For a lot of people, a song hook is hard to define, but you certainly know it when you hear one. There are many different kinds of hooks (intro hooks, instrumental hooks, lyrical hooks, etc.) but by far the most common kind is the chorus hook.
In fact, many songwriters, particularly in the pop genres, use the terms “chorus” and “hook” interchangeably.
Songwriters are very familiar with the chorus hook, but there are other kinds to experiment with, and you will want to discover the power of layering various kinds of hooks in the same song. “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base“ shows you how it’s done.
A good chorus hook has the following characteristics:
- It’s short. (“We Will Rock You” – Queen)
- It’s catchy.
- The chord progression is simple and tonally strong. (“Bad” – Michael Jackson)
- The melody is mainly stepwise, but often incorporates some sort of melodic leap. (“Born In the U.S.A.”- Springsteen)
And there’s one other characteristic you’ll notice: the rhythms of the vocal melody in a hook will simplify. In past blog posts I’ve often mentioned “Just Give Me a Reason”, the duet between Pink and Nathan Ruess (written by Pink, Jeff Bhasker and Ruess), as a great example.
By simplify, I mean that you need to compare the rhythms of the verse melody to the rhythms of the chorus hook. In “Just Give Me a Reason”, the verse features lots of quick notes, syncopations, with the melody moving up and down, using the quicker rhythms to deliver the intensity of the lyric, mainly a mixture of sixteenths and eighths:
“Right from the start you were a thief, you stole my heart
And I your willing victim…”
But by the time the chorus hook happens, you’ll notice that the rhythms simplify, become much more repetitive, and lock more solidly into the melody of the hook:
“Just give me a reason, just a little bit’s enough
Just a second, we’re not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again…”
In other words, the rhythms of a hook partner up with the other elements of that hook, all becoming simpler, stronger and more easily singable.
This feature of a hook (becoming rhythmically stronger than the rhythms found elsewhere) is why people find good hooks singable. And if you ask someone “How does that song go?”, it’s more likely that they’ll sing the chorus hook than the verse: it’s an important identifier.
Developing a hook as a first step in writing a song means that you’ve focused on the part of the song that’s going to demand the most attention, and that’s a good thing.
And it’s important to remember that the simplifying of the melodic hook rhythm is going to be an important element in what makes that hook succeed or not.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook bundle includes“Writing a Song From a Chord Progression”. Discover the secrets of making the chords-first songwriting process work for you.