Chord And Melody Metrics

Chord Complexity

How do we judge a chord to be more or less complex? A good way to understand complexity in chords is to start with the seven most basic chords in any key, the so-called “primary chords.” These are the seven chords that are featured in the Hookpad chord palette and taken together, represent the majority of chords found in popular music.

Colored blocks showing chords in C Major

Each chord above contains 3 notes and is built from degrees of a scale skipping every other note. For example, a C chord has the notes C, E, and G, the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the C Major scale.

Notes in C major making C major chord

There are fundamentally two metrics that we consider when judging the complexity of a chord relative to the basic ones above. The first is whether the chords contains additional notes beyond the 3 that form the primary chords described above. Adding notes to a chord increases its complexity because it increases the number and nature of intervals or note interactions that our ear must process. A Cmaj7 chord, for example, is similar to a plain C chord, except it has an additional note: B. In addition to the intervals C — E, E — G, C — G, we now have twice as many when we add C — B, E — B, G — B. The nature of the intervals is changed as well; C — B is called a 7th (as there are 7 notes counting from C to B along the scale), and this interval didn’t exist previously. 7ths are more dissonant than the 3rds and 5ths of the plain C chord, and so our ears perceive this as more complex. Other examples of chords with extra notes are Sus2/Sus4 chords, and add9, 9th chords. Songs that have these chords in them will be judged to have more chord complexity than one that does not.

The second factor we look at is whether a chord contains notes that lie outside of the scale of the song's key. Our ears naturally expect to hear notes in the scale so chords with non-scale tones tend to sound more exotic and complex. Chords that do this are often called borrowed chords because they are using tones they’ve “borrowed” from a different scale. For example, in the key of C major, the 4th chord is normally an F major chord. If instead, we consider the key of C Minor, the 4th chord is an F minor chord. Using an F minor chord in a chord progression that is in the key of C major will sound more complex because our ears simply aren’t expecting it (the same is true for using an F Major chord in a song that is in the key of C Minor). Other examples of chords that contain non-sacle tones are secondary chords, and chords with certain non diatonic alterations (#5, b9, etc.).

Browse songs with above average Chord Complexity

Click on the following songs in to see their chords and melody in the TheoryTab database.

Rock Your Body
by Justin Timberlake
Be My Baby
by The Ronettes
Lovefool
by The Cardigans
Numb
by Linkin Park
Killing Me Softly
by Roberta Flack
Rocky Raccoon
by The Beatles
Live Forever
by Oasis
You Are Not Alone
by Michael Jackson
Desperado
by Eagles
Think For Yourself
by The Beatles
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen
A Day In The Life
by The Beatles
Uninvited
by Alanis Morissette
Beautiful Stranger
by Madonna
No Surprises
by Radiohead
Stars Come Out
by Zedd
Where Are We Now
by David Bowie
I Believe I Can Fly
by R Kelly
Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
by The Beach Boys
Free Fallin'
by Tom Petty
Day Tripper
by The Beatles
Zelda's Lullaby
by The Legend of Zelda
Don't Know Why
by Norah Jones
I Just Can't Stop Loving You
by Michael Jackson
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
by The Beatles
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
by Tame Impala
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
Stairway to Heaven
by Led Zeppelin
Something
by The Beatles
Mas Que Nada
by Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66
Sultans of Swing
by Dire Straits
Canned Heat
by Jamiroquai
Thriller
by Michael Jackson
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Jamiroquai
She's Always a Woman
by Billy Joel
Michelle
by The Beatles
Titanium feat Sia
by David Guetta
Take A Bow
by Madonna
Easy
by Mat Zo and Porter Robinson
Space Dementia
by Muse
Boogie On Reggae Woman
by Stevie Wonder
Wonderwall
by Oasis
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
Never Gonna Give You Up
by Rick Astley
Freedom of '76
by Ween
You Never Give Me Your Money
by The Beatles
Virtual Insanity
by Jamiroquai
If I Ever Feel Better
by Phoenix
Hello Goodbye
by The Beatles
Jump 'N' Move
by The Brand New Heavies
Genie
by Girls' Generation
Downstream
by Braid Soundtrack
Don't Speak
by No Doubt
Into The Great Wide Open
by Tom Petty
Chrono Trigger - Main Theme
by Yasunori Mitsuda
Ken's Theme
by Capcom
We Are the Champions
by Queen
The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
by Nintendo
Lovely Rita
by The Beatles
Unfaithful
by Rihanna
Penny Lane
by The Beatles
I Saw The Sign
by Barden Bellas - Pitch Perfect
ET
by Katy Perry
Bottle It Up
by Sara Bareilles
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by Nintendo
Final Fantasy IV World Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Ms Jackson
by Outkast
Mega Man 3 - Snake Man's Stage
by Yasuaki Fujita
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
My Way
by Frank Sinatra
Blanka's Theme
by Capcom
Kick the Rock
by Hunnid-P
Unbreak My Heart
by Toni Braxton
What Is Love
by Haddaway
Skyfall
by Adele
Final Fantasy Prologue
by Nobuo Uematsu
Hard To Say I'm Sorry
by Chicago
One Man and His Droid
by Rob Hubbard
A Saucerful of Secrets
by Pink Floyd
Hello
by Lionel Richie
Locke Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Black Star
by Radiohead

