The Perfect Music Production Techniques to Creating a Hit

The ways people listen to music are different, causing a change in music production. How do you get that perfect hook that keeps everyone listening?

It’s no surprise that music production is not run the same way it was 20 years ago. There are a multitude of reasons for the change but a recent study is showing one of the biggest factors is modern listening and streaming habits as well as what the study calls “attention economy.” Essentially, research says modern music lovers are too easily distracted to listen to a new song the whole way through.

Hubert Léveillé Gauvin, a doctoral student in music theory at The Ohio State University conducted the study. He looked at the top 10 songs from 1986 to 2015 and compared five characteristics of these songs: Number of words in title, main tempo, time before the voice enters, time before the title is mentioned and self-focus in lyrical content. Now, this isn’t highly definitive proof that this is exactly why an era of music production has withered away but it leads us to believe one thing; shorter attention spans have killed the dramatic music introduction.

The study shows that most recent top 10 songs have a faster tempo, early vocal introduction and short titles so keep this in mind when creating the next track. But don’t think that this is the be-all and end-all formula for becoming a musical success. What you need to do is something that’s easier said than done; You need to introduce that chorus early on, give the listeners the hook they love and always keep building on said hook. This technique is one that has been used for years now and should never be underestimated.

Here’s some homework. Take a look at what just a drummer can do to make a simple hook into something epic and emotional inducing. Take Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” for example. Neil Peart is the driving force throughout most of their songs due to his ability to build on familiar patterns. Listen to 0:33 of the song (the first interlude) and compare it to 2:52 (the last interlude) and see how busy the drums are. That tactic, even to an untrained ear, is wildly attention grabbing. The study just proved that some people’s attention span isn’t all that long, so keep building on that familiar sound to keep listeners attention.

In an interview with NPR, frontman and founder of Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme, talks about the importance of familiarity while keeping things spicy in regards to their new album, Villians. 

“When the chorus comes back around you’ve heard it, you’re familiar with it, it’s the same. Perhaps the words change, perhaps they don’t. And for me, this needed to be very orbital, where every time you hear a part, you hear a verse come around, it’s only 40 percent the same; it’s been altered each time. And the chorus as well. That way, it’s more like getting on a bus at a bus stop: You get on one place, you get off somewhere else. And you don’t understand what’s going to happen at all times. But you feel comfortable; hopefully, you feel comfortable.”

Now these are two rock based examples but look at the time difference; Rush’s Tom Sawyer came out in 1981. 36 years later and people are still using this music production technique. It’s one that needs to applied now more than ever with the public’s newfound ability to quickly and easily skip over songs they don’t find interesting with the first 30 seconds. Look at your favorite artists and pay close attention to each chorus or hook. Try to spot the differences and pull inspiration from these tracks. It could lead you to your next chart topping idea.

Music production is changing at alarming rate but that doesn’t mean you cannot stay ahead of the game. The oldies were immortalized because of these simple but highly effective techniques mentioned above, you just need to put your own spin on things. All in all, don’t put all of your cards down on the table on the first go. There is a basic hook to every song; simplify it and build upon it and the results will be spectacular. Keep song titles short, use variations of familiar tones and always keep building.

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