Posted Feb. 12, 2019, 9:36 a.m.
Have you ever been working on a song with a great beat, an interesting chord pattern, and a beautiful melody, but still found it lacking something? What your song needs is a hook. Put simply, the hook is the special part of a popular song that makes it catchy. Next time you’re at a concert, pay attention to when the entire audience sings along. The part of the song the audience shouts back is the hook.
But what differentiates a hook from a good melody? A great hook is a combination of familiarity and surprise. The predictable part of a song lures the listener in with familiarity, while the unexpected hook elements are what get the song stuck in their head. In this tutorial, we’re going to use Reason 10 to teach you how to begin incorporating proven techniques to modify or accompany your melodies with catchy hooks that listeners will crave to hear again and again.
Shout It Out
If you want to hear your audience shout back at you, you have to give them something to shout about. The first and easiest way to include a shout-able hook in your song is by adding a simple word like “hey!” in an unexpected place in the melody. It’s easy to create a convincing sing-along effect in Reason 10. Simply record yourself shouting the hook a few times (or drop in a sample), then duplicate each clip several times. Pan your duplicates out wide and slightly adjust the pitch and timing of each copy for a more realistic effect.
Patterns and Melodies
Another way to add a hook is to integrate surprise elements within your main melody. As an example, let’s use Reason’s Scales and Chords Player to create a rhythmic harmonic pattern using four chords. Next, use one of Reason’s many synths – such as Subtractor or Maelstrom – to record a simple melody over the first two chords. Now repeat the same melody over the third and fourth chords. The melody will sound familiar, yet unexpectedly different the second time. When crafting radio-ready hooks, repetition is your friend – but too much repetition can bother our ears. You can keep your track sounding fresh by simply moving a single note in the repeated melody to a different pitch.
Embrace the Unexpected
Another successful technique for crafting hooks is to punctuate the song with stutter edits, repeated words or notes, or unexpected snare hits. Let’s take the melody you just created and spice it up with some catchy punctuation. Find the longest note in your melody. Then use Reason’s Draw tool to add a few shorter, syncopated notes above it. This punctuation technique simultaneously breaks up the most static part of your melody and transforms it into a hook that will get stuck in your listeners’ heads.
Finally, if you’ve exhausted other options, don’t be afraid to get weird with it. Play around with utilizing Reason’s user-friendly automation to tweak knobs or settings on your lead synth in real time.
Now that you know how to write hooks and make your songs catchier, it’s time to practice crafting hooks that will be stuck in your listeners’ heads for days.