Stevie Wonder's "Superstition": A Song's Hook as a Summary

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer, Senior Instructor, Dalhousie University, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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As you likely know, I’m fond of telling others that a song’s hook is often a bit misunderstood. The hook, as a stand-alone entity, is not a necessity. The Beatles hardly ever created songs around hooks, per se, opting instead for the more subtle element we call the motif. A hook, in common usage, is a short idea that repeats over and over in more-or-less the same way throughout a song. A motif is a rhythmic or melodic idea that gets modified and developed throughout a song, serving as a building block of sorts.

Most hooks are the obvious parts of choruses. Think of a chorus that you can’t get out of your mind, and you’ve got a hook. (“Born in the U.S.A.”, for example, or Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”)

Some hooks are instrumental riffs that glue the entire song together. Stevie Wonder’s repetitious clavinet riff in “Superstition” is a great example.

And “Superstition” is great for another reason: it acts as a summary of the tonal/melodic structure of the song. The notes of the riff are created out of the Eb minor (Dorian) scale: Ab Bb Db Eb Gb. When Stevie starts to sing, he creates a related (but not identical) melody comprised mainly of the notes of the riff.

The connection between the hook and the melody form a bond. The hook essentially displays to the listener what they’re about to hear, and it works brilliantly.

This kind of hook is something that can be added to a song, so give it some thought especially if you’ve written a tune that seems to be lack-lustre or missing something.

Simply find the basic tonal information of your song (key, along with basic scale structures), and try creating a hook that uses that information in a slightly different way. Make sure your hook is short, that it’s memorable, and that it’s got a strong rhythmic component. And learn from the best: use “Superstition” as a model.


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  1. Thank you so much for your blog. It’s extremely lucid and well written… been eye-opening in so many ways.

  2. Gary-
    I really like when you use specific examples to illustrate what you are discussing; that’s one of my fav things about your blog. However, I was thinking that it would be really helpful if you provided a link (youtube or whatever) to the song you were discussing, so that we could listen to the song while we were reading your discussion of the song. You could easily embed a youtube or some other music player in your blog. Just a thought…

    Keep up the great blog! 🙂

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