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Thread: Prog Songwriting: Where are the hooks?

  1. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Splicer View Post
    I would say that too many of the Prog bands nowadays are focused on their musical chops rather than the songwriting
    .

    I actually meant to include the "chops over songwriting" comment in my post, but it got lost in my editing process. If you go back to a band like ELP, Keith Emerson admitted in interviews that he wanted to build ELP's reputation as a "virtuoso band". At the same time, he also made room in the band's music for the hooks. Or at least, Greg made room for the hooks, presumably with Keith's cooperation (up to a point, anyway).

  2. #27
    Just got RPWL's new CD. They know how to write a hook.

  3. #28
    Member Mikhael's Avatar
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    That's one thing I used to notice about Kansas, especially Livgren's work - it seemed like they would use up an album's worth of melodies in one piece! There were hooks - memorable melodies - everywhere. I think one problem modern writers run into is trying not to be derivative, attempting originality; it's hard to come up with a whole bunch of something brand new in a Prog piece that demands a bunch of melodic movements. In the early years of pop & rock (not just Prog), writers "borrowed" liberally from classical composers for melodies (you can compare and hear them everywhere). But in the current climate, you can't use anything that sounds remotely like anything that has come before, or you're going to get sued over it. So that leaves writers trying to find something totally original with only 12 notes available, that hasn't been done in the thousands (millions?) of songs preceding it. That limits your choices, somewhat...
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  4. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikhael View Post
    In the early years of pop & rock (not just Prog), writers "borrowed" liberally from classical composers for melodies (you can compare and hear them everywhere). But in the current climate, you can't use anything that sounds remotely like anything that has come before, or you're going to get sued over it. So that leaves writers trying to find something totally original with only 12 notes available, that hasn't been done in the thousands (millions?) of songs preceding it. That limits your choices, somewhat...
    No, you just have to make sure that the composers died long ago, enough so that their work is out of copyright; but that's hardly limiting - most classical music before the Twentieth Century is OK, for example.

    With that said, there has been some movement for perpetual copyright, wherein all music would be copyrighted forever. I suppose that even if the composer had no provable descendants, it would still be owned by the composer's original publisher, and thus provide income forever. Or, in the case of Bach, most of whose work was "done for hire" at the behest of the Elector of Hanover, it would belong to the British Royal Family.

  5. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Baribrotzer View Post
    With that said, there has been some movement for perpetual copyright, wherein all music would be copyrighted forever. I suppose that even if the composer had no provable descendants, it would still be owned by the composer's original publisher, and thus provide income forever. Or, in the case of Bach, most of whose work was "done for hire" at the behest of the Elector of Hanover, it would belong to the British Royal Family.
    I remember Spider Robinson wrote a short story about this topic. It hinged on a woman whose father was a composer, who committed suicide after realizing his most recent "masterpiece" was derivative of some past work. Anyway, so she goes before whichever legislative branch and basically begs them to abandon any perpetual copyright legislation plans, because it would spell the end of creativity in music. I'm inclined to agree. As has been said, there's only 12 notes to work with in Western music, and as the woman in the Robinson story notes, some of the combinations aren't very appealing, so by the very nature, you have to the occasional repetition of a given melodic phrase, either deliberate or otherwise, lest you run the risk of an entire artform possibly ceasing to exist.

    Similarly, you have the same matter in literature, film, TV, etc. Virtually everything is derived from something in the past. I forget who it was who suggested there's really only something like 10 different stories that one can tell, and everything else is just a variation on one or more of those 10 stories.

  6. #31
    I call this kind of derivative songwriting "Rototilling" The total number of Hooks are limited, so presenting something similar, but still creative is, in my book not only OK, but vital to the survival of the concept of "music". Rototilling infers that the ground needs to be turned over, in order for fresh music to still be produced from out of the old "soil" Just using a garden patch for one single season is not sustainable. Neither is not revisiting melodies or hooks. When done tastefully and properly, you don't really notice the similarity, yet there are only 12 notes, so the possibilities are not endless, unless you allow for some familiarity to exist.
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  7. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crawford Glissadevil View Post
    70's prog bands had oodles of hooks. Modern prog? Not so much. Modern bands like Big Big Train are hook laden, but they're an exception.


