Mastering Your Hook in Music Production

Using music production to create a bodacious hook is about more than just fetching melodies, trendy rhythms, and way-out riffs. It requires your soul

This week in Interdisciplinary Arts class I was clacking through a Google Slides delivery on the Beatles, filling in amusing details where I could, when one of my discerning eighth-graders asked a valuable question. “How come they were so great?” she asked.  “I mean, why did people buy their albums, and not those of other bands who had a similar sound?” One word pin-balled around my brain and started looking for a hip way out:  hook.

I was proud of her profound thinking, but shaky on my answer.  Was it the delicious melodies, the spirited tempos, their mobile hair? The Youtube video of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” was next, and when I heard the diatonic baseline and punctuating claps on beats 2 and 4, I was, as they say, “hooked.” I wanted to start clicking my sensible ballet-flatted heels together and ticking the “replay” button over and over. When we viewed the Ed Sullivan Show video, I could almost sense the incredulity in the laughter of the band members at their fans’ screaming and fainting in their presence. Oh, the power great music production which created a great hook!

Frankly stated, a hook is an element, created in during music production, in a song that connects with your listeners’ souls and makes them want to tune in, get down, or keep giving you their ears. What’s extraordinary about the rhythmic accents in “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” later imitated in the nineties retro-smash “That Thing You Do,” are their simplicity. Somewhere in the drummer’s fingers, beat three trips on its second half in the excitement over reaching beat four, and the kids go wild.  

Recent years have seen the hook debuting at the end of a song, leaving the listener desperately re-clicking the readily available play button on their screen.  At the conclusion of “Wheel,” John Mayer layers two nostalgic melodic lines that harmonize one other, one haunting and the other hopeful, their pitch direction imitating the aesthetics of the lyrics “can’t love too much one part of it” and “I believe that my life’s gonna see the love I give return to me.”  In “Give Me Love,” Ed Sheeran saves the “best part” for last, with the lyrics “oh my my, give me love” begin softly and reach a mighty crescendo with the guitarist passionately stressing the first and fourth of a six-beat pattern.  

What makes your melody, your rhythm pattern, or your instrumental riff memorable? Working hard on your music production to create your perfect sound. Tunes that don’t meander and effectively mimic the intensity of the lyrics, rhythms that accentuate the power of love through commanding accents, and guitar solos that jump dexterously between not-so-distant intervals (“Sweet Child O’ Mine”) have one thing in common: soul. Anything that converts the struggles, glories, and disappointments of growing up and falling in love into acoustics is what will make your song a story in someone else’s heart. Pour it in, and see what happens.

 

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