Bruno Mars - The Lazy Song

Making the Best Use of Motifs in Your Songwriting

For most songwriters, defining a hook is simple: it’s that catchy bit that makes up the main part of the chorus. It usually comes back over and over because that’s what choruses do — they reappear after every verse, and then again after the bridge. A hook is good if it has a melodic shape […]

guitar - keyboard - headphones

Creating Chord Progression Motifs

In music, a motif is a short fragment of music that gets developed and repeated throughout the length of a song. The repetition aspect of a motif makes it similar to a hook. But a hook generally repeats verbatim; it generally sounds the same each time we hear it, like “She loves you, yeah, yeah, […]

Taylor Swift - I Did Something Bad

Using the Verse to Power Up the Chorus Hook

For most songs, if you speak of the hook, you’re talking about the chorus, and most likely the start of the chorus. Sometimes the hooky bit might be the end of the chorus, like Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs’ 1963 hit “Sugar Shack”. For pop songs, the hook has been a perennially essential ingredient. Because […]

When Songs Have Too Many Ideas

When you love a song, its main hook is usually its most important feature. In a sense, no matter what else goes on in a song, everything works toward the hook. While the quality of all features is vital, everything culminates in the hook. It’s like climbing a mountain. The mountain peak is the immediately identifiable feature. That […]

Leonard Cohen

Using Similar Rhythms Throughout a Melody Strengthens a Song

I’m often asked about motifs – how they work in typical songwriting, and if songwriters even need to be aware of them. Unlike a hook, which does its work in the foreground, a motif is a small building-block of music that works mainly in the background. That’s not to say we don’t typically hear motifs — […]

The Musical Cohesion That Comes From Motifs

If you’ve written a hook, and most if not all of the following aren’t true, you’ve not really written an effective one: It’s got a short and easy-to-remember melody. It incorporates a catchy rhythm. It uses a relatively simple, short chord progression. It usually appears, disappears, and reappears throughout a song. It’s fun to sing. When […]