Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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We usually think that the hook of a song is the chorus: the part of the song everyone keeps singing. But a hook is anything that keeps you thinking about that song. So if you think your hook must be those opening melodic shapes that define the chorus, you’re missing out on other great opportunities to create something “hooky” to drill your song into the mind of your audience.
For most songs, a hook is a combination of melody and rhythm that define the intro of the song (like “Come Together” by the Beatles, or “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder) or the beginning of the chorus. But what things, other than catchy a melodic hook, can you add to or do to your song that might be defined as a hook? Give these possibilities a try:
- A rhythmic-percussive hook. Most melodic hooks are actually comprised of a catchy melodic shape, enhanced by a rhythmic idea, but I’m talking about creating a rhythmic, percussive idea that repeats throughout your song, or at least sits at the front end of your tune and makes everyone think of your song. The opening percussion figure of “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”, by Genesis on their “Invisible Touch” album is a great example.
- A non-melodic-note hook. From the same Genesis song, the instrumental break in the middle features a repeating melodic shape that does not relate to any of the melodies from the song. (This hook makes its first appearance at 3′ 20″ of the full album version.)
- A countermelodic hook. Think of the opening string figure in “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve. That distinctive hook is closely related to the verse melody that follows, but it works in rhythmic opposition to the verse melody. And that hook is what everyone remembers, not the subsequent melodies.
- Spoken-or-shouted-word hook. Possibly one of the best-known songs that demonstrate this type of hook is “Tequilla” by The Champs. Also, Bay City Rollers yelling out “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y… NIGHT!” is another.
- Sound-effect hook. The fire bell opening in “Oowatanite” by April Wine is a great example.
Songs don’t need overt hooks. Many of the biggest hits by the Beatles didn’t have elements that you could point to that would be defined as obvious hooks. What’s far more important than a hook is solid song structure. But if you’re song works just fine and you want to make it a bit more distinctive, try one of the hooks mentioned above.
Gary Ewer has written several songwriting e-books that examine every aspect of good songwriting. Click here to read more about these songwriting materials.