears in the bridge of jazz standards. [1] The III7-VI7-II7-V7 (or V7/V/V/V–V7/V/V–V7/V–V7) leads back to C major (I) but is itself indefinite in key.

In music, especially Western popular music, a bridge is a contrasting section that prepares for the return of the original material section. In a piece in which the original material or melody is referred to as the "A" section, the bridge may be the third eight-bar phrase in a thirty-two-bar form (the B in AABA), or may be used more loosely in verse-chorus form, 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 of the 15th to the 18th century to describe a transitional section in medieval bar form. [2] The German term became widely known in 1920s Germany through musicologist Alfred Lorenz [3] 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 1930s—translated as bridge—via composers fleeing Nazi Germany who, working in Hollywood and on Broadway, used the term to describe similar transitional sections in the American popular music they were writing.

The bridge is often used to contrast with and prepare for the return of the verse and the chorus. "The b section of the popular song chorus is often called the bridge or release." [4]

Classical music

A bridge in J.S. Bach's Fugue in G major BWV 860, mm. 17-19 Play (help*info) MusikSequenz.png
A bridge in J.S. Bach's Fugue in G major BWV 860, mm. 17-19 Loudspeaker.svg Play  

Bridges are also common in classical music, and are known as a specific Sequence form—also known as transitions. Formally called a bridge-passage, they delineate separate sections of an extended work, or smooth what would otherwise be an abrupt modulation, such as the transition between the two themes of a sonata form. In the latter context, this transition between two musical subjects is often referred to as the "transition theme"; [5] indeed, in later Romantic symphonies such as Dvořák's New World Symphony or César Franck's Symphony in D minor, the transition theme becomes almost a third subject in itself. [6]

The latter work also provides several good examples of a short bridge to smooth a modulation. Instead of simply repeating the whole exposition in the original key, as would be done in a symphony of the classical period, Franck repeats the first subject a minor third higher in F minor. A two-bar bridge achieves this transition with Franck's characteristic combination of enharmonic and chromatic modulation. After the repeat of the first subject, another bridge of four bars leads into the transition theme in F major, the key of the true second subject.

In a fugue, a bridge is, "...a short passage at the end of the first entrance of the answer and the beginning of the second entrance of the subject. Its purpose is to modulate back to the tonic key (subject) from the answer (which is in the dominant key). Not all fugues include a bridge." [7]

An example of a bridge-passage that separates two sections of a more loosely organized work occurs in George Gershwin's An American in Paris . As Deems Taylor 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." [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Fugue Contrapuntal musical form based on a subject that recurs in imitation

In music, a fugue is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and which recurs frequently in the course of the composition. It is not to be confused with a fuguing tune, which is a style of song popularized by and mostly limited to early American music and West Gallery music. A fugue usually has three main sections: an exposition, a development and a final entry that contains the return of the subject in the fugue's tonic key. Some fugues have a recapitulation.

Ternary form, sometimes called song form, is a three-part musical form consisting of an opening section (A), a following section (B) and then a repetition of the first section (A). It is usually schematized as A–B–A. Prominent examples include the da capo aria "The trumpet shall sound" from Handel's Messiah, Chopin's Prelude in D-Flat Major "Raindrop", and the opening chorus of Bach's St John Passion.

Modulation (music)

In music, modulation is the change from one tonality 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. Treatment of a chord as the tonic for less than a phrase is considered tonicization.

Modulation is the essential part of the art. Without it there is little music, for a piece derives its true beauty not from the large number of fixed modes which it embraces but rather from the subtle fabric of its modulation.

Refrain Repeated lines in music or poetry

A refrain is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in poetry — the "chorus" of a song. Poetic fixed forms that feature refrains include the villanelle, the virelay, and the sestina.

In music, form refers to the structure of a musical composition or performance. In his book, Worlds of Music, Jeff Todd Titon suggests that a number of organizational elements may determine the formal structure of a piece of music, such as "the arrangement of musical units of rhythm, melody, and/or harmony that show repetition or variation, the arrangement of the instruments, or the way a symphonic piece is orchestrated", among other factors.

Piano Sonata No. 29 (Beethoven)

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 29 in B major, Op. 106 is a piano sonata that is widely viewed as one of the most important works of the composer's third period and among the greatest piano sonatas of all time. Completed in 1818, it is often considered to be Beethoven's most technically challenging piano composition and one of the most demanding solo works in the classical piano repertoire. The first documented public performance was in 1836 by Franz Liszt in the Salle Erard in Paris.

Strophic form

Strophic form – also called verse-repeating form, chorus form, AAA song form, or one-part song form – is a song structure in which all verses or stanzas of the text are sung to the same music. The opposite of strophic form, with new music written for every stanza, is called through-composed.

Subject (music)

In music, a subject is the material, usually a recognizable melody, upon which part or all of a composition is based. In forms other than the fugue, this may be known as the theme.

Thirty-two-bar form

The 32-bar form, also known as the AABA song form, American popular song form and the ballad form, is a song structure commonly found in Tin Pan Alley songs and other American popular music, especially in the first half of the 20th century.