    Where are the hooks? Great question Bro.
    There are always some exceptions of the rule; three such examples regarding contemporary Prog & off the top of my head:

    Napier's Bones - 'Psychic Driving'





    Knifeworld - 'Send Him Seaworthy'





    Iamthemorning - '5/4'



  8. #33
    Member thedunno's Avatar
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    I just listened to some Bang on a Can. No hooks whatsoever and in some tunes even no recognizable melodies, but completely mesmerizing and absolutely memorable.

    There are many ways to make interesting music. Using hook lines is just one of them. It does make the music more accessible but music that is too dependant on hooks often gets boring rather quickly. imho of course.

  9. #34
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    Another exception of the rule...


  10. #35
    This is an amazing thread to me.

    I thought I was the only one who found so, so much newer prog music unmemorable. And how about a thread where the virtues of 38 Special, Magma, Gentle Giant and Dream Theater melodies are all presented without insults?!

    Where am I?

    Steve Morse was asked, during his post-Kansas, pre-Deep Purple years, how he managed to write such unusual melodies. He replied that he works really hard at that because he finds plagiarism waiting at every turn and he doesn't want to do that. As a late-comer to the Dixie Dregs (discovered them right after Industry Standard), I voraciously bought and listened with wonderment to all things Morse, not because of his chops, but because of his melodic choices. That catalog drips hooks to me like Beatles albums. And I remember quite clearly finding out that it does not affect many other progressive fans the same way. ("Why in the Hell doesn't he ever do anything different?" ) Around the same time I read Steve Vai saying that "hits" are a result of whatever gets rammed down everyone's throats and that the most obscure Frank Zappa piece could be a huge smash if it was just played in regular rotation. The subject of hits is not the same as that of hooks but there are obvious areas in common.

    I recall being bored to tears by a certain European progressive band who are incredible players and who couldn't seem to write a catchy bit for me but everyone around me oohed and ahhhed at their every move. Are my friends all wrong and I'm right? Maybe not. Maybe that band's melodic choices are making their senses tingle the way all of Steve Morse's make mine respond.

    Great thread, though; I am hanging on every word.

  11. #36
    The Beatles invented hooks, but Phil Collins ruined them.

    Now that that's out of the way, please carry on.
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  12. #37
    Orange Tick Squasher Buddhabreath's Avatar
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    No, the hook was invented by Zu Bogabog in the late paleolitic era east of the Caspian Sea somewhere in modern day Northern Azerbaijan while playing the donkey's jaw one fine afternoon after a nice elephant lunch.
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  13. #38
    I think how memorable a song's hook is is dependent on the songwriting process and the goals of the writer. My problem that I've sensed with a lot of "prog" is that they'll have a melody, which in a proper, possibly *gasp* 4/4 time could be considered a hook, but for the sake of being "prog" they'll obfuscate it with shifting fractured time signatures. A hook needs melodic, rhythmic, and possibly even tonal memorability in order to be a good hook, and if you take a good hook but chop it up and move it around, more often than not it won't be memorable anymore. That's not to say a hook needs to be simple, I think bands like Magma and even Captain Beefheart have some incredible hooks, but they let those hooks breathe and be what they are without making them willfully obscure (definitely not in all cases though ).
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  14. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by jazz2896 View Post
    I think how memorable a song's hook is is dependent on the songwriting process and the goals of the writer. My problem that I've sensed with a lot of "prog" is that they'll have a melody, which in a proper, possibly *gasp* 4/4 time could be considered a hook, but for the sake of being "prog" they'll obfuscate it with shifting fractured time signatures.
    I used to know a guy who complained that the thing about Yes was they'd have these convoluted 7-20 minute long pieces, and somewhere in the middle of most of them, would be something that "would make a great song", but it's surrounded by all this other stuff, and he'd wonder why they couldn't just take the "good part" and develop that into a separate song.

    One can certainly understand that logic when you think about things like Leaves Of Green or Soon or the Masters Of Time section of Awaken. Those would have all made great singles (and of course, Soon actually was released as a single). And there's a lot of things like the middle of South Side Of Sky which "normal" logic might have dictated could have been a separate composition from the vocal sections of the song.



    A hook needs melodic, rhythmic, and possibly even tonal memorability in order to be a good hook, and if you take a good hook but chop it up and move it around, more often than not it won't be memorable anymore. That's not to say a hook needs to be simple, I think bands like Magma and even Captain Beefheart have some incredible hooks, but they let those hooks breathe and be what they are without making them willfully obscure (definitely not in all cases though ).
    Well, certainly in the case of Magma, one of the criticisms you sometimes here is their music is too minimalist or too repetitive or whatever, so one might suggest that they're taking the hooks and just sort of beating them into our heads, rather trying to obfuscate their presence.

