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]



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, [varying 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' [5]

and can be something as insubstantial as a 'sound' (such as da doo ron ron) but

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 octave 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.

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 based on hooks gives radio stations of all genres awareness of what their audience demographic wants to listen to, and is even used to test the musical boundaries of the audience. [8] Some groups even release these research hooks on a single's CD release.

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]

See also

Related Research Articles

Funk is a music genre that originated in African American communities in the mid-1960s when musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). It de-emphasizes melody and chord progressions and focuses on a strong rhythmic groove of a bassline played by an electric bassist and a drum part played by a percussionist, often at slower tempos than other popular music. Like much of African-inspired music, funk typically consists of a complex groove with rhythm instruments playing interlocking grooves that create a "hypnotic" and "danceable" feel. Funk uses the same richly colored extended chords found in bebop jazz, such as minor chords with added sevenths and elevenths, or dominant seventh chords with altered ninths and thirteenths.

Music Form of art using sound and silence

Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human societies. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική.

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 is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form during the mid-1950s in the United States and the United Kingdom. The terms popular music and pop music are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all music that is popular and includes many disparate styles. During the 1950s and 1960s, pop music encompassed rock and roll and the youth-oriented styles it influenced. Rock and pop music remained roughly synonymous until the late 1960s, after which pop became associated with music that was more commercial, ephemeral, and accessible.

Melody Linear succession of musical tones in the foreground of a work of music

Melody, also tune, voice or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tonal color. It is the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody.

Carnatic music Music genre originating in southern India

Carnatic music, known as Karnāṭaka saṃgīta or Karnāṭaka saṅgītam in the South Indian languages, is a system of music commonly associated with South India, including the modern Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and Sri Lanka. It is one of two main subgenres of Indian classical music that evolved from ancient Sanatana dharma sciences and traditions, particularly the Samaveda. The other subgenre being Hindustani music, which emerged as a distinct form because of Persian or Islamic influences from Northern India. The main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in gāyaki (singing) style. The heptatonic scale of Western musical notation is said to have its origins in Carnatic music, having been picked up by Pythagoras during his visit to India to learn mathematics, thus introducing it to the west. The circle of fifths and several other popular concepts in western classical music have their origins in the theory of Carnatic classical music.

A riff is a repeated chord progression or refrain in music ; it is a pattern, or melody, often played by the rhythm section instruments or solo instrument, that forms the basis or accompaniment of a musical composition. Though riffs are most often found in rock music, heavy metal music, Latin, funk, and jazz, classical music is also sometimes based on a riff, such as Ravel's Boléro. Riffs can be as simple as a tenor saxophone honking a simple, catchy rhythmic figure, or as complex as the riff-based variations in the head arrangements played by the Count Basie Orchestra.

Refrain Repeated lines in music or poetry

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.

Lick (music)

In popular music genres such as country, 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. For musicians, learning a lick is usually a form of imitation. By imitating, musicians understand and analyze what others have done, allowing them to build a vocabulary of their own. In a jazz band, a lick may be performed during an improvised solo, either during an accompanied solo chorus or during an unaccompanied solo break. Jazz licks are usually original short phrases which can be altered so they can be used over a song's changing harmonic progressions.

Thirty-two-bar form

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, 32-bar form, verse–chorus form, ternary form, strophic form, and the 12-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 one or more guitar solos in the song, often found after the middle chorus part. In pop music, there may be a guitar solo, or a solo may be performed by a synthesizer player or sax player.

A radio format or programming format describes the overall content broadcast on a radio station. The radio format emerged mainly in the United States in the 1950s, at a time when radio was compelled to develop new and exclusive ways to programming by competition with television. Since then, the formula has spread as a reference for commercial radio programming worldwide.

Shave and a Haircut Specific 7-note rhythm and melody

"Shave and a Haircut" and the associated response "two bits" is a 7-note musical call-and-response couplet, riff or fanfare popularly used at the end of a musical performance, usually for comedic effect. It is used melodically or rhythmically, for example as a door knock.

Pop rap, also called pop hip hop, hip pop, melodic hip hop or melodic 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. This genre gained mainstream popularity during the 1990s, though the influences and roots of pop rap can trace back to late 1980s hip-hop artists such as Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Beastie Boys. The lyrics are often lighthearted, with choruses similar to those heard in pop music.

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.

Adult contemporary music Radio format and music genre

In North American music, adult contemporary music (AC) is a form of radio-played popular music, ranging from 1960s vocal and 1970s soft rock music to predominantly ballad-heavy music of the present day, with varying degrees of easy listening, pop, soul, R&B, quiet storm, and rock influence. Adult contemporary is generally a continuation of the easy listening and soft rock style that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s with some adjustments that reflect the evolution of pop/rock music.

Sean-nós is a term referring to a style of unaccompanied traditional Irish vocal music usually performed in the Irish language. Sean-nós singing usually involves very long melodic phrases with highly ornamented and melismatic melodic lines, differing greatly from traditional folk singing elsewhere in the British Isles. The style covers a range of genres, from love song to lament to lullaby, traditionally with a strong focus on conveying the relevant emotion of the given song. The term sean-nós, which simply means "in the old way", is a vague term that can also refer to various other traditional activities, musical and non-musical.

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.

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".


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