Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Can the bridge section be in the same key?

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Question
May I have this question?

When you write the bridge section for a ballad, can the bridge be in the same key? Or does it need to be a different key?

Thank you

Answer
Hello Dave, and my apologies for making you wait so long for a response.  

The three inseparable and interdependent elements of music are rhythm, melody and harmony, and all three need to be taken into consideration to produce a successful composition. Even if you're writing an unaccompanied melody line, the underlying harmonic progressions must be implicit. Emphasis on the word "progressions" - music should never be static. It's always moving somewhere, taking ideas, developing them, introducing new ideas, reverting to our original idea, drawing to a close.

The whole point of a bridge is that it gets you from one bank of the river to another.  If the two banks are different from each other in character then the bridge leads you from one to the other; if they're the same then the bridge is furthest away from them both at its midpoint, so it leads you away and then takes you back.  Either way the key factor is "transition" - you need a starting point that's connected to the place you're moving away from.

So in a musical context, I'd say that a bridge needs to start in the same key as the preceding material (otherwise it's not a bridge passage, it's a contrasting section).  What happens next depends on the length of your bridge - you can pass through keys or modulate to them (not the same thing).  Just don't lose sight of your destination and remember you've got to get back.

Hope this helps.  

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Clare Redfarn

Expertise

All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.

Experience

57 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 42 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 45 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 20 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Organizations
Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

Publications
I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

Education/Credentials
MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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