Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

More on Music

       I opened the subject of music in my last two posts.  That’s a subject I enjoy personally, so I think I’ll add a little “more on music.”  My last post dealt with “moron music.”

Back when I was teaching high school in the ‘70s, I signed a contract with Frank Sinatra’s publishing company in Nashville for a couple of songs I had written. I learned a few things about song writing during that period.  Of course, even back then there was melody, harmony, structure, and other elements of music. I’m just talking about popular music – not complex classical or good jazz.  Classical and jazz are more complicated.

One trick in writing a “popular song” is that the song needs a “hook.”  A hook is a musical phrase, a lyric, or some musical device that implants the song in your memory and “hooks” you on the song.  Many times the hook will be in the chorus of the song with the verse leading to a powerful and memorable chorus with strong phrasing. The title of the song is usually the hook, but not always.

Although a hook can be in the chorus, many times the hook is placed close to the beginning of the song – usually the first lyric.  The classic Kenny Rogers song, “Lady” is an example of the perfect placement of the hook.  The first word of this song is the hook - “Lady” combined with its memorable interval jump of a musical fifth.   That’s a textbook hook. 

That technique is very common, especially in country western music.  If you think about it, you’ll come up with a ton of examples – “Something,” “Hello Walls,” “Crazy,” “Feelings,” “Moon River.”   Those just popped into my mind, but using the title as the hook and placing it as the fist word or words is a common songwriting technique that works well. 

Speaking of the song, “Moon River,” the song uses a word with no meaning in the context of the lyric line, but creates a subliminal connection of sorts.  It’s almost a secondary hook.  The phrase is, “My huckleberry friend.” 

Much like Doc Holiday’s saying, “I’ll be your huckleberry,” no one really knows what the word means outside of the actual berry itself, but the word conjures up a sentiment of some kind.  That’s why I titled my book, “The Huckleberry Days of the ‘50’s.”  I don’t know what it means either, but it sounds good.  It has a nostalgic feel.  It reminds me of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and that’s the image I wanted to convey with the book.

            I guess I’m “hooked” on music, but I thought it might be interesting to look at why some songs stick in your mind.  Your homework assignment is to listen to songs you like and see if you can pick out the hook. 


  1. What do fishing and writing songs have in common?

    I will let you figure this one out.

    I watched Bill Gaither talk about "hooks" in song writing on one of his shows. He then sang a song he wrote years ago where the "hook" did not work! It was one bad song with one bad "hook"!

  2. Good point, Ed. Sometimes a hook may not work, but if it's a lousy song even a good hook can't save it.