How to write the hook of the song

Posted: August 29th, 2008 | Category: Songwriting Tips

I received a lot of request and feedback on this topic about writing the hook of the song . Writing hooks is extremely important to any songwriter because it defines the success of the song. As discussed many times on this blog, “Hook” is the most memorable and touching part of the song. Whether it is a rock, pop or country song, it needs strong hooks to be marketable, remembered and increase chances of selling the song. Hook is found in the song chorus stage and it is highly recommended to put this one on the chorus because it will be repeated and increase chances of being remembered or emphasized.

There are basically two approaches when writing the song hook. The first one is writing the hook first. For example when I write a song, I start with a hook which is defined by at most 12 notes of common chord sequence found in rock, pop and country songs. Yes that’s it, once you are purely confident that those notes are indeed great and captivating. I start writing the rest of the song structure, such as the stanza or bridge.

Most hooks of the song consist of even less than 12 notes, great/legendary songs such as “All you need is love” by the Beatles consist of only: 5 notes, All-you-need-is-love. Or longer notes (around 12 notes) is “Because you love me” by Celine Dion, I’m- eve-ry-thing- I- am-be-cause- you- loved-me.

The advantage of this one, is that you do not have to worry other things such as the stanza or bridge, once you have a strong foundation (hook), the song is already 80% marketable! If you remember the Pareto Principle, the hook of the song is only 20% of the parts, but it is responsible for around 80% of the results.

The rule is simple, give more time to it. Writing hook is often difficult and boring process, but if you like to challenge yourself, consider that patience and love of songwriting is the key to success for this. Paul McCartney has around 20 number 1 songs, but he has written more than 500 songs. So it is only 4%! If you are getting tired in writing and does not have the guts to consistently write, then this is not a good career for you.

A common misconception of any other songwriters, you do not really need an instrument to write the hook. In fact you can even write by humming the beat or even using your imagination. Then once you have hum the song and you remember it well, translate to notes and chords so that you can play it along with your favorite or preferred musical instruments. But in my experience, I find writing combination of humming, playing with instruments and good vocals produces a powerful hook. In critical songwriting moment, I even need help from a professional singer to actually sing the hook, so that I can think at the earliest moment what the song would sound if it will recorded in a professional way. In this type of approach, you can immediately sort out good songs from bad songs.

What about the lyrics? Frankly the lyrics, does play the success of the hook. It should relate to something important, memorable human event and realistic event. No one likes to shout or sing the hook of the song if that particular lyrics that does not make sense at all. In this case, you need good lyrics. If you are not comfortable in writing good lyrics or having problems with it. Consider finding a good lyricist for you to partner in songwriting collaboration efforts. This should produce a very successful result. Great example of songwriting partners ( Musician and Lyricist) are Bernie Taupin and Elton John.

The 2nd approach when writing the hook of the song is to start from Intro- Stanza- then focusing on a great chorus- Bridge.This works so well if you are very familiar with music and playing with instruments. This is an easier approach overall compared to the 1st one, but you will have a hard time writing the hook. The reason is that the hook most follows a complete different chord sequence from the 1st and 2nd stanza. You need some time and creativity to pull out a great hook from the 1st set of stanza melodies.

In fact I have made a video tutorial long time ago before this website was created about writing the hook of the song, using the 2nd approach. In the video, you can observe that I start with the stanza, then I hum the chorus melodies. Yes, I start with the melodies first. After that, I put some meaningful lyrics that relates to the theme of the song. To fully test that it works well, I ask for help from a great female singer (mmm… my Jeanine holding those cameras.) to sing the chorus. And it sounds great. I recorded it to a cassette tape to have a documentation. Although the video itself records the first creation of the melody.



After so many days, I still do not forget the chorus. It was so catchy for me, and I am glad this is a good hook. Good luck in your songwriting!

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