Songwriting Toolkit: The Verse-Chorus-Bridge Structure

by Bobby Gilles

in Songwriting/Hymn Workshop

Last week we looked at the Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus (V-C-V-C) songwriting structure. This followed on the heels of an article defining the common song elements  (verse, pre-chorus, chorus, refrain, bridge). This week, we add bridges to the mix, as we look at the V-C-V-C-B-C structure.

This might be the most popular structure in 21st century worship songwriting. Follow the V-C-V-C guidelines, then insert your bridge (usually two to four lines) following the second chorus.

We’ve noted that the second verse should not simply repeat the information of the first verse, but should advance the story or help us understand the message of the chorus in a new way. This is true of a bridge, too. But while you “cover new ground” with your second verse and bridge, remember that we are talking about the development of a theme, not the presence of another theme. Vicky Beeching says, 

“Most songs cover way too many ideas or themes, and the lyrics lack the punch of one focused idea. When you’ve written a verse and a chorus, the temptation is to move on to a different theme for verse two, and maybe a different theme again for the bridge! Stay true to your initial focus/idea and go deeper into it during verse two and the bridge. Resist the urge to pack ten themes into one song – aim for one theme!”

Allie LaPointe stresses the need to say something new in each part of the song, while sticking to one theme: When I interviewed Allie here at My Song In The Night, she said,

“I challenge myself to make sure every line points to the thesis, and that every word counts.  Verse two must say something new, and must progress from verse one.  But everything points back to the title.”

Contemporary worship songs that follow the V-C-V-C-B-C pattern include “Here I Am To Worship” by Tim Hughes, “Mighty To Save” by Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan, “Christ Has Risen” by Matt Maher, “Forever Reign” by Reuben Morgan and Jason Ingram, “Happy Day” by Tim Hughes and Ben Cantelon, and “Beneath The Waters (I Will Rise)” by Brooke Fraser and Scott Ligertwood. Daniel Bashta’s “Like A Lion” plays with the structure by ending the song on the bridge, leaving us without a resolution – perhaps to indicate an ongoing “sound of revival” in our hearts.

Alternate Route – Some of the best loved worship songs dispense with the chorus altogether, so the formula is V-V-B-V. Since there is no chorus, the hook line comes at the beginning or end of the verses. The bridge, unlike a chorus, usually doesn’t state the main idea but it brings in fresh material to support it. Songs that fit this pattern include “Give Thanks” by Henry Smith, “Come, Now Is The Time To Worship” by Brian Doerksen, “As The Deer” by Martin Nystrom, and “Majesty” by Jack Hayford.

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