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.

Michelle
by Michelle
Thriller
by Thriller
Colin Zeal
by Colin Zeal
Sultans of Swing
by Sultans of Swing
A Saucerful of Secrets
by A Saucerful of Secrets
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari on the Rocks
Zulf's Theme
by Zulf's Theme
Unbreak My Heart
by Unbreak My Heart
Numb
by Numb
Don't Know Why
by Don't Know Why
Stairway to Heaven
by Stairway to Heaven
This Love
by This Love
You Never Give Me Your Money
by You Never Give Me Your Money
Downstream
by Downstream
Ken's Theme
by Ken's Theme
Dark Side
by Dark Side
Final Fantasy IV World Theme
by Final Fantasy IV World Theme
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
by While My Guitar Gently Weeps
I Can't Get You Off My Mind
by I Can't Get You Off My Mind
Something
by Something
One Man and His Droid
by One Man and His Droid
Stars Come Out
by Stars Come Out
Freedom of '76
by Freedom of '76
Enjoy the Silence
by Enjoy the Silence
Brain Damage
by Brain Damage
Fantastic Voyage
by Fantastic Voyage
Never Gonna Give You Up
by Never Gonna Give You Up
I Want to Hold Your Hand
by I Want to Hold Your Hand
I Saw The Sign
by I Saw The Sign
Beautiful Stranger
by Beautiful Stranger
Hey Ya
by Hey Ya
Take A Bow
by Take A Bow
The Great Gig In The Sky
by The Great Gig In The Sky
Bring Me To Life
by Bring Me To Life
Where Are We Now
by Where Are We Now
Hello
by Hello
Mega Man 3 - Snake Man's Stage
by Mega Man 3 - Snake Man's Stage
Penny Lane
by Penny Lane
Final Fantasy VI Boss Battle Theme
by Final Fantasy VI Boss Battle Theme
Atma Weapon Theme
by Atma Weapon Theme
Canned Heat
by Canned Heat
Rocky Raccoon
by Rocky Raccoon
Monty On The Run
by Monty On The Run
Live Forever
by Live Forever
Blanka's Theme
by Blanka's Theme
She's Always a Woman
by She's Always a Woman
The Chain
by The Chain
Don't Speak
by Don't Speak
Final Fantasy Prologue
by Final Fantasy Prologue
Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
by Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
A Day In The Life
by A Day In The Life
A Hard Day's Night
by A Hard Day's Night
Space Dementia
by Space Dementia
Uninvited
by Uninvited
Rock Your Body
by Rock Your Body
Chrono Trigger - Main Theme
by Chrono Trigger - Main Theme
I Just Can't Stop Loving You
by I Just Can't Stop Loving You
When I Was Your Man
by When I Was Your Man
Desperado
by Desperado
I Believe I Can Fly
by I Believe I Can Fly
Gangnam Style
by Gangnam Style
ET
by ET
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Bohemian Rhapsody
Hard To Say I'm Sorry
by Hard To Say I'm Sorry
Zelda's Lullaby
by Zelda's Lullaby
Boogie On Reggae Woman
by Boogie On Reggae Woman
Virtual Insanity
by Virtual Insanity
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
Easy
by Easy
Lovefool
by Lovefool
Before He Cheats
by Before He Cheats
Killing Me Softly
by Killing Me Softly
Be Like That
by Be Like That
Think For Yourself
by Think For Yourself
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
by Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
You Are Not Alone
by You Are Not Alone
Day Tripper
by Day Tripper
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Seven Days in Sunny June
Locke Theme
by Locke Theme
Be My Baby
by Be My Baby

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.

