In songwriting, a hook is a short, catchy element within a song that gets repeated often, particularly in the chorus. There are many kinds of hooks, however, and if you’d like to read about those, try this article: “Exploring a Deeper Definition of a Song Hook.”
One hook type that that article doesn’t directly address is the lyrical hook. What is it, and how do you create one?
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A typical lyrical hook goes hand-in-hand with whatever instrumental hook sets up the title, and in that sense, the song’s title is often a lyrical hook. Like any other kind of hook, it’s a bit of lyric that gets repeated over and over. It’s fun to say and sing — it kind of “flies off the tongue”, if you will.
Just as with creating an instrumental hook, a lyrical hook is often the product of lots of improvisation, trying word combinations, and working closely with the rhythmic groove of the instrumental backing. A lyrical hook is usually an important ingredient in a chorus hook:
- “Rockin’ Robin (tweet, tweet, tweet)…”
- “Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive”
- “Because I’m happy (clap along…)”
- “Na na na na na na na, na na na na, Hey Jude”
- “We found love in a hopeless place…”
Songs do just fine without the inclusion of an obvious lyrical hook. But if your song features a chorus hook, it’s likely that it will need to have a catchy lyric associated with it that forms the title.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you search for words that will grab the audience’s attention:
- Use simple, clear words that are easy to sing. I don’t know of a song called “She Sells Sea Shells.”
- Experiment with alliteration. That means find adjacent (or almost adjacent) words that start with the same sound. “Paved paradise”, “Bye bye blackbird”, “Blue Bayou”, etc.
- Set up a rhythmic groove and improvise word combinations. Making sure that the words have a rhythmic element is crucial to the success of a lyrical hook.
- Be sure the words in a lyrical hook are properly set up by the verse lyrics that precede them. In that sense, a lyrical hook serves as an important focal point for your song’s lyric.
- Make certain that the words of your hook sound right when they’re repeated. Since repetition is an important part of the success of any hook, sing them over and over in order to fine-tune your choice of words.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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