Lyrics & Songs > Songwriting > Song Structure > What is a song hook?

What is (it)? What is a Song Hook?

Do me a favor and listen to this song. It's called "Erectin’ a River" by a YouTube user named Waszgul, who sampled the melody from another song, and the lyric from something else.

It's catchy as heck isn't it!? And there's nothing special about this song; it's a techno song that just keeps repeating over and over until finished.

But the more you listen to it the more hooked on it you get. I can easily hear this song playing in a dance club.

Now the first thing you probably picked out of this song was the phrase "move that gear", the second thing probably being the last three notes of the melody & baseline played each time that phrase is said.

You've just been hooked!

A hook is an entertaining musical element or clever lyrical phrase that repeats multiple times throughout your song to tug at your audience's memory.

It's a mnemonic tool that catches a listener's attention to help them remember a certain refrain, beat and/or melody.

So let's return to our song above and list its hooks (at least, ones that I noticed):

Lyrical Hook 1: "(GOT TO) MOVE THAT GEAR!"

Melodic Hook: {B, B (flat), A (flat)} ...played exactly on "move that gear"

Baseline Hook: {B, B (flat), A (flat)} ...played with melody, two octaves lower

Lyrical Hook 2: "DAMN-IT!"

Let's snag our audience with a few song hooks!

"Repeticio est mater studiorum (Repetition is the mother of all learning)". – Saint Thomas Aquinas

Tomorrow Never Dies...so keep writing songs!The purpose of a hook is to get your listeners to love your song.

Since people learn through repetition, how better to grow the love for a song than to repeat a catchy little something in it over and over and over?

Your listeners will like it more and more and more to the point where they absolutely must hear it over and over again.

The Music business picked up on this little golden nugget sometime around the 1950s ("The hook is what you're selling...") and has (over) used it ever sense.

"You forgot the first rule of mass media, Elliot! GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT!" - James Bond

Unfortunately as listeners, we falsely assume that if we easily memorize something catchy & entertaining then we must love it.

This is the single biggest reason why such crappy music is so widespread these days...but good music is in the ear of the listener, right?

Because a hook must repeat to be effective, often times we can't talk about hooks without also talking about a song's chorus (refrain).

Hooks can be placed anywhere in a song.

So if you want to write "hit" songs, fill them full of hooks. But if you want to make a truly great classic - a song that stands the test of time - you should make sure it also has a great emotional story, like Taylor Swift's Red.

Melodic Hook: {A, C#, E} ... {C#, A (flat), E/E (flat)} ... {B, F#, E/E (flat)} ...repeated with banjo

Lyrical Hook: "loving him was red (re-e-e-ed, re-e-e-ed...re-e-e-ed, re-e-e-ed)"

Lyrical Hook 2: "(loving; loosing; missing; forgetting; etc.) him is like..."

{Image courtesy of IMDB.com}



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All the best,

- Jeezy


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