Downstream
by Downstream
Enjoy the Silence
by Enjoy the Silence
Still Alive
by Still Alive
Karkat's Theme
by Karkat's Theme
Your Song
by Your Song
Unfaithful
by Unfaithful
Don't Speak
by Don't Speak
Call Me Maybe
by Call Me Maybe
Who Knew
by Who Knew
Locke Theme
by Locke Theme
One Man and His Droid
by One Man and His Droid
I See You - Avatar
by I See You - Avatar
It's My Life
by It's My Life
Give Me Everything
by Give Me Everything
Crazy
by Crazy
Where I End and You Begin
by Where I End and You Begin
Too Late To Apologize
by Too Late To Apologize
The Cave
by The Cave
Easy
by Easy
Language
by Language
Love The Way You Lie ft Rihanna
by Love The Way You Lie ft Rihanna
Breathe
by Breathe
One Of My Turns
by One Of My Turns
Teenage Dream
by Teenage Dream
Zulf's Theme
by Zulf's Theme
Ken's Theme
by Ken's Theme
The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
by The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
Best Of You
by Best Of You
Want You Gone
by Want You Gone
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Bohemian Rhapsody
Domino
by Domino
Atma Weapon Theme
by Atma Weapon Theme
I Gotta Feeling
by I Gotta Feeling
No Surprises
by No Surprises
The Great Gig In The Sky
by The Great Gig In The Sky
Because Of You
by Because Of You
ET
by ET
Smells Like Teen Spirit
by Smells Like Teen Spirit
Nigel's 'Top of the Heap' 1959 Gibson Les Paul
by Nigel's 'Top of the Heap' 1959 Gibson Les Paul
So Small
by So Small
Basket Case
by Basket Case
Eclipse
by Eclipse
Flower Power - From C64 Frankie Goes To Hollywood
by Flower Power - From C64 Frankie Goes To Hollywood
All Along The Watchtower
by All Along The Watchtower
Stop Crying Your Heart Out
by Stop Crying Your Heart Out
Leave It Alone
by Leave It Alone
Annie's Song
by Annie's Song
Kick the Rock
by Kick the Rock
Uninvited
by Uninvited
The Rock Theme
by The Rock Theme
Final Fantasy VI Boss Battle Theme
by Final Fantasy VI Boss Battle Theme
Django Unchained Theme
by Django Unchained Theme
Nyan Cat - nyanyanya
by Nyan Cat - nyanyanya
Be Like That
by Be Like That
This Love
by This Love
Love Song
by Love Song
My Grown Up Christmas Wish
by My Grown Up Christmas Wish
Blanka's Theme
by Blanka's Theme
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
Levon
by Levon
Monty On The Run
by Monty On The Run
She Will Be Loved
by She Will Be Loved
Videotape
by Videotape
Strobe
by Strobe
Brain Damage
by Brain Damage
Fake Plastic Trees
by Fake Plastic Trees
Ziggy Stardust
by Ziggy Stardust
I Can't Get You Off My Mind
by I Can't Get You Off My Mind
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Seven Days in Sunny June
Hysteria
by Hysteria
Airbag
by Airbag
Mega Man 3 - Snake Man's Stage
by Mega Man 3 - Snake Man's Stage
Genie
by Genie
Karma Police
by Karma Police
Ever Ever After
by Ever Ever After
Sakuranbo
by Sakuranbo
Tiny Dancer
by Tiny Dancer
Mario Brothers Theme
by Mario Brothers Theme
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari on the Rocks
So What
by So What
Real World
by Real World
Titanium feat Sia
by Titanium feat Sia
Take A Bow
by Take A Bow
Always
by Always
Hello
by Hello

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.

