Hook (music)

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A hook is a musical idea, often a short riff, passage, or phrase, that is used in popular music to make a song appealing and to "catch the ear of the listener". [1] The term generally applies to popular music, especially rock, R&B, hip hop, dance, and pop. In these genres, the hook is often found in, or consists of, the chorus. A hook can be either melodic or rhythmic, and often incorporates the main motif for a piece of music. [2]

Motif (music) short musical idea, a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition

In music, a motif(pronunciation)  is a short musical phrase, a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition: "The motive is the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity".

Phrase (music) musical unit

In music theory, a phrase is a unit of musical meter that has a complete musical sense of its own, built from figures, motifs, and cells, and combining to form melodies, periods and larger sections.

A phrase is a substantial musical thought, which ends with a musical punctuation called a cadence. Phrases are created in music through an interaction of melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional or "folk" music. Art music was historically disseminated through the performances of written music, although since the beginning of the recording industry, it is also disseminated through recordings. Traditional music forms such as early blues songs or hymns were passed along orally, or to smaller, local audiences.



One definition of a hook is "a musical or lyrical phrase that stands out and is easily remembered". [3] Definitions typically include some of the following: that a hook is repetitive, attention-grabbing, memorable, easy to dance to, and has commercial potential and lyrics. A hook has been defined as a "part of a song, sometimes the title or key lyric line, that keeps recurring". [4] Alternatively, the term has been defined as

the foundation of commercial songwriting, particularly hit-single writing", which varies in length from the repetition of "one note or a series of notes...[to] a lyric phrase, full lines, or an entire verse. The hook is 'what you're selling'. Though a hook can be something as insubstantial as a 'sound' (such as da doo ron ron), "ideally should contain one or more of the following: (a) a driving, danceable rhythm; (b) a melody that stays in people's minds; (c) a lyric that furthers the dramatic action, or defines a person or place. [5]

While some melodic hooks include skips of an eighth or more to make the line more interesting, a hook can be equally catchy by employing rhythmic syncopation or other devices. A hook may also garner attention from listeners from other factors, such as the vocal timbre or instrumentation, as in the case of the Beach Boys' use of an Electro-Theremin in "Good Vibrations". Some hooks become popular without using any unusual elements. For example, in the song "Be My Baby", performed by The Ronettes, the hook consists of the words "be my baby" over the conventional I-vi-IV-V chord progression of the chorus. [5] Hooks in hip hop almost always refer to the chorus between verses; as in the lyrics to "Ice Ice Baby", "check out the hook, while my DJ revolves it", that leads into the chorus itself.

In music, an octave or perfect octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems". The interval between the first and second harmonics of the harmonic series is an octave.

In music, syncopation involves a variety of rhythms which are in some way unexpected, making part or all of a tune or piece of music off-beat. More simply, syncopation is "a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm": a "placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn't normally occur". It is the correlation of at least two sets of time intervals.


The Electro-Theremin is an electronic musical instrument developed by trombonist Paul Tanner and amateur inventor Bob Whitsell in the late 1950s to produce a sound to mimic that of the theremin. The instrument features a tone and portamento similar to that of the theremin, but with a different control mechanism. It consisted of a sine wave generator with a knob that controlled the pitch, placed inside a wooden box. The pitch knob was attached to a slider on the outside of the box with some string. The player would move the slider, thus turning the knob to the desired frequency, with the help of markings drawn on the box.

Use in market research

The hooks of a song may be used in market research to assist in gauging the popularity of a song based on the listener's ability to recognize the song's hook. Often radio stations conduct "call out" either on the Internet, via telephone, or a music test (either online or in an in-person setting) to conduct surveys. Stations may use the services of a professional "hook service" or prepare the materials themselves. In some studies, radio stations play the hook, typically 8-12 bars long, [6] for audiences of up to 150 participants. The participants are then asked to rate the song on a scale from "dislike very much" to "like very much". Top 40 stations typically can't wait that long for results and have participants "call out" directly, by listening and rating different hooks. [7] Studies such as these inform the radio station how popular current songs are or if the audience is "burned out" of a certain song. Market research from these hooks provide radio stations of all genres of what their audience demographic wants to listen to, or even tests the musical boundaries of the audience. [8] Some groups even release these research hooks on a single's CD release.

Market research is an organized effort to gather information about target markets or customers. It is a very important component of business strategy. The term is commonly interchanged with marketing research; however, expert practitioners may wish to draw a distinction, in that marketing research is concerned specifically about marketing processes, while market research is concerned specifically with markets.

