Creating Hooks In Your Songs

This video, via Propellerhead, takes a look at several approaches to creating hooks in songs.

Video Summary:

When it comes to songwriting, a great chord progression or melody is obviously at the top of your priority list but if you want elevate your songs from ones with a solid melody to those magical songs people just can’t get out of their heads then you’re probably going to need a “hook.”

In this Super Neat Beat Cheet Sheet episode, Ryan introduces us to the concept of hooks, clears up some common misconceptions, and walks us through some techniques we can use to add hooks to our own music.

21 thoughts on “Creating Hooks In Your Songs

  1. “It´s weird, but oddly catchy”.

    Nope. Guy forgot to use stabs, drop, build section, and breakdown. A stab is a quick hit of a group of instruments, like a horn section, strings, or guitars, that is in a specific key and is used to add a jolt to the tune. Most mixing points begin or end with the drop. The drop is the point in a track where a switch of rhythm or bassline occurs and usually follows a recognisable build section and breakdown.

    The following clip is way more interesting:

    Native Sessions: Sonic Hooks – Toolbox Part 3 with Brian Kullas

    (approx. 17 min.)

    1. The “drop” is about as cliche a gimmick in modern electronica as one could have. It is utterly predictable and has been beaten to death by follow-the-leader, modern EDM/festival producers and DJs.

      I’m interested in songwriters that can create dynamically changing music without parlor tricks.

  2. The vid made a few useful points. Though examples were somewhat narrowly and unimaginatively applied.

    One little semantics thing that bugged me was when he said, “Equal parts predictable and unpredictable.” It’s more artistically helpful to say “Find the right balance between predictable and unpredictable.” Or simply: “Don’t be too predictable.” Every artist and every listener has different thresholds about what IS and ISN’T predictable. So you end up striking your own balance, hopefully not boring yourself! Ideally, an artist appeals to an audience who shares a similar “sweet spot”.

    Second, they made too big a deal about the shouting business. That is currently and undoubtedly popular. There are lots of songs now with large crowd shouts and unison “wooh wooh” vox. But turning that into a rule-of-thumb for hooks will just mean that it will become more painfully predictable than it already is. We’ll look back at this decade and say, “That’s when everyone shouted “hey! and went “wooh wooh!”

    And lastly, I like that at the end they made the wonderful point about being weird and creative. However, their examples were mostly about little production touches, pitch bends, harmonizers, etc. The fact that chord/scale generators were being used, means that all those chord progressions, melodies, bass-lines and certainly all those rhythms were stupidly predictable.

    So let’s just expand our exploration of the weird and creative to more structural elements (rhythm, harmony, melody)– THAT is what will move the art of music forward. Otherwise, at the end of the day, it is all pretty predictable.

    Imogen Heap and Radiohead are great examples of artists who push it forward on all fronts.

    1. I’m totally out of touch- can give a few examples of currently popular songs featuring the crowd vocals you’re talking about? I can’t imagine this not sounding corny…

      1. Think of any chorus that can be summed up with “Woa-oah-oah-ahhh” like… Imagine Dragons Radioactive. Or Ho Hey by the Lumineers. Or just turn on whatever pop radio station is in your city and wait 10 minutes max. You’ll hear something “Oh-oh-oh-oh, [something about having a good time] Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh [something about dancing until you die]”

        I think you get the picture. Remember that, strategically speaking, this is a smart choice for a chorus because literally anyone can sing your “hook” without thinking or having to decipher, relate to, or understand the lyrics. Which makes for terrible art. But it sells and therefore will remain popular until the masses grow fatigued of it.

          1. TY. I was trying to remember the term. 5-3-5-3-5-3-5-3-5-3-2? wtf did you just throw a major second in there get outta here you madman!

  3. You only need a few ingredients to create a great hook: orchestra hits, a sampled vocal (NA-NA-NA-NINETEEN!) and dialog lifted from ALIENS, TERMINATOR or ROBOCOP. Also, make the snare really loud and use gated reverb if you can afford it.

  4. Wow, what a great series, I love things that get in and share the songwriting experiences, ideas and inspire.

  5. Really good video. Great tips for people just starting out or maybe are a bit more… organic in their methods.

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