It’s an exciting process, learning how to write a hook. We think mainly because the feeling of striking “hook gold” is one of the best in the whole songwriting process.
Once you have found a good hook it can be extremely inspiring and reassuring for you and your songwriting abilities.
Let’s first look at what a hook is and then some techniques on how you can go about writing a catchy one that engages your listener.
A songs hook is a specific musical idea that “hooks” your audience's attention.
This can be a riff, phrase or sound that is memorable and catchy.
When done right it can give your songs a likeability that doesn’t come naturally through much else. It will have your listener humming your song throughout the day.
Learning how to write a hook properly is an essential part of making relatable music. It’s especially important if you are in or want to get into the pop world.
This might sound obvious, but people tend to complicated things when it comes to writing music.
A good hook is first and foremost a catchy one. Catchy means easily digested, and easily digested means, simply written. Keep your hook tight and purposeful.
When developing the hook’s melody, ask yourself a question at every note; Is this note adding value? If the answer is no, then boot it. If yes, then keep it.
By "keep it simple" we do NOT mean throw a hook line together and hope for the best. No. We mean refine and refine until you are left with a thoughtful piece that can be enjoyed by your listener.
If you spend time getting it right even a simple hook can sound interesting. The reason is that you have polished it, avoiding the unnecessary parts and keeping only those that work to serve a purpose. Your result should be intentional and approachable for the listener's ears.
It’s important to have a basic understanding of writing a melody when coming up with hooks. Your melody can dictate the feeling of a track. So it’s best to know how to manipulate notes in a way that creates emotion.
As we have said before on our how to write a chorus page, the difference between a hook and a melody is often misunderstood.
Although very similar ideas, a hook generally contains the melody, the melody doesn’t always feature the hook.
The melody is the basis of any hook. So make sure to get a good one going.
Part of what makes a good hook is the idea of originality. If your hook contains an idea, sound or phrase that hasn’t been heard before and is combined with these other pointers, it’s more than likely going to be a good one.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. It entirely depends on what instruments you are writing with but, there are thousands of different ways you can get a musical idea across. It can potentially be harder to find a unique way of singing a hook, but the originality can take shape in the words that you use.
So play around and think outside the box. Always strive for originality.
If your hook is lyrically focused. Take note of how broad and vague the words are. In pop music, generally, a lyrical hook paints a broad stroke in efforts to resonate with as many people as they can.
You will notice that there is a sense of relatability that only comes through keeping the lyrics unspecific. It works for pop music, but if you are slightly more alternative you can focus in more, taking the time to get a direct point across rather than a general “I love you” kind of thing.
There is no right or wrong way to write lyrical hooks but it’s worth thinking about how deep you want to go. Lyrically its always better to find a unique way of saying something. It comes across more interesting and let’s be honest less wishy-washy and more ballsy.
On a side note, Try to avoid becoming too “rhymey”. If you cram in a rhyme every second word it’s most likely going to be too much. Subtle rhyme schemes are key when it comes to hooks.
Have a look at how to rhyme if you want a clearer picture on this.
This is not a must, but it can be beneficial.
Let's say your chorus is four measures/bars - instead of writing a hook that is the length of a measure and then repeating it four times, consider writing a hook that explores an idea for two measures and then changes directions on the third measure to the fourth.
This creates movement and becomes less mundane. Obviously, you can play around with this and lengthen or shorten the hook to taste.
Just be aware that writing a one measure hook and repeating it can become boring.
Try and divide the hook up and expand on the idea as time goes by whilst still keeping the original concept in place.
This might sound a bit overwhelming, but it’s easier than you think because it’s totally up to the songwriter's taste.
It's extremely important to make sure all the parts of your song gel together. Especially when it comes to the hook. Your vocals need to have a nice flow over the instrumental. And your drums need to be grooving right.
You can write an incredible vocal hook, but if they are slapped over some sloppy instrumentation its not going to cut it. You have to make sure everything has a relationship with each other.
The depth in which you approach this is up to you. What we suggest, if music theory is not your strong suit and you follow your emotional compass, is to play your hook over and over again in its entirety along with anything else that may be happening under it.
Over time your ears will start to pick up the subtle things that aren’t working. From there you can decide if it’s a problem with the hook or the music.
You have got to flow and get creative. Sometimes even playing something wrong can lead you to the path that eventually shows you the perfect hook.
Don’t be afraid to sing absolute rubbish to find the right melody for your hook. Once you know where your voice should go then you can focus on getting the best words down.
Same goes for an instrumental hook. Just pluck around until you stumble upon something that grips you. Then expand on that.
At the beginning it can slow you down if you are always looking for the perfect notes, just keep playing and ignore the wrong ones until you find the right ones that will eventually make up your hook.
It can be a nice idea to add subtle layers to your hook with every chorus that goes by. Nothing intrusive, just something that elevates it to the next level and keeps your audience subconsciously engaged.
For example, if your hook is a guitar riff, in the second chorus add harmony to the riff. It keeps the hook fresh.
It is a common mistake to let the hook grow stale as a track progresses.
If the whole track is progressing why shouldn’t the hook. Keep it subtle though, it needs to sound like the same hook.