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It’s not unusual for most stores to occasionally offer items for discount. Sometimes sales are put in place to get rid of old stock, but more often than not, they’re meant to entice potential buyers through the door. The 10-cent ice cream cone is a famous example; folks come in for the ice cream, but hopefully look for even more. A song’s hook is the proverbial 10-cent ice cream.
You can learn a lot about the hook of a song by studying that ice cream analogy. Ice cream is simple, superficial, tasty and tempting. The 10- cent cone invites customers in to a store, not just because of those qualities, but because of another less specific one: it causes us to wonder what else the seller has.
But if the store has nothing much else to offer… well, you’ve had your ice cream, it was nice, and now it’s time to move on.
A song’s hook has that same kind of draw. The problem is that too many songwriters fixate on their song’s hook, often at the expense of the rest of the song. It’s very much like someone building a new store, and before they even know what they’re going to sell, they’re already thinking about the ice cream they’re going to use to pull people in. They don’t know if it’s bananas or brake shoes they’re planning to build their business around, but they’re pretty sure that ice cream will do the trick.
It’s a bit silly, of course. The hook should not really merit a whole lot of thought. That’s not to say that it’s unimportant. A good hook will pull listeners in, and keep them coming back, and you can’t undervalue the importance of that.
But I get frustrated with writers who put as much or more time into creating an enticing hook than they do with the rest of their song. I find myself thinking that if they had only put that kind of time into ensuring that their song’s structure was sound, they’d probably have a hit song on their hands.
Because here is the danger: The ten-cent ice cream is only ever meant to pull prospective customers into the store. Once inside, once the ice cream is gone, if there’s nothing much else to buy, the customer is gone, usually forever.
Your song’s hook should have some relevance to the rest of your song, but it’s only meant to be that catchy little enticement to tempt them into your song. Put the majority of your thought into your song’s structure, and your customers won’t go away disappointed or empty-handed.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” suite of 6 songwriting e-books show you how hit songs work. Also gives you hundreds of progressions you can use right now in your own songs.