Creating a Great Hook
Katharine Trojak for Lyricnote
“There was a hurricane coming that night, but I didn’t know the storm was in her eyes”
Did that catch your attention and make you want to learn more about the story behind that line? Whether you’re an accomplished songwriter or just beginning your first song, you’ve probably been told that a hook is essential to begin the piece. It can draw your listeners in and make them immediately interested in your song, if done right. Though no one strategy will make or break an original song and how it’s received, this is one of the few things that can quickly improve a song or keep it as ordinary. When selling a song, a good hook is one of the first things that a client listens for in order to gauge your talent and the song you’re presenting. Depending on your experience in the art of songwriting, you may barely know what a hook is or you may have written many successful ones. No matter where you stand on utilizing this technique, we’ll help teach you how to bring it to the next level.
For readers that have just begun songwriting, a hook is something that appears within the first few moments of a song or the first few lyrics that captures a listener's attention. In most common terminology, a hook appears in the first line of lyrics and gives an opening to the story. As already has been mentioned, a hook has to capture an audience, make them curious to hear the rest of the song, and “hook” them like a fish on a pole into you as an artist. Musical hooks can take place in the music leading up to the lyrics and essentially do the same job as a general hook does, which is make the audience listen to what you’re about to say. Though some songwriters also say that if needed a good hook can come after the first line or two of lyrics, but in practice it’s best to stick with the very first line of a song. After the first line or two of a song, listeners have decided whether to continue to listen to your song or not, and it would take an excellent hook to pull their attention back into the song instead of whatever they’ve been distracted by.
Now that you know exactly what a hook is, you can begin to get a feel for how to put it into practice. Most good hooks either include the general theme of the piece, for example a line about breaking up for a break up song, or an interesting tidbit that leads up to the theme, like using a line about how horrible a boy/girl was in order to lead into a breakup song. A rule that should be taken into consideration but not strictly followed is “the more unexpected the better”. Though a surprising line in the beginning of a song will certainly catch a listener’s ear due to it being odd, this should always be taken with common sense. A few sub-rules or grains of salt to take with that rule would be to check if it still fits your theme, transfers seamlessly into the next section of your song and into the general plot, and simply makes sense when you hear it. It’s always a great idea to get others, preferably someone who will be brutally honest, to listen to the hook and a sample of your song in order to tell you if it fits or not. A great hook is almost always needed, but the song’s overall rating shouldn’t be sacrificed to achieve it. The best hooks fit all of the sub-rules and usually seem like they came naturally to the writer, even if it took hours of labor to create it.
Hooks can come from a variety of places, depending on the song. Some good ways to begin narrowing down your choices is to first do the obvious, which is to take a good look at your lyrics so far and plot or theme of your piece. If there are any clichés, repetitive pieces, or ending remarks, you can begin with those to work them into the beginning. Clichés can be made fun of or pointed out to catch attention, repetitive pieces can be reworded to give an introduction, and ending remarks can be mentioned in the beginning in order to both introduce the piece and give the entire song a roundabout feeling. If any specific piece of inspiration was used to create the song, such as an image or quote, it’s always a good idea to go back to it and see if there was anything that you missed that you’d like to include in the song, anything interesting about it, or other features that you might be able to weave in.
These are all great places to start in order to come up with that killer hook for your next original song, though the best advice that any songwriter would give is to try things out on your own. The best person to test out hooks or methods for your songs is you. You might find that one of these methods works perfectly for your style, personality, and work type, or that blending a few works better. Newcomers to the craft might feel a bit discouraged to hear that coming up with great lyrics and starts take practice, but many people catch on quickly once they begin to understand the technique and their own unique style. The art of songwriting is a completely arbitrary craft and depends solely on those taking part in it. The methods above are recommended by many songwriters and will certainly lead you in the right direction, but the largest rule about hooks to remember is “your song- your rules”. You get to decide what stays in your song and what doesn’t, as well as what your hook ends up being. Whatever you decide on to begin your song, Lyricnote will always be able to help catch all the ideas leading up to, and including, your perfect hook.