Scientific research

A European consortium (including Utrecht University and the University of Amsterdam) studies the hook by using online games and the wisdom of the crowd to understand and quantify the effect of catchiness on musical memory. [9] [10]

Utrecht University university in the Netherlands

Utrecht University is a university in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Established 26 March 1636, it is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands. In 2016, it had an enrolment of 29,425 students, and employed 5,568 faculty and staff. In 2011, 485 PhD degrees were awarded and 7,773 scientific articles were published. The 2013 budget of the university was €765 million.

University of Amsterdam university in Amsterdam

The University of Amsterdam is a public university located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The UvA is one of two large, publicly funded research universities in the city, the other being the VU University Amsterdam (VU). Established in 1632 by municipal authorities and later renamed for the city of Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam is the third-oldest university in the Netherlands. It is one of the largest research universities in Europe with 31,186 students, 4,794 staff, 1,340 PhD students and an annual budget of €600 million. It is the largest university in the Netherlands by enrollment. The main campus is located in central Amsterdam, with a few faculties located in adjacent boroughs. The university is organised into seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Science, Law, Medicine, and Dentistry.

The wisdom of the crowd is the collective opinion of a group of individuals rather than that of a single expert.

See also

Related Research Articles

Music radio is a radio format in which music is the main broadcast content. After television replaced old time radio's dramatic content, music formats became dominant in many countries. Radio drama and comedy continue, often on public radio.

Pop music is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form in the United States and United Kingdom during the mid-1950s. The terms "popular music" and "pop music" are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all music that is popular and includes many diverse styles. "Pop" and "rock" were roughly synonymous terms until the late 1960s, when they became increasingly differentiated from each other.

Arena rock is a style of rock music that originated in the mid-1970s. As hard rock bands and those playing a softer yet strident kind of pop rock became increasingly popular, groups began creating material inherently designed for large audiences, and arena rock developed from their use of more commercially oriented and radio-friendly sounds. The often highly-produced music, including both upbeat, dramatic songs and slower power ballads, features strong emphasis on melody and frequently employs anthemic choruses. Other major characteristics include prominent guitar effects and the use of keyboard instruments.

In music, an ostinato[ostiˈnaːto] is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, frequently in the same pitch. Well-known ostinato-based pieces include both classical compositions such as Ravel's Boléro and the Carol of the Bells, and popular songs such as Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's "I Feel Love" (1977), Henry Mancini's theme from Peter Gunn (1959), The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (1997), and April Ivy's "Be Ok" (1997).

A catchphrase is a phrase or expression recognized by its repeated utterance. Such phrases often originate in popular culture and in the arts, and typically spread through word of mouth and a variety of mass media. Some become the de facto or literal "trademark" or "signature" of the person or character with whom they originated, and can be instrumental in the typecasting of a particular actor.

Schlager music Genre of popular music

Schlager music is a style of popular music which is generally a catchy instrumental accompaniment to vocal pieces of pop music with simple, happy-go-lucky, and often sentimental lyrics. It is prevalent in Central and Northern Europe, and Southeast Europe, and also in France, Belgium, Netherlands, and the UK. In the United States it is also known as 'entertainer music' or 'German hit mix'.

Refrain line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse

A refrain is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in poetry; the "chorus" of a song. Poetic fixed forms that feature refrains include the villanelle, the virelay, and the sestina.

Cumulative song

A cumulative song is a song with a simple verse structure modified by progressive addition so that each verse is longer than the verse before. Cumulative songs are popular for group singing, in part because they require relatively little memorization of lyrics, and because remembering the previous verse to concatenate it to form the current verse can become a kind of game.

Lick (music) a stock pattern or phrase consisting of a short series of notes that is used in solos and melodic lines and accompaniment

In popular music genres such as blues, jazz or rock music, a lick is "a stock pattern or phrase" consisting of a short series of notes used in solos and melodic lines and accompaniment. Licks in rock and roll are often used through a formula, and variations technique in which variants of simple, stock ideas are blended and developed during the solo.

Thirty-two-bar form song structure commonly found in U.S. popular music in the early 20th century; consists of 4 sections: an 8-bar A section; a second 8-bar A section, similar to the 1st; an 8-bar B section, with contrasting harmony; and a final 8-bar A section

The 32-bar form, also known as the AABA song form, American popular song form and the ballad form, is a song structure commonly found in Tin Pan Alley songs and other American popular music, especially in the first half of the 20th century.

