Use Vocal Hooks to Make Your Next Record a ‘ Hit ’
By Lorraine Lawson
When you think about what components make up a great song , we know it starts with two key things : a great lyric and a great melody which perfectly tells the story .
But when we dig deeper , we can appreciate there are only so many ways a songwriter can say ‘ I love you ’ or ‘ I don ’ t love you anymore ’ and when it comes to creating a melody , remember there are only eight possible notes in a major and minor scale to choose from .
We often think of a ‘ hook ’ as the chorus only . As important as the chorus is , the singer ’ s delivery of each section of the song is what can ultimately make or break the success of the song .
Vocal hooks are the tools a singer can use , just like production details can , to take the song to the next level . It ’ s important for the singer to establish a unique tone , timbre , and texture of the voice itself . When the singer has a unique vocal identity , the song has a chance to be able to stand out from the almost 100k songs that are being uploaded every day to streaming platforms .
There are several other equally important vocal hooks which help the song come to life including the use of rhythmic phrasing and dynamics which can transform the words into something more memorable immediately .
Each word can be broken into three parts : the beginning , the middle , and the end . Utilizing all three parts of the word is what singers like Stevie Wonder , Elvis Presley , Aretha Franklin , and more recently , Billie Eilish , Jonas Brothers , and Khalid do to make their songs super catchy and stand out as uniquely their song amongst thousands and thousands of songs .
Rhythm without dynamics can be stiff and boring . It ’ s impossible to keep the audience emotionally engaged when the singer uses only loud tones or all soft vocal tones . The most effective emotional delivery is when the singer uses louds and softs equally , by the emphasizing of certain words and backing off others . The combination of rhythm and dynamics is pure magic .
Another massive vocal hook is the use of the vowels to hook the listener . There are several types of rhyming hooks starting with pure rhymes where the vowel and the end of the word are the same . For example , ‘ day , say , way ’ and ‘ do , through , you ’.
Songwriters may use loose rhymes where the vowel is the same but the ending of the word is different . For example ‘ day , escape , break ’ and ‘ do , choose , loop ’.
Great singers can take the use of rhyme even further by manipulating the vowel sounds to make words rhyme that don ’ t naturally rhyme . For example , matching the pronunciation of ‘ me ’ to match ‘ day ’ or match ‘ dance ’ with ‘ dark .
So often , singers miss the various rhyming hooks that were intended by the songwriter , let alone have the vocal skill to make anything rhyme .
There are considerable vocal skills necessary to use resonance , tone and texture to hook the listener even further . For example , Lady Gaga ’ s vocal delivery of “ Million Reasons ”—’ I bow down to pray ’…. ‘ Lord , show me the way .’ Lady Gaga makes every word rhyme by using similar resonance and pronunciation for each word .
This last example leads perfectly into another amazing use of the rhyming vocal hooks which is the use of the consonant .
Smart songwriters , often explore using the same sound at the beginning of the words . For example , using the same consonant in the same sentence ‘ finally found a friend ’ or ‘ somewhere someone saw something .’
There are also opportunities to use the last part of the word as a hook for example ‘ important ’ with ‘ happen ’ or ‘ impossible ’ with ‘ call ’. Matching the ends of the words has become more and more popular as hip hop has become a bigger and bigger influence on contemporary music .
The ability of the singer to analyze the song for possible hooks is behind how some of the greatest singers of all time can create their own unique vocal delivery of cover songs .
In some cases , the cover version can be more successful than original version of a song . For example , Whitney Houston ’ s version of Dolly Parton ’ s song , “ I Will Always Love You ” or Adele ’ s version of Bob Dylan ’ s song , “ Make You Feel My Love .”
Whenever a singer sings a song , the goal is to be as emotionally compelling and memorable as possible . Knowing how to use various vocal hooks is essential to the success of how the singer can convey the story to the audience .
Consider that the greatest songs sung by a mediocre singer will often be perceived as mediocre , but a mediocre song sung by a great singer , using vocal hooks , has a better chance of becoming a monster hit .
Lorraine Lawson is CEO of Lawson Vocal Studios , a Vocal , Performance and Career Coach / Vocal Coach for Schitts Creek / The Launch / Grammy & Juno Winning Artists . She can be reached at info @ lawsonvocalstudios . com .
28 CANADIAN MUSICIAN