Finding the Hook

Songwriting - Finding the Hook

Finding the "hook" has nothing to do with something a large-mouth bass swallowed!

The "hook" of the song is "What" the song is about. Quite often the hook is the same as the title. Sometimes it's not.
header guitar pic 2 02The hook is the word, or words, in the lyric that "are" the song. You typically hear the hook in the chorus of the song. In most cases, a chorus cannot exist without the hook.

Turn on the radio and listen to most any song, even one you have not heard before, and you will almost always know what the "hook" is before the song ends.

It is often repeated over and over until it almost beats you over the head!

Songwriters are in an endless pursuit of the next great hook. Hooks can be elusive, but they can be found.

The hard part is that there are so many millions of songs floating around, that finding an original sounding hook can be a huge challenge.

What Makes a Great Hook?

Quite often, a great hook is one that expresses a universal emotion or truth in a unique way.
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For Example: "Walkin' on Sunshine" (happiness),"Ain't No Sunshine" (loneliness), "The Dance" (loving with no regrets), "I Hope You Dance" (the promise of life), "Boot Scootin' Boogie" (dancing).

Finding Hooks

As stated before, great hooks can be elusive. How can you find a way to say "I love you" that hasn't been said a million times before? Or "he lied", or "she cheated", "I'm happy", or "I'm lonely"?

It is rare the songwriter that can sit down and just say, "today I'm going to write a great hook".

Hooks don't usually pop out of thin air without a little coaxing.

Turn On the Radar

Waiting for a moment of supreme inspiration will not typically produce a great hook. Sometimes you have to turn on your "radar" and be ready when they hit.

Hooks are everywhere around us. You could hear something in a nearby conversation, or a line in a movie. You might read something in a book or magazine that triggers a hook.
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The key is to have your radar on knowing that a great hook can come from anywhere. When you are in tune to the mindset that hook ideas are all around us, your subconscious mind takes over and picks up on things that you might have otherwise overlooked.

Hook Book

Most pro writers carry a pad or notebook with them all the time and when they hear or see something that sounds like a hook they write it down immediately. Don't trust your mind to remember every good idea. Chances are that something that hits you as being a good hook idea at lunch time, will be gone by supper.

Just the sheer act of getting into the habit of writing down hooks will kick your subconscious mind into overdrive and you will be amazed at the new ideas that will start to materialize.

Test Your Hook

Once you have a great hook you may want to test it out before devoting hours or days writing a song around it.

One method I use is to see if it has been used before. Although this is in no way an exact science, whenever I have a new hook I will look it up on the PRO's (Performance Rights Organizations) data base and see how often the hook has been used.
header guitar 5 03I will go to BMI and ASCAP websites and do a title search for the hook I am contemplating using. I cannot tell you the number of times I have come up with a "great" hook, thinking I was a genius, only to find that there were a thousand other "geniuses" that already wrote songs using the same hook!

If there are only a few other titles registered under that hook (or none at all), it might be a hook worth pursuing.

Write It

Once you have a hook that you think is worth trying, it may be best to see if you can write a chorus around that hook first. Then try to keep a clear vision of what the hook is saying, and as you progress through the writing process, never lose sight of that vision so the song maintains continuity from beginning to end.

Expressing yourself through song is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have as a musician. Before you immerse yourself too deeply in the process, make sure you are starting off with a great hook!

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!

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Keith Dean

keith01 lowKeith Dean is founder of and a 30 year veteran of stage and studio. He toured extensively as a road musician throughout the US and Europe, was a former lead guitarist for Jason Aldean, and has shared stages with Little Big Town, Wild Rose, Winger, Confederate Railroad and more. He is a published songwriter, owned and operated a successful music store, and has instructed numerous students in guitar.

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