Song structure is the arrangement of a song, and is a part of the songwriting process. It is typically sectional, which uses repeating forms in songs. Common forms include bar form, 32-bar form, verse–chorus form, ternary form, strophic form, and the 12-bar blues. Popular music songs traditionally use the same music for each verse or stanza of lyrics. Pop and traditional forms can be used even with songs that have structural differences in melodies. The most common format in modern popular music is introduction (intro), verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus and outro. In rock music styles, notably heavy metal music, there is usually one or more guitar solos in the song, often found after the middle chorus part. In pop music, there may be a guitar solo, or a solo may be performed by a synthesizer player or sax player.

Symphony No. 1 (Brahms) Symphony by Johannes Brahms

The Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, is a symphony written by Johannes Brahms. Brahms spent at least fourteen years completing this work, whose sketches date from 1854. Brahms himself declared that the symphony, from sketches to finishing touches, took 21 years, from 1855 to 1876. The premiere of this symphony, conducted by the composer's friend Felix Otto Dessoff, occurred on 4 November 1876, in Karlsruhe, then in the Grand Duchy of Baden. A typical performance lasts between 45 and 50 minutes.

In music, the Italian term stretto[ˈstretto] has two distinct meanings:

  1. In a fugue, stretto is the imitation of the subject in close succession, so that the answer enters before the subject is completed.
  2. In non-fugal compositions, a stretto is a passage, often at the end of an aria or movement, in faster tempo. Examples include the end of the last movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony; measure 227 of Chopin's Ballade No. 3; measures 16, 17 and 18, of his Prelude No. 4 in E minor; and measure 25 of his Etude Op. 10, No. 12, "The Revolutionary."
Imitation (music)

In music, imitation is the repetition of a melody in a polyphonic texture shortly after its first appearance in a different voice. The melody may vary through transposition, inversion, or otherwise, but retain its original character. The intervals and rhythms of an imitation may be exact or modified; imitation occurs at varying distances relative to the first occurrence, and phrases may begin with voices in imitation before they freely go their own ways.

A Symphony to Dante's Divine Comedy, S.109, or simply the "Dante Symphony", is a choral symphony composed by Franz Liszt. Written in the high romantic style, it is based on Dante Alighieri's journey through Hell and Purgatory, as depicted in The Divine Comedy. It was premiered in Dresden in November 1857, with Liszt conducting himself, and was unofficially dedicated to the composer's friend and future son-in-law Richard Wagner. The entire symphony takes approximately 50 minutes to perform.

Section (music)

In music, a section is a complete, but not independent, musical idea. Types of sections include the introduction or intro, exposition, development, recapitulation, verse, chorus or refrain, conclusion, coda or outro, fadeout, bridge or interlude. In sectional forms such as binary, the larger unit (form) is built from various smaller clear-cut units (sections) in combination, analogous to stanzas in poetry or somewhat like stacking Lego.

Exposition (music)

In musical form and analysis, exposition is the initial presentation of the thematic material of a musical composition, movement, or section. The use of the term generally implies that the material will be developed or varied.

<i>Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot</i>, BWV 39 Church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, BWV 39, in Leipzig and first performed on 23 June 1726, the first Sunday after Trinity that year. Three years earlier, on the first Sunday after Trinity in 1723, Bach had taken office as Thomaskantor and started his first cycle of cantatas for Sundays and Feast Days in the liturgical year. On the first Sunday after Trinity in 1724, he began his second cycle, consisting of chorale cantatas. The cantata Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot is regarded as part of Bach's third cantata cycle which was written sporadically between 1725 and 1727.

Transition (music)

A transition is a passage of music composed to link one section of music to another. Transitions often function as a moment of transformation and may, or may not in themselves, introduce new, musical material.

The String Quartet in D major is the only string quartet composed by César Franck. The work was written from 1889 to 1890.

In music, particularly Western popular music, a post-chorus is a section that appears after the chorus. The term can be used generically for any section that comes after a chorus, but more often refers to a section that has similar character to the chorus, but is distinguishable in close analysis. The concept of a post-chorus has been particularly popularized and analyzed by music theorist Asaf Peres, who is followed in this article.


  1. Boyd, Bill (1997). Jazz Chord Progressions, p.56. ISBN   0-7935-7038-7.
  2. Horst, Brunner (2000). "Bar Form". New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  3. Lorenz, Alfred (1924). Das Geheimnis der Form bei Richard Wagner. Berlin.
  4. Benward & Saker (2003). Music: In Theory and Practice, Vol. I, p.318. Seventh Edition. ISBN   978-0-07-294262-0. Emphasis original.
  5. Songstuff Music Glossary
  6. Collins Music Encyclopedia, London 1959, article "Symphony"
  7. Benward & Saker (2009). Music in Theory and Practice: Volume II, p.51. Eighth Edition. ISBN   978-0-07-310188-0.
  8. An American in Paris & "george gershwin's an american in paris piano solo" [sic], Warner Bros. Publications Inc., 1929 (renewed), p. 36