How To Write A Better Hook

Nate Dogg and Drake are famous for their hooks. In fact, Lil Wayne even referenced that fact in “Money To Blow” when he says “And we gon’ be alright if we put Drake on every hook.” While Drake has found plenty of success on his own albums, Nate Dogg was much better known for his guest appearances as the hook man on songs from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tupac, and many more legends from his era.

So, yeah, hooks are important when it comes to learning songwriting.

But famous rappers aren’t the only ones who come up with hooks. A hook - or chorus - isn’t necessarily more important than the rhythm, melody, or harmony of a song, but it’s the thing that catches people’s attention most quickly. From Nirvana’s obvious reference to song structure in “Verse, Chorus, Verse” to Neil Diamond’s slowly building “Sweet Caroline,” which reaches a crescendo at the chorus, and everything in between, hooks are often the key to a song’s popularity.

“Sweet Caroline” has become an eighth-inning tradition at Fenway Park in Boston because it follows all of our tips below.

With all that in mind, we’ve got three tips for writing a great hook, no matter the type of music: keep it simple, summarize the song, and invite audience participation.

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Keep It Simple

The Beatles may have been the greatest songwriters of the modern era, and many of their top hits had as little as six words or fewer in their hooks. “Here Comes The Sun” keeps things concise and bubbly, while conveying emotion. That’s good stuff.

Another great example from The Beatles is “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” The hook alternates between “I want to hold your hand” and “Let me hold your hand” repeated two times in a row, and finally three times in a row as the song ends. Doesn’t get much more simple than that.

Summarize The Song

A songwriter should have one thing in mind when writing a good hook: What’s this song about? That’s the quintessential question to answer in any hook.

The Rolling Stones answered that question succinctly in “No Satisfaction.” Mick Jagger sings in a straightforward manner with a nice melody “I can’t get no, satisfaction.” The delivery is slow and easy to follow, and it explains the entire concept of the song.

Another great example is “Empire State of Mind,” by Alicia Keys and Jay Z. The song is about New York and the feeling you get when you’re there.

Keys sings “New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do/Now you’re in New York, these streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you/Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York.”

This hook does a masterful job of summarizing the song in a few lines AND inviting audience participation. The success is obvious: “Empire State of Mind” has over 161,000,000 views on YouTube and counting.

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Invite Audience Participation

From the beginning of hip hop, lines like “put your hands in the air and wave ‘em around like you just don’t care” have been staples of hooks. That’s because audience participation is essential to creating a hit song.

Call and response tactics help tremendously in creating popular music. Take, for instance, Fat Man Scoop’s cult classic “Put Your Hands Up.” The whole song is essentially a hook, with very limited rapping in general, but Scoop constantly asks the crowd to put its hands up. He also says things like, “Can I get a what-what?” and makes other easily replicable noises that listeners quickly memorize and repeat when he calls for them to do so.

Not every song should be simplified and be about audience participation, but when creating a fun song to get the crowd going is your goal, remember to keep it simple, summarize the song, and involve the audience in your hooks.

So How Can I Get Better At Writing Hooks?

What do you think? Tweet us @lessonface.


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