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Songwriting
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Writing From a Song Hook

Dan McCollam

0:30:58 · Songwriting

In this session Dan defines and then establishes the importance of the song hook, and its centrality in the song-writing process.

Writing From a Song Hook

Dano McCullom



Dan shares his journey of songwriting.

The best songs aren’t usually just written, they are re-written and re-written. They come from a crafting process.

The primary principle of songwriting: great songs start from a song hook.

- If you don’t know where you’re going it will come up in your song. If you don’t know what you’re song is about it will show in your song.

- Songwriting is about communication. It’s all about using the tool that will serve effective communication.

- Songwriting is communicating and causing you to experience it, to feel it, to know it.


“ The most successful commercial songwriters write hooks before they write songs. They do this because a great song is more easily born of a great hook. Writing a great commercial song based on an average hook is a near impossibility.” - Larry Rudolph


If it’s not repeatable it’s not sustainable.

- How do you stir your creative flow when you’re not feeling it? That’s where songcraft comes in to help you.

- Everything coming out of you is a song, and you have thousands of great ideas, you just need the right tools to get them out of you.


Definition of a song hook: It’s the part of the song that tells you what the song is all about, in as few words and musical notes as possible.- “What am I trying to say?”

- Everything else in the song begins to point back to that song hook.t makes the song stand out, it catches your attention and takes you somewhere.

It will give a purpose, an identity, and a specific market to the song. You will be able to picture the people you are singing it to and for while you’re writing.

- Often a hook is repeated within the song, whether in the melody line, or a lyric.

- Take the great idea and craft it into as few words and musical notes as possible, and create this hook.

- Dano encourages students to carry a “hook book” at all times, to have a way to note down hook as they come to you.

- Writing with other people is great way to enhance creativity, and when you can present some great hooks you are able to process more efficiently together.


A Song Hook: Is a well-stated phrase or truth- 1 single powerful idea in just a few words- Condense all your ideas down to 1 idea per song.- Use 1–5 words to write your hook - brief and amazing

- Many songs have a prophetic edge, artists are usually prophetic, and many times you are writing a song for 3–4 years later. You might introduce a song in the wrong season - every song has a right season, a right sphere of influence and a right audience.

If you write a song and love it, but the next morning it does nothing for you, you still need to treasure the song for what it was, that moment in time when it prophesied to you. Have a value for a song that maybe it’s whole life span is an encounter with you and the Lord.

Top 5 American songs used for examples:- 10,000 Reasons
- This is Amazing Love
- Oceans
- How Great is Our God
- Our God

Dano unpacks the hooks of these songs.

  1. Taking a timeless truth but putting a fresh spin on it - e.g. Love Came Down.

  2. Use of repetition to create a catch phrase in your brain. Alliteration - your brain catches symmetry and math, and repetition.

  3. Music is one of the highest brain functions in the universe. We learn through music - think ABCs.

  4. Melody and lyrics are powerful separately but be exponentially more so when combined.

  5. Don’t put alliteration in every phrase.

  6. Onsenance - subtle form of rhyme

  7. Consonance - repetition of consonants

    1. Use of contrasting ideas - using an opposite or opposing thought to create dynamic tension in a song. Your brain picks up on the tension of two subtly contrasting ideas this makes it memorable.

Homework:Write song hooks from these words:- Free
- shadow
- mystery
- glory
- simple