Create Ideas First, Songs Second

Listeners are attracted to hooks first, so let that determine how you write.

____________"From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro"

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GuitarListeners are generally attracted to bits of songs first, and then attracted to a song as an entity. The common remark, “Ooh, I love this part…” is referring to the bit of song that really clicks with the listener. If your song has enough of those “ooh” moments, the listener then judges the entire song to be good. So it’s bits first, songs second.

The “bit” that people like about songs is usually what’s called the hook. A hook is a short melodic/rhythmic idea that often forms the main part of a chorus, and usually incorporates the song title. Some songs can be successful without having a hook that stands out, as long as the overall structure of the song is strong, and the energy pulls the listener in.

So if good songs are a collection of good ideas, it stands to reason that as a songwriter, you should concentrate on what those small ideas might be first, and then work on ways to pull those ideas together into a working song. Bits first, entire songs second.

From the earliest stages of the writing of a song, you should be asking yourself, “What bits are people going to find attractive enough that they’ll keep coming back to this song?” It may not be a strong title hook, like Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A”, or The Who’s “My Generation”, but it needs to be something that demands that people listen.

In that regard, the catchy bit may be something instrumental, or some other kind of hooky event that occurs. But no matter what, every successful song has “ooh” moments that need to be there.

It’s going to ultimately be more successful for you if you develop those catchy hooks first, and then build a song that pulls those ideas together. By doing so, you put proper attention on the things that listener find to be most important first.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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