44: Hook Melodies
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Lesson 44: Hook MelodiesThis lesson explores adding a melody to chords to create a chord-based hook. After you've chosen a hook chord phrase, this is a common next step in writing a song.
This lesson builds on many earlier lessons. Before taking this lesson, you should understand:
How do you add a melody to your hook chord phrase? There are no rules, but you can learn ideas from hit songs. For this lesson, we'll look at two:
Like A Rolling Stone
The hook melody in Like A Rolling Stone, at the chorus (1:05 in the recording), goes like this:
How might Bob have come up with this melody? The answer is not that complicated. This melody doesn't sound too different from someone just shouting "how does it feel?". Here are some things that make it more musical than just shouting:
Rhythm: The strongest syllable, the word "feel", falls on the strongest beat, beat 1 of the chorus. This is very common, although certainly not a rule. Here are some more details about how this strongest syllable is placed:
Chord tones: The strongest pitch (the F) is a chord tone (Lesson 35: Melody: Chord Tones). Since this is Bob Dylan, some of the notes are more "shouted" than sung, and don't really fit the chords (I've just written in approximate notes above). This "shouting" is not typical of most songs, but it's something you can do if you want to sound like Bob Dylan (most singers don't), but even Bob usually sings chord tones on the strong words.
Melodic range: The notes in this hook melody are the highest notes in the song. It's common for hook melodies to be the highest notes in the song, to focus energy and attention on the hook.
Here's the hook melody to Gnarls Barkley's Crazy (at 0:39 in the recording):
Notice these similarities to the Rolling Stone hook above:
Blues minor pentatonic scale: Notice the B♭ note on the word "make". The note B♭ is not a chord tone in the G major chord that's playing at that point, so how does that note "work" with the chord? Well, the song is in the key of C minor, and the whole hook melody is in the C minor pentatonic scale. This is an example of using a minor pentatonic scale against a major chord for a blues feel, from Lesson 43: Pentatonic Scales.
Do It Yourself
Adding a melody to your hook chord phrase can be as easy as "musically shouting" your hook words over your hook chords. Or, you can study hook melodies more deeply, by adding activities to your writing exercises (from Lesson 2: Practicing Songwriting):
Links to recordings: