The hook is the part that grabs us by the ear (and the heart) and refuses to let go. That's why it's called The Hook.
The hook is the part we remember first about a song. It's the part we remember years later when we've forgotten how the rest of the song goes.
It is most often the title of the song. Not always, but usually.
Let's look at some famous songwriting hooks.
"Hotel California" by The Eagles:
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face - (Felder/Frey/Henley)
"She Loves You" by The Beatles:
She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah
And with a love like that
You know you should be glad - (Lennon/McCartney)
"Pocket Full Of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield:
A sweet escape, take me away
Take me away to better days
Take me away, a hiding place - (Bedingfield/Brisebois/Shanks)
This song hook really gets the job done. Whenever I hear this song I can't get it out of my head. You'll notice that in this song, the hook is not in the title.
"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen:
Okay, this one's different! The only thing that resembles a hook to me is the piano melody before and during the verses.
Then again, I've said this before. "Bohemian Rhapsody" broke all the rules. "Bohemian Rhapsody" doesn't need a hook. It's a bloody Masterpiece!
Can you tell I'm a Queen fan?
Most songs however, benefit greatly from having a hook. If you hope to write a hit song without one, the odds are against you.
How Do You Write a Hook?
The best way that I've found to write a memorable song is to start with the hook.
Try this exercise:
Think of a subject you think would make an interesting song. Got one? Now, in as few words as possible write down the essence of your idea.
Don't start writing the story yet. Just the idea.
Say for instance, you're writing about a breakup. Say your idea is about how much it hurts when your ex-girlfriend calls to ask how you're doing. (She obviously still cares about you, but that's verse material.)
The essence of the idea is how much it hurts to hear her voice. Write that down. Write down as many different variations as you can think of:
"When She Calls"
You get the picture.
THAT'S your hook! It will most likely also be the title. When you've decided on the right phrase, write it at the top of a fresh piece of paper. Or your word-cruncher.
Write Your Song from the Hook
Now write your story, referring at all times to your title/hook.
If you do this, you can't go wrong. Every line of your story leads back to how awful you feel when the phone rings and it's her.
When it comes time to write a melody for the hook it shouldn't be too difficult. You already have a short lyrical phrase to craft a short catchy tune to.
If you start with the melody, keep in mind where you want the hook to be and remember to keep it short.
Don't underestimate the importance of songwriting hooks. Try to spend some time writing only hooks!
When working on your next song, try writing the hook first. If you start with a well-written hook, your song is already half-way there.
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