A chorus hook is a great way of grabbing the listener, and giving them something to hum all day long. Here are 2 ways to get the job done.
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There are many different kinds of hooks you can work into a song, but they all do the same thing: give your audience something short, singable and easy to remember. A hook guarantees that people will keep humming your song long after they’ve heard it, and makes it more likely that they’ll keep coming back to it. A song-intro hook presents something right up front, and usually keeps repeating throughout the song (“We Will Rock You” – Queen). A background-instrumental hook is not usually as obvious, but still plants itself firmly in the listener’s mind (like “Barracuda” – Heart). But the chorus hook is one of the best ways of grabbing the audience by the ears, because it usually includes the song title.
There are lots of contemporary examples of great chorus hooks – “Moves Like Jagger” (Maroon 5 Featuring Christina Aguilera), “Just a Kiss” (Lady Antebellum), “Paradise” (Coldplay), “Rolling in the Deep” (Adele), and many others.
The kind of hook I want to look at here is the kind that repeats the actual title name at least twice, like “Moves Like Jagger” and “Paradise.” Let’s discover how to create an effective chorus hook that repeats the title name.
There are at least two ways to make a chorus hook work:
- create a melodic fragment that repeats with a different harmonization;
- create a melodic fragment that gets partnered with a second instrumental hook.
Let’s look at “Paradise” as an example of the first method. To make this kind of hook work, you’re looking to create a short melodic fragment that can be harmonized in at least two different ways. Finding two different chord progressions for the same melodic fragment makes it much more likely that you’ll be able to make it the main part of your chorus.
The “Para- para- paradise” melodic hook has two basic harmonizations that form the first 2 phrases of the chorus: Gm – Bb, and F – C. The first harmonization repeats as a 3rd phrase, and the 4th phrase of the chorus is a new melodic fragment.
By creating two different harmonizations for the same melodic hook, it allows you to base most of your chorus on that one melodic hook.
“Moves Like Jagger” provides a good example of the second method. The song is predominated by that whistle song-intro hook. But that hook gets partnered with the chorus hook (the song title). The title is repeated 3 times: the first 2 times over an Em chord, and then the chorus melody adopts the whistling hook as its melodic shape.
What makes the chorus so effective and memorable is the coming-together of the two hooks.
In both cases, always keep the following in mind:
- Repetition is a key ingredient.
- Song hooks need to be short and easy to sing.
- The chords you use to harmonize a hook should be strong (i.e., point unambiguously to the key of the song).
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