The Melodic Song Hook

The song hook is arguably the most important element of a song. You can have a beautiful melody, clever lyric and a great groove, but without a strong hook you don't have a strong song.

When we first learn to write songs, it's generally the song hook that's weak or missing.

The hook can be melodic, lyrical, or both. Here we're going to talk about the melodic hook and how to establish one.

Coming up with a new hook idea
My new song ideas usually begin with writing the melody on the guitar, so I'll use that example here. I set up a groove by tapping my foot or, if I'm feeling really creative, by laying down a loop with the MIDI drums.

© Yevgen Timashov|Dreamstime.com
song hook
Lets say I want a straight-forward 4/4 timing. I limit the loop to one or two measures (count to four or eight), then start playing around on the guitar within a small segment of a scale.

This could be any scale I feel like playing: Major, minor, blues, whole tone, whatever.

I try to keep the initial melody simple and repeating, and this usually becomes my hook. If I find my melody becoming a little too intricate, I remind myself I'm writing the melodic hook (usually the chorus) and I can save the ambitious stuff for another part of the song.

Keeping it simple and repeating has several advantages: A simple melody is more easily remembered after only one hearing, you'll find it much easier to write lyrics to a simple melody if you intend the hook to be lyrical as well as melodic, and you can be sure it will stand apart when you begin to write a more elaborate melody for the rest of the song.

Keeping it simple yet interesting
The key to making a simple, repeating melody interesting is to incorporate a changing chord or bass progression beneath it.

For an example of this check out Adele's “Rolling in the Deep”. In the first three lines of the chorus she sings:

We could have had it all
Rolling in the deep
You had my heart inside your hand
-Adele Adkins/Paul Epworth

These three lines follow almost the exact same melody, but because the chords change underneath it, each line sounds different and the chorus builds in emotion.

This chorus is so simple, yet so effective. With just a few notes and a few chords moving beneath them she has established her melodic song hook and written a great chorus!

Try this for yourself and see just how easy it can be to come up with a simple, memorable hook-worthy melody that you can turn into your own great chorus.


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