Melodic complexity

A melody, at its heart, is a sequence of notes sung or played with specific timings. In “Western” music — a label that describes the bulk of popular music — melodies are based on 7-note scales called “diatonic” scales, like the Major or Minor scales. Whether these scales are simply cultural artifacts stemming from centuries of music doing it this way or rather they are derived from something more fundamental (falling naturally from the laws of nature) is a topic of continued debate.

In either case, it’s almost certain that most of the melodies that you know by heart are based on the 7 notes in one of these scales. For this reason, melodies that use notes outside of the scale create an added complexity. Often these “non-diatonic” notes create dissonance that isn’t available within the normal diatonic notes and require more care in creating a melody that is coherent. In Hooktheory's color notation, non-diatonic notes are labeled with hashed colors.

colored blocks showing a melody in Hooktheory notation

Melodies can also have rhythmic complexity. Notes that are timed with the beats of a song are often perceived as more natural, whereas notes that occur off of a main beat (an “off-beat”) sound more rhythmically complex. Melodies that rely on a large number of off-beat rhythms are called syncopated, and can often give a song a more complex, groovy feel.

colored blocks showing a syncopated rhythm in Hooktheory notation

Browse songs with above average Melodic Complexity

Click on the following songs in to see their chords and melody in the TheoryTab database.

Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
by The Beach Boys
Strobe
by deadmau5
Final Fantasy IV Battle Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Who Knew
by Pink
No Surprises
by Radiohead
Hello
by Lionel Richie
A Hard Day's Night
by The Beatles
Final Fantasy Prologue
by Nobuo Uematsu
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by Nintendo
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen
November Rain
by Guns N' Roses
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Jamiroquai
Yakety Sax
by James Rich and Boots Randolph
My Grown Up Christmas Wish
by Kelly Clarkson
Basket Case
by Green Day
Mardy Bum
by Arctic Monkeys
Mario Brothers Theme
by Koji Kondo
Locke Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Boyfriend
by Justin Bieber
Always
by Erasure
Unfaithful
by Rihanna
Love Song
by Sara Bareilles
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
Passion for Exploring
by SoulEye
Apache - Jump On It
by Sugarhill Gang
Nyan Cat - nyanyanya
by PRGuitarMan -Yamaha Vocaloid
Karma Police
by Radiohead
The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
by Nintendo
Nigel's 'Top of the Heap' 1959 Gibson Les Paul
by Nigel Tufnel
Downstream
by Braid Soundtrack
Brain Damage
by Pink Floyd
The Rock Theme
by Hans Zimmer
The Cave
by Mumford and Sons
All Along The Watchtower
by Jimi Hendrix
Flower Power - From C64 Frankie Goes To Hollywood
by Fred Gray
The Great Gig In The Sky
by Pink Floyd
ET
by Katy Perry
One Man and His Droid
by Rob Hubbard
Morning Music
by Konami
Eclipse
by Pink Floyd
Videotape
by Radiohead
Easy
by Mat Zo and Porter Robinson
Showtime
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Sakuranbo
by Ai Ootsuka
One Of My Turns
by Pink Floyd
Fantastic Voyage
by David Bowie
You Know I'm No Good
by Amy Winehouse
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Final Fantasy IV World Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Pushing Onwards
by SoulEye
Final Fantasy VI Boss Battle Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Don't Speak
by No Doubt
Morphogenetic Sorrow - I Am Zero
by Shinji Hosoe
Your Song
by Elton John
Monty On The Run
by Rob Hubbard
Ever Ever After
by Carrie Underwood
Blanka's Theme
by Capcom
Leave It Alone
by NOFX
Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites
by Skrillex
Domino
by Jessie J
Boogie On Reggae Woman
by Stevie Wonder
It's My Life
by No Doubt
Kick the Rock
by Hunnid-P
Language
by Porter Robinson
Teenage Dream
by Katy Perry
Airbag
by Radiohead
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
Where I End and You Begin
by Radiohead
Emerald Sword
by Rhapsody of Fire
Genie
by Girls' Generation
Ken's Theme
by Capcom
I See You - Avatar
by Leona Lewis
Karkat's Theme
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Tiny Dancer
by Elton John
Still Alive
by Johnathan Coulton and Ellen McLain
Hey Nineteen
by Steely Dan
Give Me Everything
by Pitbull
Titanium feat Sia
by David Guetta
So What
by Pink
Django Unchained Theme
by Luis Bacalov
Ziggy Stardust
by David Bowie

