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 by Bob Dylan
Crazy by Gnarls Barkley
(Links to recordings at the end of the lesson.)
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:
The word "feel" is not exactly on beat 1. This is because it's
anticipated, which you hopefully understand from
Lesson 42: Syncopation. In fact, it's
anticipated twice; first it's anticipated (moved earlier) by a
½ beat, from beat 1 to beat 3½, then by another
¼ beat to beat 3¼.
In order to place this strong last word, "feel", near beat 1 of the
chorus, the hook melody actually starts (with the word "How") before
beat 1 (near beat 3 of the previous measure, in fact). Starting a
melodic phrase "early" like this is called a pickup. Notice that I've
marked the start of the actual chorus with a
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
Notice these similarities to the Rolling Stone hook above:
We can imagine someone shouting "does that make me crazy?" over the chords,
but shouting "musically", with rhythm and pitches that fit the chords.
Rhythm: This hook also uses a pickup to place the strong word "crazy"
near beat 1, and also uses anticipation.
The strong notes are chord tones.
The strong word "crazy" is at the top of the song's melodic range.
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
Lesson 2: Practicing Songwriting):
Analyze the hook melodies in songs you like; the examples in this
lesson were just to help you get started. Look for the features that make
different hook melodies "good".
Compare your own hook melodies to the ones you've analyzed. Are there
good ideas in others' melodies which you can use?
Practice using, in your own hook melodies, the ideas you find in
others' hook melodies.