As we all know, songwriting isn’t easy—if it was, everyone would be doing it. We can have ideas in our head, but sometimes translating those through our instrument(s) and into our DAW becomes tedious and uninspiring. Sometimes we’ll sit down with the desire to come up with new ideas, but writer’s block gets the best of us. In either case, whether you’re a beginner or experienced songwriter, the challenge can quickly bog down the creative process. Fortunately, tools like Hookpad by Hooktheory assist us in getting to where we want to go!
What is Hookpad?
Hookpad is a “musical sketchpad” developed by three UC Berkeley PhD graduates who started Hooktheory in 2013. It’s a browser-based application designed to help you quickly write chord progressions, melodies, and backing beats.
By choosing a key, you can then easily pick from Hookpad’s chord palette to complete a progression. From there, its melody suggestions help you write a catchy, creative hook without dwelling on the “math” for too long. You can then play back your song sketch, complete with a backing beat, in a variety of genres supported by built-in virtual instruments.
When you’re satisfied with your song’s backbone, Hookpad lets you export the music to guitar tab, sheet music, or MIDI. Hooktheory’s Hookpad is the perfect DAW companion. You can jump-start the songwriting process, export the MIDI to your DAW, and further refine it there. And since it’s browser-based, you don’t need to download or install a standalone app. Just get the music going, export the files, and take it to your DAW for development.
Hooktheory Hookpad Features
Here are Hooktheory Hookpad’s highlights.
1. Streamline your songwriting
Of course the #1 feature is the ability to write chord and melodies fast. That’s the biggest selling point here—a resource for experienced or aspiring songwriters alike to spark their creativity.
The chord palette helps you select from chords in a given key, and the melody guide highlights notes from the chosen chords to show which are consonant and dissonant with the progression.
2. Virtual instruments
Hooktheory did it right by including a ton of onboard virtual instruments to play back the chords and melody you’ve written. These let you instantly demo your song in pretty much any genre with a full-blown backing track. You don’t have to just listen to a piano, and you don’t have to wait until the MIDI is in your DAW to get an idea of how your music sounds.
TheoryTab is a database of over 13,000 songs which have been analyzed by the community and made available to Hookpad users. You can find your favorite song and immediately be able to follow along and play it, as well as have a peek at the theory which made it possible. This is an incredible educational resource for anyone interested in furthering their theory skills.
4. MIDI drag-and-drop
This feature is truthfully what makes Hookpad the excellent songwriting tool that it is. You can just have the program open in your browser, lock down a progression and melody, and simply drag and drop the MIDI data to your DAW. Obviously from there the world is yours—you can edit and refine the MIDI information, change instruments, and whatever else you can imagine.
Hooktheory Hookpad: Pros and Cons
Honestly, there’s a lot to like about Hookpad. It delivers on its promise to make the songwriting process a little less tedious. This is great for experienced songwriters who want to feel out ideas on the fly without opening up their DAW and doing it manually. It’s perhaps even greater for beginners who are interested in music, but may not have the faculty to create it on their own. In both senses, Hookpad is a clever and useful tool.
As far as cons go, an elitist might argue that tools like these make music robotic or formulaic, and just because anyone can write a song these days doesn’t mean they should. We say to heck with all of that; anyone who wants to create should be able to! This is merely an extrapolation of a potential downside to Hookpad, and definitely not something we believe.
Another drawback is the quality of the virtual instruments. They definitely leave something to be desired; they sound a little GuitarPro-esque, if you know what I mean. But realistically, you’re going to export MIDI to your DAW and work with your own instruments there. For a snapshot of your ideas, Hookpad’s instruments work just fine.
Initially, the cost of Hookpad was somewhat prohibitive at $149 for complete access. Hooktheory has since added both annual and monthly subscriptions to make it more accessible—$49 for the year and $4.99 per month. The company managed to turn a probable con for many users into a pro.
Conclusion: Hooktheory Hookpad Review
Hookpad is easily one of the best songwriting applications on the web. Anyone who wants to dabble in writing music for the first time will find a lot of inspiration here; and even veteran musicians can expedite their workflow by integrating Hookpad.