November Rain
by November Rain
It's My Life
by It's My Life
Temple Of Dreams
by Temple Of Dreams
Dark Side
by Dark Side
Like A Prayer
by Like A Prayer
I Will Follow You Into the Dark
by I Will Follow You Into the Dark
Canned Heat
by Canned Heat
Hold It Against Me
by Hold It Against Me
Cooler Than Me
by Cooler Than Me
Duele El Amor
by Duele El Amor
Want You Gone
by Want You Gone
She Will Be Loved
by She Will Be Loved
Walt Graces Submarine Test January 1967
by Walt Graces Submarine Test January 1967
Super Bass
by Super Bass
Say My Name
by Say My Name
I Gotta Feeling
by I Gotta Feeling
Already Gone
by Already Gone
On The Floor
by On The Floor
When I Was Your Man
by When I Was Your Man
Lust For Life
by Lust For Life
Skyscraper
by Skyscraper
Never gonna leave this bed
by Never gonna leave this bed
The Scientist
by The Scientist
Last Friday Night TGIF
by Last Friday Night TGIF
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Seven Days in Sunny June
Take Care
by Take Care
Realize
by Realize
We Run The Night
by We Run The Night
Haven't Met You Yet
by Haven't Met You Yet
Enjoy the Silence
by Enjoy the Silence
Domino
by Domino
Before He Cheats
by Before He Cheats
The Show Goes On
by The Show Goes On
Fantastic Voyage
by Fantastic Voyage
Smile Smile Smile
by Smile Smile Smile
Kick the Rock
by Kick the Rock
Let's Go
by Let's Go
Dreaming With A Broken Heart
by Dreaming With A Broken Heart
Girlfriend
by Girlfriend
Blanka's Theme
by Blanka's Theme
Doctor
by Doctor
Zulf's Theme
by Zulf's Theme
Rock Your Body
by Rock Your Body
Animal
by Animal
Come On Get Higher
by Come On Get Higher
Everybody Talks
by Everybody Talks
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
Someone Like You
by Someone Like You
The Chain
by The Chain
In The End
by In The End
Karkat's Theme
by Karkat's Theme
Don't Stop Believing
by Don't Stop Believing
Ghost Of Days Gone By
by Ghost Of Days Gone By
Malaguena
by Malaguena
Lights
by Lights
Wild Ones
by Wild Ones
Who says you can't go home
by Who says you can't go home
So In Love
by So In Love
A Long December
by A Long December
Ass Back Home
by Ass Back Home
Whistle
by Whistle
Say Yes
by Say Yes
Starlight
by Starlight
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari on the Rocks
Turn Me On
by Turn Me On
Atma Weapon Theme
by Atma Weapon Theme
Iris
by Iris
Uninvited
by Uninvited
Skyfall
by Skyfall
Turn Around
by Turn Around
That'll Be The Day
by That'll Be The Day
California Gurls
by California Gurls
Like A Rolling Stone
by Like A Rolling Stone
Airplanes
by Airplanes
Boyfriend
by Boyfriend
All American Girl
by All American Girl
Black or White
by Black or White
Rolling In The Deep
by Rolling In The Deep
Somebody That I Used To Know
by Somebody That I Used To Know
Payphone
by Payphone
Breezeblocks
by Breezeblocks
Super Hexagon Theme 1
by Super Hexagon Theme 1
Firework
by Firework
Epic Sax Guy
by Epic Sax Guy
Smells Like Teen Spirit
by Smells Like Teen Spirit
Mardy Bum
by Mardy Bum
Guile's Theme
by Guile's Theme
Summertime
by Summertime

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.

I Believe I Can Fly
by I Believe I Can Fly
Uninvited
by Uninvited
Walkaways
by Walkaways
Karkat's Theme
by Karkat's Theme
I Get Around
by I Get Around
We Are the Champions
by We Are the Champions
Enjoy the Silence
by Enjoy the Silence
Stairway to Heaven
by Stairway to Heaven
Virtual Insanity
by Virtual Insanity
Martha My Dear
by Martha My Dear
Only a Northern Song
by Only a Northern Song
Soviet National Anthem
by Soviet National Anthem
Eclipse
by Eclipse
No Surprises
by No Surprises
Rock Your Body
by Rock Your Body
Videotape
by Videotape
Killing Me Softly
by Killing Me Softly
Ken's Theme
by Ken's Theme
Boogie On Reggae Woman
by Boogie On Reggae Woman
Black Star
by Black Star
The Veldt
by The Veldt
Here Comes the Sun
by Here Comes the Sun
Love Song
by Love Song
Skyscraper
by Skyscraper
Rocky Raccoon
by Rocky Raccoon
Creep
by Creep
Take A Bow
by Take A Bow
ET
by ET
A Day In The Life
by A Day In The Life
Monty On The Run
by Monty On The Run
So Small
by So Small
Easy
by Easy
Photograph
by Photograph
Malaguena
by Malaguena
Day Tripper
by Day Tripper
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
Tiny Dancer
by Tiny Dancer
Kick the Rock
by Kick the Rock
Penny Lane
by Penny Lane
Hey Jude
by Hey Jude
You Are Not Alone
by You Are Not Alone
Genie
by Genie
Wonderboy
by Wonderboy
Fantastic Voyage
by Fantastic Voyage
Eye Of The Tiger
by Eye Of The Tiger
One Man and His Droid
by One Man and His Droid
Have You Ever Seen the Rain
by Have You Ever Seen the Rain
November Rain
by November Rain
Blanka's Theme
by Blanka's Theme
Locke Theme
by Locke Theme
Never Gonna Give You Up
by Never Gonna Give You Up
Atma Weapon Theme
by Atma Weapon Theme
Final Fantasy Prologue
by Final Fantasy Prologue
Desperado
by Desperado
Temple Of Dreams
by Temple Of Dreams
Hard To Say I'm Sorry
by Hard To Say I'm Sorry
Lisztomania
by Lisztomania
My Way
by My Way
Be Like That
by Be Like That
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
by Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Where Are We Now
by Where Are We Now
If I Ever Feel Better
by If I Ever Feel Better
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Seven Days in Sunny June
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Bohemian Rhapsody
Bottle It Up
by Bottle It Up
She's Always a Woman
by She's Always a Woman
Zulf's Theme
by Zulf's Theme
Hurts Like Heaven
by Hurts Like Heaven
Michelle
by Michelle
Home Sweet Home
by Home Sweet Home
Domino
by Domino
Beautiful Stranger
by Beautiful Stranger
Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
by Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
Where I End and You Begin
by Where I End and You Begin
Wonderwall
by Wonderwall
She Will Be Loved
by She Will Be Loved
Give Your Heart A Break
by Give Your Heart A Break
Wasted Time
by Wasted Time
Don't Know Why
by Don't Know Why
Run
by Run
She Came in through the Bathroom Window
by She Came in through the Bathroom Window
Strobe
by Strobe
The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
by The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
Love The Way You Lie ft Rihanna
by Love The Way You Lie ft Rihanna
Thank You
by Thank You