Chord-melody tension

When a melody is played over a chord progression, their interaction is one of the most important aspects of a song. When a note in the melody is contained in the chord, (for example, the melody note C over a C Major chord, which contains C, E, and G), it creates a sense of stability. If this note is not contained in the chord (for example, the note D over a C Major chord), it creates a sense of instability and tension. In many examples in using Hooktheory notation, you can show which notes are contained in every chord by clicking the "Guides" button. Shown below is a simple chord progression with stable notes highlighted in the note region.

colored blocks showing a chord progression and stable melody notes

Tension, in moderation, is a good thing in music. Melodies that stick to only stable notes over their chord progressions (think “Twinkle Twinkle”), may sound safe, but they are also not very ambitious. On the other hand, melodies that use only unstable notes will sound dissonant and cacophonous. The middle ground involves crafting melodies that intentionally build and release tension at all the right moments.

Browse songs with above average Chord-Melody Tension

Click on the following songs in to see their chords and melody in the TheoryTab database.

Home
by Daughtry
Walt Graces Submarine Test January 1967
by John Mayer
Fantastic Voyage
by David Bowie
Enjoy the Silence
by Depeche Mode
California Gurls
by Katy Perry
Uninvited
by Alanis Morissette
We Run The Night
by Havana Brown
In The End
by Linkin Park
Rock Your Body
by Justin Timberlake
Smells Like Teen Spirit
by Nirvana
A Long December
by Counting Crows
Whistle
by Flo Rida
Super Hexagon Theme 1
by Chipzel
When I Was Your Man
by Bruno Mars
Smile Smile Smile
by My Little Pony
Come On Get Higher
by Matt Nathanson
Iris
by Goo Goo Dolls
Blanka's Theme
by Capcom
Guile's Theme
by Capcom
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
Take Care
by Drake
Somebody That I Used To Know
by Gotye
The Chain
by Fleetwood Mac
Duele El Amor ft Ana Torroja
by Aleks Syntek
Ass Back Home
by Gym Class Heroes
Epic Sax Guy
by Epic Sax Guy
Like A Prayer
by Madonna
Temple Of Dreams
by Messiah
Starlight
by Muse
November Rain
by Guns N' Roses
Turn Around
by Conor Maynard
The Scientist
by Coldplay
Animal
by Neon Trees
Kick the Rock
by Hunnid-P
Airplanes
by B o B ft Hayley Williams
It's My Life
by No Doubt
Breezeblocks
by Alt-J
I Gotta Feeling
by Black Eyed Peas
Waking Up In Vegas
by Katy Perry
Dreaming With A Broken Heart
by John Mayer
Already Gone
by Kelly Clarkson
Like A Rolling Stone
by Bob Dylan
Baby
by Justin Bieber
The Show Goes On
by Lupe Fiasco
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
by Chuck Lorre
Everybody Talks
by Neon Trees
Say Yes
by Elliott Smith
Malaguena
by Blast
Wild Ones
by Flo Rida
Firework
by Katy Perry
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Jamiroquai
Someone Like You
by Adele
Cooler Than Me
by Mike Posner
Payphone
by Maroon 5
Don't Stop Believing
by Journey
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Girlfriend
by Avril Lavigne
So In Love
by Cole Porter - Ella Fitzgerald
Ghost Of Days Gone By
by Alter Bridge
Never gonna leave this bed
by Maroon 5
Doctor
by Homestuck Soundtrack
On The Floor
by Jennifer Lopez
Who says you can't go home
by Bon Jovi
Mardy Bum
by Arctic Monkeys
Say My Name
by Destiny's Child
Super Bass
by Nicki Minaj
What's Going On
by Marvin Gaye
Last Friday Night TGIF
by Katy Perry
Let's Go
by Calvin Harris
Because Of You
by Kelly Clarkson
Lights
by Ellie Goulding
Forget You
by Cee Lo Green
Rolling In The Deep
by Adele
Realize
by Colbie Caillat
Hello
by Lionel Richie
Lust For Life
by Girls
Haven't Met You Yet
by Michael Buble
Before He Cheats
by Carrie Underwood
Summertime
by Kenny Chesney
Boyfriend
by Justin Bieber
She Will Be Loved
by Maroon 5
All American Girl
by Carrie Underwood
Hold It Against Me
by Britney Spears
That'll Be The Day
by Buddy Holly
Karkat's Theme
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Turn Me On
by Nicki Minaj
Canned Heat
by Jamiroquai

