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Songwriting Guides
Writing a song
Middle 8

A middle 8 is so called because it is a section in a song that tends to happen towards the middle of the song, and tends to be eight bars in length. The purpose of this section is to break up the simple repetition of a verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure by introducing new elements into the song. This can be a new chord sequence and melody, maybe a big change in the arrangement of the song, or even an instrumental solo. These new elements in the song help to keep the listener interested in what's happening, much like a subtle twist in the plot of a novel or movie. Of course, there is no rule that says the middle eight has to be eight bars long, but that is the most common length. Here's an example:

Oh let our love survive
Or dry the tears from your eyes
Let's don't let a good thing die
When honey, you know
I've never lied to you
Mmm yeah, yeah

Suspicious Minds (James)

This middle 8 slows the pace of the song and allows the audience time to reflect on the strong emotion of the whole lyric before the pace picks up again for the finale of the song.

It can be exciting to allow a singer to freestyle over an instrumental section.
Steve Hillier

A great middle 8 will keep your audience interested in your song. Here are some ideas on how to keep everyone awake at the back:

  • Some of the best middle 8s reveal something new in the lyric, a subtle twist or revelation in the subject matter. This is a classic way of keeping a listener's interest; just when they unconsciously feel they've heard everything you have to say in the song, you rekindle their interest with something new.
  • How about repeating the melody and lyric from the chorus, but over a new and different chord sequence? This can create some very interesting musical effects.
  • Sometimes it can be exciting just to allow a singer to improvise (or 'freestyle') over an instrumental section in your song, maybe singing without specific words ie, bah bah bah, la la la!
  • Try changing key. If your song is in a major key, try changing to the relative minor key for your middle eight (the relative minor key is three semitones lower than your major key, so A minor is the relative minor to C major).
Gwen Dickey
Rose Royce and Norman Whitfield stumbled across the signature sound of 'Love Don't Live Here Anymore' by accident.
Listen to the interview Audio help
Jeff LynneJeff Lynne
Was particularly pleased with a tricky harmonic progression in ELO's 'Living Thing'. "There's one chord change that makes the whole song."
Listen to the interview Audio help
Send us your views or read other peoples'
Send us your comments on: Middle 8

will philips / gent
"son of a preacher man" has one of the best middle eights i know of . after the middle 8 comes the chorus but instead of beginning with the A major chord they start on the D major chord. wonderfull lift, great vocal arrangement

Jim, Cambridge
One of the most startling and accomplished examples of a middle eight is in Every Breath You Take (Sting/Police) - "Since you've gone I've been lost without a trace...". A good indicator of how important this part of the song is to the overall success of the song is to contrast the Police original with the P Diddy remake, which omits the middle eight. At least in my view, the cover is a poor imitation because of it. See the detailed coverage of this song elsewhere on this website.

Lorenzo Hall, Wilmington
This review is really halpful. I went back and listented to some songs to see what kind of affect the middle 8 provided, and it has a great impact on the tension and excitement of a song. For examole, Holiday in Cambodia by The DK's has a middle eight section before each chorus and it really leads the listener into the chorus very well.

Earl Birmingham
In reply to Holly, If your song is structured oddly (not 4/4 time or 4 bar sequence) then a middle eight might not be needed (e.g. Strong Enough by Sheryl Crow). But if the song really needs a middle eight then a switch in time might be needed (e.g. Money by Pink Floyd). Say the song is three chords in C. It uses any three of: Cmaj, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bm. Try Adding any of the other chords from the list, one of them should work. Or look for a new structure to complement that of the verse/chorus. To add resolution try to end a middle eight on a chord that 'leads' to the opening chord of your verse e.g. G or Bm (Bm7b5 if you're adventurous) both 'lead' to C. Regards

Casey K, Cambridge
Dear Simon Ball, I think you'll find the article is perfectly correct about the 3 semitones below. Think C major: 1 semitone below: B 2 semitones below: B flat 3 semitones below: A I will express your apologies in your honour. Thanks!

Simon Ball, Birmingham
Good article, but being pedantic by nature, I must point out that the relative minor of a major key is 4 semitones below, rather than 3. Thanks!

kimster, malaysia
Am listening to Keane's Everybody Changes and trying to figure out which part is the middle eight. Is it the part which goes: "So little time try to understand that I'm trying to make a move just to stay in the game I try to stay awake and remember my name but everybody's changing and I don't feel the same"

Holly Tooze Birmingham
Hi. I Need Your Help! I have done a melody-verse-chorus of a Ballad using three chords, but I am having a problem with the middle 8.if I fit an extra chord to get a middle 8 making it four chords to the song, would the song be dated. Holly

Songwriting Guides Writing a Song Genre Structure Verse Chorus Melody Tempo / Rhythm Harmony Lyrics Beginnings Endings Ideas Rhyme Middle 8 Hooks Performing Working with Other Writers In the Studio Publishers Record Companies Management Staying on Track
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