Two Crucial Components of a Successful Song Hook

Innovation sets your music apart, but be careful not to scare your audience away.


Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle comes with this FREE eBOOK: “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base”. 8 Songwriting eBooks for $37

Deep Purple, Smoke On the WaterA hook can be a catchy instrumental riff that gets played throughout a song, like the intro to Deep Purple’s “Smoke On the Water“. It can be a shouted out word or two, perhaps like The Champs’ “Tequila.”

But by far, the most prevalent type of hook is the chorus hook, usually involving the song’s title, and becomes an element around which the entire song is built.

Hooks are usually short, lasting anywhere from 1 or 2 beats, up to a bar or two. By definition, it needs to be repetitious, serving to continuously pull the listener back into the song. Hooks are most effective if they disappear occasionally throughout the song and then reappear. That’s the standard way a chorus hook works.

The two crucial components of successful song hooks are:

  1. An enticing melodic shape.
  2. A catchy rhythm.

Because we tend to think of hooks as a small package of music, we don’t often consider that there is an important melodic component. For example, when we listen to that guitar intro to “Smoke On the Water”, we don’t tend to focus on the fact that it’s a melody wrapped up in a rhythm. But that’s exactly what it is. Both the melody and the rhythm are important elements in making it one of the most successful hooks of all time.

Whether you’re talking about an instrumental-intro hook or a chorus hook, those two components, melody and rhythm, are going to be vital to its success. In either case, developing a hook can be a good first step to working out the remainder of a song. Here are some tips to think about:

  1. Create a short melody (usually 2 beats to 4 beats in length) that incorporates a melodic leap. That means that at some point in your hook, the melody should leap up or down by at least 3 notes. This leap is part of what makes the melodic component memorable.
  2. Create a rhythm for your melody that involves syncopation. Syncopation is simply a rhythm that sounds as though it’s been placed “between beats”, rather than on beats. For example, the first bar of “Smoke On the Water” is mainly on the beat, while the second bar is syncopated.
  3. Hooks can be placed over one chord (like Steve Wonder’s “Superstition“), but if you plan to use two different chords as harmony for your hook, make sure that the second chord leads well back to the first chord, allowing the hook to be easily played over and over.
  4. The best chorus hooks need to be in an easy singing range, so that your audience can hum or sing it to themselves as they go about their day. That’s a crucial part of the success of a hook.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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