Melodic motion

Melodic motion is the quality of movement of a melody, including nearness or farness of successive pitches or notes in a melody. This may be described as conjunct or disjunct, stepwise, skipwise or no movement, respectively. See also contrapuntal motion. In a conjunct melodic motion, the melodic phrase moves in a stepwise fashion; that is the subsequent notes move up or down a semitone or tone, but no greater. In a disjunct melodic motion, the melodic phrase leaps upwards or downwards; this movement is greater than a whole tone. In popular Western music, a melodic leap of disjunct motion is often present in the chorus of a song, to distinguish it from the verses and captivate the audience.

Song structure is the arrangement of a song, and is a part of the songwriting process. It is typically sectional, which uses repeating forms in songs. Common forms include bar form, thirty-two-bar form, verse-chorus form, ternary form, strophic form, and the twelve-bar blues. Popular music songs traditionally use the same music for each verse or stanza of lyrics. Pop and traditional forms can be used even with songs that have structural differences in melodies. The most common format in modern popular music is introduction (intro), verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus and outro. In rock music styles, notably heavy metal music, there is usually a guitar solo in the song. In pop music, there may be a guitar solo, or the solo may be performed by a synthesizer player or sax player.

Verse–chorus form is a musical form common in popular music, used in blues and rock and roll since the 1950s, and predominant in rock music since the 1960s. In contrast to thirty-two-bar form, which is focused on the verse, in verse–chorus form the chorus is highlighted.

In music, especially western popular music, a bridge is a contrasting section that prepares for the return of the original material section. In a piece in which the original material or melody is referred to as the "A" section, the bridge may be the third eight-bar phrase in a thirty-two-bar form, or may be used more loosely in verse-chorus form, or, in a compound AABA form, used as a contrast to a full AABA section.

Tsunku is a prolific Japanese record producer, songwriter, and vocalist. Total sales of the singles he has written exceed 37.9 million copies, making him the fifth best-selling lyricist in Japan.

Pop-rap is a genre of music fusing the rhythm-based lyricism of hip hop music with pop music's preference for melodious vocals and catchy tunes, which gained mainstream popularity during the 1990s. The lyrics are often lighthearted, with choruses similar to those heard in pop music. The influences and roots of pop rap trace back to late 1980s hip hop artists, such as Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Beastie Boys.

Repetition is important in music, where sounds or sequences are often repeated. It may be called restatement, such as the restatement of a theme. While it plays a role in all music, with noise and musical tones lying along a spectrum from irregular to periodic sounds,(Moravcsik, 114)(Rajagopal, ) it is especially prominent in specific styles.

Catchiness is how easy it is for one to remember a song, tune or phrase. It is often taken into account when writing songs, catchphrases, advertising slogans, jingles etc. Alternatively, it can be defined as how difficult it is for one to forget it. Songs that embody high levels of remembrance or catchiness are literally known as "catchy songs" or "earworms". While it is hard to scientifically explain what makes a song catchy, there are many documented techniques that recur throughout catchy music, such as repetition, hooks and alliteration. Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music says that "although there was no definition for what made a song catchy, all the songwriting guides agreed that simplicity and familiarity were vital".

Millennial whoop musical vocal effect extensively used in 2010s pop music.

The millennial whoop is a melodic pattern alternating between the fifth and third notes in a major scale, typically starting on the fifth, in the rhythm of straight 8th-notes, and often using the "wa" and "oh" syllables. It has been used extensively in 2010s pop music.


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  2. Davidson, Miriam; Heartwood, Kiya (1996). Songwriting for Beginners, p.7. Alfred Music Publishing. ISBN   0739020005.
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  4. Hurst and Delson 1980, p.58. Cited in Burns, Gary (1987) "A Typology of 'Hooks' in Popular Records", Popular Music, Vol. 6, No. 1. (Jan., 1987), pp. 1-20.
  5. 1 2 Kasha and Hirschhorn (1979), p.28-29. Cited in Gary Burns (January 1987). "A Typology of "Hooks" in Popular Records". Popular Music. 6 (1): 1–20. doi:10.1017/S0261143000006577. JSTOR   853162.
  6. Steinkoler, Jeremy. "Understanding Song Form". Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  7. Cobo, Leila. "Radio Research: How Much does it Determine what Gets Played how often? Programmers Insist its Role is Valuable - and Misunderstood." Billboard - The International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment, vol. 114, no. 50, 2002.
  8. Dann-Beardsley, Cynthia. "Eight Seconds to Hook an Audience". Words and Music. 7.
  9. "#HookedOnMusic".
  10. UU, Cogitch UvA,. "Hooked! App".