Songwriting and writer's block

You’ve Got a Chorus Hook, But What Now?

It’s quite normal to come up with a catchy chorus hook as a first step in your songwriting process, since the hook contains elements that are easily sung, played and remembered. But once that hook has been developed, you might find that your creative mind lets you down: what do you do next?


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First, you should take a close look at that hook to be sure that it’s got the basic characteristics of a good hook, especially these two:

  1. Its melody is short and easily sung, one that usually repeats.
  2. The chords supporting that melody are short, and tonally strong.

If you’re satisfied that the hook sounds great, your next step should be to start working on a verse that leads easily and naturally into that hook. This usually means most or all of the following:

  1. The verse melody should sit a bit lower in range than the chorus hook.
  2. The rhythms of that verse melody can be a bit more active than what you’d find in a chorus hook.
  3. The chords under the verse melody can stray a little from the typical strong chords found in the chorus (using more inversions, added tones, or even chords from outside the key).

The advantage to coming up with a chorus hook as a first step and then moving back to work on the verse is that it makes it easier to think about how your verse is going to connect to the chorus. Since you know the first notes of the chorus already, your verse can be written to approach those notes in a musically logical way.

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that I frequently mention certain songs that clearly display some important structural elements. Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” is one I mention a lot — a good example of a song that shows some of the most important characteristics of a chorus hook.

That song also shows the important characteristics of a verse: the busier vocal rhythms, the wandering chord progression, the melody that moves upward to connect logically to the chorus melody, and so on.

I’m not sure if the writers of that song came up with the chorus hook as a first step, but you can see the advantage of writing that hook first, because once you’ve written it, you get a strong sense of its musical energy and its melodic range.

And once you know those two things, it makes the verse easier: you know where it’s headed.

And also, there’s no particular reason that a verse should share characteristics between itself and the chorus. In other words, the writers could have written several completely different verses during the writing process, and all of them may have served as good verses for the chorus hook.

But my advice, once you’ve written a chorus that you like, is to move back and start working on a verse that is lower in pitch, lower in basic musical energy, and uses melodic rhythms that are busier than what you’re using in the chorus.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter. Hooks & Riffs“Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how a good hook can make the difference between songwriting success and failure. With great examples from pop music history.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Bundle“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle” explains 11 important principles of songwriting, and does so in language that’s easy to understand, and easy to apply to your own songs. Get a FREE copy of “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process” when you purchase the bundle!

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