    And Magma also did singles, at times in a fashion similar to Soon, where they took a bit from a larger piece and developed as a separate composition (I think Klaus Kombalad is the one I'm thinking of specifically).

  15. #40
    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saucyjackstl View Post
    Just got RPWL's new CD. They know how to write a hook.
    there's a name I haven't thought of in a while... still at it huh?

  16. #41
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    Kraan is nothing but hooks.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUeGYWN-Z1s

  17. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by 3LockBox View Post
    there's a name I haven't thought of in a while... still at it huh?
    World Through My Eyes was really an awesome album. They had good but not stellar followups (and some lineup changes). Their new one, "Tales from Outer Space" is them not taking everything so seriously. It's a fun CD with a few very memorable songs.

  18. #43
    Interesting discussion. When I was in my 20's and writing "prog" epics, I would just try to come up with very unusual bits and then I would glue them all together into a "song". I'd usually add in vocal parts to tie together the unusual bits. Some bits lent themselves to being extended some, and others just came and went quickly, never to be heard of again. Of course, I was very deliberately trying NOT to write catchy, hooky type music. I must have succeeded, because no one but me seems to enjoy them now

    Personally, I find that "catchy" is just as subjective as anything else with music listening. Some things I find catchy, others find impenetrable or downright weird. Stuff that lots of people love the hook or find very catchy, I find unlistenable.

    Also, I don't really need music to stick in my head for me to enjoy it. If I like it when it's playing, I'll play it again at some point. Sometimes just the technical aspects of the music are enough to keep me listening, even if the melodies are obscure or not great and even if there are no real discernible hooks.

  19. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    "Chops" is a musician's overall ability to decapitate, while "hooks" denotes his/her capabilities in stringing up the carcass afterwards.
    The ultimate definition of the term.

    I also think it is purely subjective. Western Culture is full of hooks in my opinion. Whereas somebody else could percieve Final Countdown by Europe as a great hook.

  20. #45
    Orange Tick Squasher Buddhabreath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by infandous View Post
    Interesting discussion. When I was in my 20's and writing "prog" epics, I would just try to come up with very unusual bits and then I would glue them all together into a "song".
    A tried and true method for me. The trick of course is to make the glue invisible and not loose any "hookiness" in the process. IMO. Unfortunately, I often end up crazy-gluing my dick to my dick to my elbow (metaphorically speaking).
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  21. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sturgeon's Lawyer View Post
    The Beatles invented hooks, but Phil Collins ruined them.

    Now that that's out of the way, please carry on.
    Perhaps the generations that grew up listening to anti-music genres like rap and techno music have lost their sense for a hook?

  22. #47
    There's an abundance of hooks, but you kinda have to be able to actually hear or "get" them - which tends to depend on a subjective matter.

    A hook or melody doesn't define as "good" because oneself happens to hear or remember or "get" it.


    "Not so many hooks in modern prog". Really? "Prog" is short for progressive rock, or at least it used to be - and such music isn't listened to anymore, at least not by "prog" fans.
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  23. #48
    The major caveat of the blandness of songwriting is the fact that music distribution is astronomically easier in 2019 than it was in 1972. I concede that I'm easily hearing music from songwriters who would have been abject failures back then.
    No matter what anyone says, you are the decider of how you will listen to music.

  24. #49
    NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF STUPID PEOPLE IN LARGE GROUPS!

  25. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    There's an abundance of hooks, but you kinda have to be able to actually hear or "get" them - which tends to depend on a subjective matter.

    A hook or melody doesn't define as "good" because oneself happens to hear or remember or "get" it.


    "Not so many hooks in modern prog". Really? "Prog" is short for progressive rock, or at least it used to be - and such music isn't listened to anymore, at least not by "prog" fans.

    An abundance of hooks like in this vid?




    There's not such abundance of hooks in prog anymore and never will be again. Well I could to agree that there's not a smaller abundance of "hooks" in e.g. "rock in opposition" like it was in the late seventies, but that genre never was the stuff that we, the original prog-heads, really loved nor either we tagged it "prog(ressive)" back in the day, as for us it was just a boring avantgarde for one listening..

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