Hook Composition 01
To create catchy melodies, all you have to do is play an instrument, and channel your creativity. Easy right? Sure. The hard part is paving the way for that creativity. So, how do you pave the way for that creativity and compose compelling melodies? Let’s take a look at melody composition using basic musical exercises as a starting point.
1) Build your medium: Using an instrument you’re familiar with, construct a powerful array of musical technique and theory. Through the rigorous practice of musical exercises, you’re cultivating your own medium, as it were, through which to channel your musical muse and creativity.
2) Seek inspiration: After the process of building a medium comes dedicated dawdling - playing for hours without a specific musical idea in place, yet in hopes of landing an inspiring musical riff. Whenever you play and hear something hot, you hit record. So, the dawdling is a keystone in the creative process, honing in on your improvisational skills and mastering your medium. As you stay committed to this premise, even basic
exercises can lead to worthy hooks. To illustrate what we mean, below is a brief example of how simple musical exercises can become the launching pad of a unique, and powerful hook. Case in point: minor arpeggios. Although usually made of simple scales, arpeggios almost never tire the ear.
3) Bring it together: Even with a basic, limited musical vocabulary, it’s still possible to create inspiring original melodies. For example, the melody at left begins with two very simple arpeggios (an arpeggio is essentially a melody containing the notes of a chord in sequential order, from lowest to highest and back): an E minor arpeggio in the first bar, then an A minor arpeggio in the second bar, then back to E minor in the third. The fourth bar contains an A minor breakdown before it loops back to the beginning of the melody. The composer who wrote this melody could have done so immediately after learning basic minor arpeggios on the keyboard, given a little time and experimentation, and that’s exactly the point.
4) Fine-tune your timbre: Step 4 could just as easily be step 1, yet there are times when you’ll find yourself tweaking the timbre of a given track long into post production to make the mix sound just right. The melody in step 3 above sounds perfect using the DSK RhodeZ (http://www.dskmusic.com/blog/) free Rhodes plugin, pictured below. The timbre of a classic Rhodes keyboard is an indispensable stand-by timbre to have in your arsenal. Free plugins like this are worth their weight in gold! We’ve tweaked the original patch by adjusting the ASDR envelope and the chorus effect. So far, the hook is shaping up fine. The descending E minor to A minor sounds good, the alternating short and long notes at the beginning of the fourth bar breakdown provide a lively feel.
Now, we’re not suggesting you simply copy this riff, and see how it sounds. In fact, it could still use a little tweaking, and we’ll show you what we have in mind in our next tip. But here is the lesson: straightforward, simple exercises can provide both a solid foundation for your chops, and broaden your musical vocabulary and improvisational skills over time, so long you stay committed. Best do what your music teacher told you!
Need more knowledge right now? We provide more in-depth coverage of hook composition in our Hit Theory Ebook. In addition, you can pick up valuable piano scale diagrams in our What You Know Hit Report to give you a jump start on proper keyboard finger positioning, amid a host of other production insights!