When Songs Have Too Many Ideas

When you love a song, its main hook is usually its most important feature. In a sense, no matter what else goes on in a song, everything works toward the hook. While the quality of all features is vital, everything culminates in the hook. It’s like climbing a mountain. The mountain peak is the immediately identifiable feature. That […]

Leonard Cohen

Using Similar Rhythms Throughout a Melody Strengthens a Song

I’m often asked about motifs – how they work in typical songwriting, and if songwriters even need to be aware of them. Unlike a hook, which does its work in the foreground, a motif is a small building-block of music that works mainly in the background. That’s not to say we don’t typically hear motifs — […]

Rolling Stones - Satisfaction

Pop Music’s Hook, and What It Does

There’s a term that gets used a lot especially in the world of classical music composition: development. We often describe pieces of music as not just progressing, but as developing. When we use that term development, we’re talking about new ideas being built on earlier ideas within the same piece of music. When I was an instructor at Dalhousie University, I had […]

The Beatles

Why a Songwriting Process That Starts By Working Out a Hook Makes Sense

Most works of art, whether you’re talking about songwriting, poetry, the painting of a landscape, or anything else, really, are comprised of some element that acts as a focus, and then many surrounding, supporting elements. For example, you might photograph a landscape that features a beautiful pine tree as the main element — the object that immediately […]

The Musical Cohesion That Comes From Motifs

If you’ve written a hook, and most if not all of the following aren’t true, you’ve not really written an effective one: It’s got a short and easy-to-remember melody. It incorporates a catchy rhythm. It uses a relatively simple, short chord progression. It usually appears, disappears, and reappears throughout a song. It’s fun to sing. When […]

Daniel Powter

Can Songs Succeed With No Obvious Hook?

Songwriters use a variety of terms to describe various aspects of music. The definition of some of these terms are obvious, while others are hard to define, but “you know it when you see it”: groove, riff, pay-off line, the tune… these are words we just all seem to know instinctively what’s being referred to. “Hook” […]