What is a Hook?

This week’s post is going to be a bit more informational than creative. As I’ve been messing around with my own music in the past few months, I’ve been trying to experiment with a specific aspect of my songs: the hook. Though ‘the hook’ is usually singular when people talk about it in reference to songwriting, in all honesty a song can have one, three, four, or fifteen hooks depending on what the artist is going for.

But what does this term mean? Why is it so important?

Most people associate the hook with a song’s chorus. This can be true, but it isn’t always the case. Examples of hook-y choruses can be found in many modern pop songs–these are the ones you hear on the radio and for some reason can’t get that one line out of your head. Hint: that’s probably a hook. A classic for me growing up was “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA4iX5D9Z64 ) by Taylor Swift. The “never ever ever ever”s repeat multiple times throughout the song and stick in your head for hours after listening to it. They’re interesting and memorable enough where the song becomes something you want to listen to again. They’re also relatable for many teenagers who’ve gone through similar situations to the one Swift is describing in her lyrics. This is crucial for a lyrical hook.

But hooks don’t have to be lyrical. There are musical and rhythmic hooks as well.

A great example of a musical/rhythmic hook is the classic Queen song “Another One Bites the Dust.” Though I could not repeat the lyrics back to you word for word, I can immediately identify this song if it comes on in a restaurant or supermarket or wherever else. The bass line is iconic and functions as a hook within itself. It is recognizable, reproducible, and helps a listener identify the song within seconds. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVIbCvfkO3E ) Other examples of songs with rhythmic or musical hooks include: “Sweet Caroline,” (BUH BUH BUH) and “Mamma Mia.” These both have specific musical passages which are catchy and memorable.

Hooks can be produced with percussive beats as well. The best example I can think of off the top of my head is “We Will Rock You.” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tJYN-eG1zk ) There’s a reason Queen is such a successful music group. Their hooks–lyrical, melodic, rhythmic–are all fire. Each song stands apart from the others in a good way and is interesting within itself.

Many record labels encourage artists to focus on adding multiple hooks to a song. Lyrical hooks are the first step–you need words which people will relate with and catch themselves singing on their way to work. But the other types of hooks are just as, if not more, important. They are the small musical passages which will have a song stuck in someone’s head even when they don’t know the words. They’re not quite sure when they even heard the song, but because of the different hooks at play, it will be hard for them to forget it.

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