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Hook Writing for Songwriters

by: John Chiasson

Did you ever notice in the music of the great popular song writers of the 20th century, that a certain part of the song will grab you? This is called a "musical hook". It's called a hook because it grabs you. Here is my theory on why that happens.

In my line of thinking, it's all about "Key Center" and "Chord Sequences". If a song was to stay in one key center. The chords built off of the degrees of the major scale would have a particular pattern as follows:

1 major
2 minor
3 minor
4 major
5 major
6 minor
7 diminished

Many songs are written from the structure of one key only, and there's nothing wrong with that. Where would we be without the 3 chord "rocker" (1, 4, 5)?

Now here's the fun part! Try borrowing chords (and melodies), from either of the 2 key centers, that are a minor 3rd above or below, the original key center. Experiment with this method, and if you have a good ear; you will discover numerous hooks!

I could provide you with tons of examples of this but I will let you find them for yourself.

Keep an ear open for these borrowed key centers when you listen to your favorite songs.