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.

Enjoy the Silence
by Depeche Mode
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Jamiroquai
My Way
by Frank Sinatra
ET
by Katy Perry
Rock Your Body
by Justin Timberlake
Stars Come Out
by Zedd
A Day In The Life
by The Beatles
Think For Yourself
by The Beatles
Blanka's Theme
by Nintendo
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
You Never Give Me Your Money
by The Beatles
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Fantastic Voyage
by David Bowie
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
Michelle
by The Beatles
I Saw The Sign
by Barden Bellas - Pitch Perfect
I Just Can't Stop Loving You
by Michael Jackson
Hey Ya
by Outkast
Mas Que Nada
by Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66
Hello
by Lionel Richie
When I Was Your Man
by Bruno Mars
Hard To Say I'm Sorry
by Chicago
I Want to Hold Your Hand
by The Beatles
The Chain
by Fleetwood Mac
Penny Lane
by The Beatles
I Can't Get You Off My Mind
by Miss Li
You Are Not Alone
by Michael Jackson
Rocky Raccoon
by The Beatles
Sultans of Swing
by Dire Straits
Locke Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Monty On The Run
by Rob Hubbard
Never Gonna Give You Up
by Rick Astley
She's Always a Woman
by Billy Joel
Bring Me To Life
by Evanescence
Easy
by Mat Zo and Porter Robinson
Be Like That
by 3 Doors Down
The Great Gig In The Sky
by Pink Floyd
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
by The Beatles
Zelda's Lullaby
by The Legend of Zelda
Virtual Insanity
by Jamiroquai
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
by Chuck Lorre
Don't Know Why
by Norah Jones
Final Fantasy IV World Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Numb
by Linkin Park
I Believe I Can Fly
by R Kelly
Killing Me Softly
by Roberta Flack
Lovely Rita
by The Beatles
Don't Speak
by No Doubt
Thriller
by Michael Jackson
Before He Cheats
by Carrie Underwood
Something
by The Beatles
Mega Man 3 - Snake Man's Stage
by Yasuaki Fujita
Boogie On Reggae Woman
by Stevie Wonder
Desperado
by Eagles
Where Are We Now
by David Bowie
Space Dementia
by Muse
Downstream
by Braid Soundtrack
Be My Baby
by The Ronettes
Lovefool
by The Cardigans
Uninvited
by Alanis Morissette
Ken's Theme
by Nintendo
Beautiful Stranger
by Madonna
Brain Damage
by Pink Floyd
Chrono Trigger - Main Theme
by Yasunori Mitsuda
Final Fantasy Prologue
by Nobuo Uematsu
Live Forever
by Oasis
Colin Zeal
by Blur
One Man and His Droid
by Rob Hubbard
Gangnam Style
by Psy
Take A Bow
by Madonna
Canned Heat
by Jamiroquai
Stairway to Heaven
by Led Zeppelin
A Saucerful of Secrets
by Pink Floyd
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
by Tame Impala
Day Tripper
by The Beatles
Final Fantasy VI Boss Battle Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
A Hard Day's Night
by The Beatles
Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
by The Beach Boys
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by Nintendo
Freedom of '76
by Ween
Dark Side
by Kelly Clarkson
Unbreak My Heart
by Toni Braxton

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.

Passion for Exploring
by SoulEye
Hey Nineteen
by Steely Dan
Apache - Jump On It
by Sugarhill Gang
Karkat's Theme
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Annie's Song
by John Denver
Mega Man 3 - Snake Man's Stage
by Yasuaki Fujita
The Cave
by Mumford and Sons
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by Nintendo
Don't Speak
by No Doubt
ET
by Katy Perry
Strobe
by deadmau5
Real World
by Matchbox 20
Give Me Everything
by Pitbull
Still Alive
by Johnathan Coulton and Ellen McLain
All Along The Watchtower
by Jimi Hendrix
Eclipse
by Pink Floyd
Final Fantasy VI Boss Battle Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Always
by Erasure
Sakuranbo
by Ai Ootsuka
Mario Brothers Theme
by Koji Kondo
Yakety Sax
by James Rich and Boots Randolph
Showtime
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Love Story
by Taylor Swift
Final Fantasy IV Battle Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Boogie On Reggae Woman
by Stevie Wonder
Beautiful Stranger
by Madonna
My Grown Up Christmas Wish
by Kelly Clarkson
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
Language
by Porter Robinson
Domino
by Jessie J
Unfaithful
by Rihanna
Leave It Alone
by NOFX
One Of My Turns
by Pink Floyd
Blanka's Theme
by Nintendo
Karma Police
by Radiohead
Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
by The Beach Boys
Easy
by Mat Zo and Porter Robinson
No Surprises
by Radiohead
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Jamiroquai
It's My Life
by No Doubt
Titanium feat Sia
by David Guetta
Where I End and You Begin
by Radiohead
So What
by Pink
Ken's Theme
by Nintendo
Hyperspace
by Star Control II Soundtrack
Crazy
by Gnarls Barkley
Nyan Cat - nyanyanya
by PRGuitarMan -Yamaha Vocaloid
Locke Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Emerald Sword
by Rhapsody of Fire
The Great Gig In The Sky
by Pink Floyd
Pushing Onwards
by SoulEye
Final Fantasy Prologue
by Nobuo Uematsu
I See You - Avatar
by Leona Lewis
Who Knew
by Pink
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen
Morphogenetic Sorrow - I Am Zero
by Shinji Hosoe
Nigel's 'Top of the Heap' 1959 Gibson Les Paul
by Nigel Tufnel
Too Late To Apologize
by One Republic
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
One Man and His Droid
by Rob Hubbard
Love Song
by Sara Bareilles
Hello
by Lionel Richie
Monty On The Run
by Rob Hubbard
The Chain
by Fleetwood Mac
Flower Power - From C64 Frankie Goes To Hollywood
by Fred Gray
Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites
by Skrillex
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
You Know I'm No Good
by Amy Winehouse
Videotape
by Radiohead
The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
by Nintendo
Boyfriend
by Justin Bieber
Basket Case
by Green Day
Genie
by Girls' Generation
Ever Ever After
by Carrie Underwood
Django Unchained Theme
by Luis Bacalov
Time
by Pink Floyd
Ziggy Stardust
by David Bowie
The Rock Theme
by Hans Zimmer
Tiny Dancer
by Elton John
I Knew You Were Trouble
by Taylor Swift
Love The Way You Lie ft Rihanna
by Eminem
Teenage Dream
by Katy Perry
Kick the Rock
by Hunnid-P
Downstream
by Braid Soundtrack
Hysteria
by Muse

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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