Chord progression novelty

You’ve probably heard a song somewhere and thought to yourself, “this song sounds just like this other song I know!” With a limited number of chords in the universe, it’s inevitable that the same chord progression is going to be featured in multiple songs. Chord progressions are only one part of a song, and there’s absolutely no reason not to reuse effective ones.

At Hooktheory we keep detailed statistics on the most commonly used chord progressions and chord changes, and we are always impressed to see songs using familiar chords in creative and exciting new ways.

Browse songs with above average Chord Progression Novelty

Click on the following songs in to see their chords and melody in the TheoryTab database.

Hurts Like Heaven
by Coldplay
Locke Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Ziggy Stardust
by David Bowie
Ken's Theme
by Capcom
Be Like That
by 3 Doors Down
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen
Soviet National Anthem
by Alexander Alexandrov
November Rain
by Guns N' Roses
Here Comes the Sun
by The Beatles
Strobe
by deadmau5
You Are Not Alone
by Michael Jackson
Genie
by Girls' Generation
Downstream
by Braid Soundtrack
Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
by The Beach Boys
Fantastic Voyage
by David Bowie
Killing Me Softly
by Roberta Flack
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
by The Beatles
The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
by Nintendo
Firework
by Katy Perry
Boogie On Reggae Woman
by Stevie Wonder
Sittin' On The Dock of the Bay
by Otis Redding
Take A Bow
by Madonna
My Way
by Frank Sinatra
I Believe I Can Fly
by R Kelly
Beautiful Stranger
by Madonna
Hard To Say I'm Sorry
by Chicago
ET
by Katy Perry
Run
by Snow Patrol
Domino
by Jessie J
Mas Que Nada
by Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66
Bottle It Up
by Sara Bareilles
If I Ever Feel Better
by Phoenix
Videotape
by Radiohead
Martha My Dear
by The Beatles
Day Tripper
by The Beatles
She's Always a Woman
by Billy Joel
Creep
by Radiohead
Dark Side
by Kelly Clarkson
Kick the Rock
by Hunnid-P
Give Your Heart A Break
by Demi Lovato
Something
by The Beatles
I Get Around
by Beach Boys
Final Fantasy Prologue
by Nobuo Uematsu
Michelle
by The Beatles
Desperado
by Eagles
Where I End and You Begin
by Radiohead
No Surprises
by Radiohead
Black Star
by Radiohead
It's My Life
by No Doubt
If I Could Fly
by Joe Satriani
Penny Lane
by The Beatles
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
by Tame Impala
Titanium feat Sia
by David Guetta
Jump 'N' Move
by The Brand New Heavies
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
Photograph
by Nickelback
Stairway to Heaven
by Led Zeppelin
Fake Plastic Trees
by Radiohead
Wasted Time
by Skid Row
Easy
by Mat Zo and Porter Robinson
One Man and His Droid
by Rob Hubbard
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by Nintendo
Karkat's Theme
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Temple Of Dreams
by Messiah
Have You Ever Seen the Rain
by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Love The Way You Lie ft Rihanna
by Eminem
Enjoy the Silence
by Depeche Mode
Lisztomania
by Phoenix
Skyscraper
by Demi Lovato
Blanka's Theme
by Capcom
Canned Heat
by Jamiroquai
Walkaways
by Counting Crows
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
You Never Give Me Your Money
by The Beatles
Rock Your Body
by Justin Timberlake
Big Bang Theory Theme Song
by Bare Naked Ladies
This Love
by Maroon 5
Where Are We Now
by David Bowie
She Came in through the Bathroom Window
by The Beatles
Thank You
by Led Zeppelin
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Jamiroquai
Wonderwall
by Oasis
Crazy
by Gnarls Barkley
Think For Yourself
by The Beatles
Hey Jude
by The Beatles
Never Gonna Give You Up
by Rick Astley

