The hook vs chorus, two important terms in songwriting which are related but are not the same. Let’s talk hook vs chorus and how they work together to make a song better.
Hook Vs Chorus
Let’s start with the chorus. This is a part of the structure of a song and in fact the MOST important part of a song’s structure. This is the part which repeats two or more times in a song typically with the same melody, chord progression, or music in general, as well as the same lyrics.
As I mentioned in my comparison of verse vs chorus, the chorus delivers the most memorable melody and lyric in the song.
In terms of where the chorus appears in a song, this can vary. Sometimes a song begins with the chorus, other times you have to wait through a verse to build anticipation for that chorus to hit.
What makes a chorus so memorable is the hook, so what is a hook?
Simply put, the hook of a song is its catchiest and most memorable melody. The hook is called as such because it’s meant to “hook” the listener, grabbing their attention and pulling them into the song.
Sometimes the hook is delivered by a riff played by a guitar or synthesizer, like in the case of M83’s “Midnight City” which plays right at the open:
Rather than layering some vocals on top of this musical hook, it’s that repeating melody from the opening delivered by a very unique in timbre synth lead which gets stuck in our heads on top of an energetic bed of synths and heavy hitting drums beneath it.
The vocals in the relatively subdued verses serve to build anticipation for when that lyric-less chorus hits and hits big.
More often than not, though, a song’s hook is the vocal melody in the chorus. This is what we think of when we think of a song 9 times out of 10.
To take one random example out of thousands, take Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”:
Here the hook is when her voice soars with the delivery of the lyric “Could have had it all” with her hanging on that final word in each line.
That’s the part that virtually every time when sometime thinks of that song or even Adele, that’s the first thing they think of (or probably sing).
Sometimes a hook is an artful combination of catchy vocal and music melodies.
I referenced this song in the aforementioned comparison of the verse and chorus, but Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” is a prime example of combining a catchy vocal and musical melody in the chorus:
The admittedly kind of cheesy, disco-like string hook contrasting with Carly’s broken up vocal hook creates a tight kind of double SUPER hook and is what puts this song over the top and has helped indelibly weave the song into pop culture.
You also have a very simple (and again, admittedly cheesy) lyric which doesn’t have a lot of substance but is simple to remember to help drill the entire hook into being stuck in our heads whenever you hear just 1 second from the chorus.
Does a chorus NEED a hook, meaning a catchy and memorable melody? No, of course not – but you can argue that to be successful, a chorus should have a hook. This is certainly true in popular music
The ability to write a great hook is the secret to great songwriting. Once you have a great, memorable melody in that hook, everything else is secondary and falls into place.
I cover a number of tricks to help you come up with and write massive hooks in my complete guide on how to write a song, so check that out to unlock the secrets of songwriting.
Then once you’ve written that next great song like the Max Martins of the world (okay, there’s only one Max Martin), use the tips here at Music Guy Mixing to record and mix it like the pros, too.