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.

100 Years
by 100 Years
Be Like That
by Be Like That
When You're Gone
by When You're Gone
Lights
by Lights
Walt Graces Submarine Test January 1967
by Walt Graces Submarine Test January 1967
You Shook Me All Night Long
by You Shook Me All Night Long
Take Care
by Take Care
Say My Name
by Say My Name
Ever Ever After
by Ever Ever After
Rimushotto Bungie Jump
by Rimushotto Bungie Jump
Home Sweet Home
by Home Sweet Home
Hard To Say I'm Sorry
by Hard To Say I'm Sorry
Because Of You
by Because Of You
Breakaway
by Breakaway
Zulf's Theme
by Zulf's Theme
Breathe
by Breathe
Lean on Me
by Lean on Me
If We Hold On Together
by If We Hold On Together
Out From Under
by Out From Under
Come On Get Higher
by Come On Get Higher
Mardy Bum
by Mardy Bum
Haven't Met You Yet
by Haven't Met You Yet
Jupiter
by Jupiter
Memories
by Memories
Desperado
by Desperado
You're Beautiful
by You're Beautiful
California Gurls
by California Gurls
Defying Gravity
by Defying Gravity
Realize
by Realize
Tiny Dancer
by Tiny Dancer
Before He Cheats
by Before He Cheats
Push
by Push
Say Yes
by Say Yes
Free Bird
by Free Bird
Want You Gone
by Want You Gone
ET
by ET
Rolling In The Deep
by Rolling In The Deep
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
My Way
by My Way
Everything I Do
by Everything I Do
Can You Feel The Love Tonight
by Can You Feel The Love Tonight
Come On Over
by Come On Over
All Along The Watchtower
by All Along The Watchtower
Nothing Else Matters
by Nothing Else Matters
The Road And The Radio
by The Road And The Radio
Stairway to Heaven
by Stairway to Heaven
The Show Goes On
by The Show Goes On
I Can't Help Falling In Love
by I Can't Help Falling In Love
My Heart Will Go On
by My Heart Will Go On
All My Life
by All My Life
Teenage Dream
by Teenage Dream
I See You - Avatar
by I See You - Avatar
All American Girl
by All American Girl
Soviet National Anthem
by Soviet National Anthem
Somebody That I Used To Know
by Somebody That I Used To Know
Whataya Want from Me
by Whataya Want from Me
Ass Back Home
by Ass Back Home
Piano Man
by Piano Man
She's Always a Woman
by She's Always a Woman
Can't Help Falling In Love
by Can't Help Falling In Love
What a Wonderful World
by What a Wonderful World
Tik Tok
by Tik Tok
Levon
by Levon
Bring Me To Life
by Bring Me To Life
Thank You
by Thank You
Good-bye Baby
by Good-bye Baby
Baby One More Time
by Baby One More Time
Where Are We Now
by Where Are We Now
Dust In The Wind
by Dust In The Wind
November Rain
by November Rain
Smile Smile Smile
by Smile Smile Smile
Your Song
by Your Song
Living On A Prayer
by Living On A Prayer
Let's Go
by Let's Go
Sultans of Swing
by Sultans of Swing
Annie's Song
by Annie's Song
Virtual Insanity
by Virtual Insanity
I Don't Want To Miss A Thing
by I Don't Want To Miss A Thing
Take A Bow
by Take A Bow