Chord Bass Melody

Every chord has a bass note, which is the lowest note in the chord. When the bass notes defined by a chord progression ascend or descend in a stepwise manner (like C → D → E), it creates an additional layer of continuity in the progression that helps it flow. But creating a chord progression that is effective in its own right, compatible with the melody, strikes a good balance of chord-melody tension, AND has an ascending or descending bassline can be a tall order. Crafting chord progressions that do this is an art, and at Hooktheory we enjoy marveling at the brilliance of some songwriters who manage to put all of these pieces together simultaneously.

In Hooktheory notation, chords are colored by the color of their bass notes, so chord progressions that have stepwise ascending or descending bass melodies will follow a rainbow pattern.

colored blocks showing a chord progression with an ascending bass line

Browse songs with above average Chord-Bass Melody

Click on the following songs in to see their chords and melody in the TheoryTab database.

Where Are We Now
by David Bowie
Lights
by Ellie Goulding
Tik Tok
by Kesha
I Don't Want To Miss A Thing
by Aerosmith
Canned Heat
by Jamiroquai
Memories
by David Guetta
What a Wonderful World
by Louis Armstrong
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
Say Yes
by Elliott Smith
I See You - Avatar
by Leona Lewis
Your Song
by Elton John
Bring Me To Life
by Evanescence
All Along The Watchtower
by Jimi Hendrix
All American Girl
by Carrie Underwood
Push
by Matchbox 20
Virtual Insanity
by Jamiroquai
Sultans of Swing
by Dire Straits
Be Like That
by 3 Doors Down
Desperado
by Eagles
I Can't Help Falling In Love
by Elvis Presley
Thank You
by Led Zeppelin
My Heart Will Go On
by Celine Dion
Realize
by Colbie Caillat
The Show Goes On
by Lupe Fiasco
Jupiter
by Ayaka Hirahara
Annie's Song
by John Denver
Teenage Dream
by Katy Perry
My Way
by Frank Sinatra
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
by Chuck Lorre
Tiny Dancer
by Elton John
Can You Feel The Love Tonight
by Disney
Lean on Me
by Bill Withers
ET
by Katy Perry
You're Beautiful
by James Blunt
Haven't Met You Yet
by Michael Buble
Before He Cheats
by Carrie Underwood
Want You Gone
by Jonathan Coulton and Ellen McLain
When You're Gone
by Avril Lavigne
Home Sweet Home
by Motley Crue
Take A Bow
by Madonna
Soviet National Anthem
by Alexander Alexandrov
November Rain
by Guns N' Roses
Come On Get Higher
by Matt Nathanson
Smile Smile Smile
by My Little Pony
Piano Man
by Billy Joel
100 Years
by Five For Fighting
Breakaway
by Kelly Clarkson
Because Of You
by Kelly Clarkson
Dust In The Wind
by Kansas
Come On Over
by Christina Aguilera
Defying Gravity
by Lea Michele from Glee
If We Hold On Together
by Diana Ross
Let's Go
by Calvin Harris
Take Care
by Drake
Rolling In The Deep
by Adele
Ziggy Stardust
by David Bowie
Somebody That I Used To Know
by Gotye
Stairway to Heaven
by Led Zeppelin
Can't Help Falling In Love
by Elvis Presley
The Road And The Radio
by Kenny Chesney
Rimushotto Bungie Jump
by Frog Fractions Soundtrack
California Gurls
by Katy Perry
Whataya Want from Me
by Adam Lambert
Say My Name
by Destiny's Child
Baby One More Time
by Britney Spears
Ever Ever After
by Carrie Underwood
All My Life
by K-Ci and Jojo
Mardy Bum
by Arctic Monkeys
You Shook Me All Night Long
by ACDC
Living On A Prayer
by Bon Jovi
Ass Back Home
by Gym Class Heroes
Free Bird
by Lynyrd Skynrd
Breathe
by Faith Hill
Levon
by Elton John
She's Always a Woman
by Billy Joel
Out From Under
by Britney Spears
Good-bye Baby
by Miss A
Nothing Else Matters
by Metallica
Hard To Say I'm Sorry
by Chicago
Walt Graces Submarine Test January 1967
by John Mayer