Even if a song’s chorus hook happens by pure musical instinct, there are several characteristics that are usually present in most of them:
- They’re rhythmically interesting.
- It’s usually a short, catchy melodic idea that’s easy for a listener to remember.
- The chords are simple and tonally strong (they strongly imply the key of the chorus).
- They use lyrics that fun and easy to sing.
There’s one other characteristic that’s usually the case, a characteristic that partners up with the first point above: they incorporate the title of the song.
“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.
For songs using a verse-chorus formal design, the rhythm of the chorus hook really matters. The title becomes a fun, rhythmically enticing aspect of the song. It allows the title to wave a flag and grab attention.
Often that title line will be the first line of the chorus, but sometimes it’s the end, and sometimes, as in Adele’s “Water Under the Bridge”, it’s in the middle.
For songs in a verse-refrain format, you’ll notice that those important chorus characteristics will be present in good song refrains.
So if you’re wondering if the title has the potential to get enough attention, try this:
- Say the title of your song using the rhythm of your chorus hook. You should notice that the title jumps out, using a rhythm that’s catchy and immediately noticeable.
- Sing your chorus hook. You should notice that the hook part is relatively high in pitch when compared to the verse that comes before it.
- Play the accompaniment for your chorus hook. The chords supporting the hook’s melody should be simple, but strongly implying the key of the song.
There’s a way that a good chorus hook “flies off the tongue,” and is fun to sing. If you find it hard to evaluate your own chorus hook, give these hit songs a listen, and focus on the chorus hook. You’ll see that the characteristics listed above are all present:
- “Runaway” (Bon Jovi)
- “Don’t Let Me Down” (Lennon & McCartney)
- “Water Under the Bridge” (Adele, Greg Kurstin
- “All of Me” (David Tozer, John Legend)
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