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.

Zelda's Lullaby
by The Legend of Zelda
Downstream
by Braid Soundtrack
You Never Give Me Your Money
by The Beatles
Rock Your Body
by Justin Timberlake
One Man and His Droid
by Rob Hubbard
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
by The Beatles
Gravity
by Sara Bareilles
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
Final Fantasy IV World Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Take A Bow
by Madonna
I Believe I Can Fly
by R Kelly
Drive By
by Train
No Surprises
by Radiohead
Easy
by Mat Zo and Porter Robinson
Hello
by Lionel Richie
Genie
by Girls' Generation
Wonderwall
by Oasis
Killing Me Softly
by Roberta Flack
Bottle It Up
by Sara Bareilles
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by Nintendo
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
by Tame Impala
Wasted Time
by Skid Row
She's Always a Woman
by Billy Joel
You Are Not Alone
by Michael Jackson
Something
by The Beatles
Never Gonna Give You Up
by Rick Astley
If I Ever Feel Better
by Phoenix
Gangnam Style
by Psy
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen
Titanium feat Sia
by David Guetta
Be My Baby
by The Ronettes
Rocky Raccoon
by The Beatles
Don't Speak
by No Doubt
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Wonderboy
by Tenacious D
Mas Que Nada
by Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66
Chrono Trigger - Main Theme
by Yasunori Mitsuda
Stairway to Heaven
by Led Zeppelin
Freedom of '76
by Ween
My Way
by Frank Sinatra
Ms Jackson
by Outkast
This Love
by Maroon 5
Beautiful Stranger
by Madonna
Think For Yourself
by The Beatles
Hello Goodbye
by The Beatles
Where Are We Now
by David Bowie
Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
by The Beach Boys
Black Star
by Radiohead
Hard To Say I'm Sorry
by Chicago
Locke Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Boogie On Reggae Woman
by Stevie Wonder
We Are the Champions
by Queen
Canned Heat
by Jamiroquai
Ticket to Ride
by The Beatles
A Saucerful of Secrets
by Pink Floyd
Before He Cheats
by Carrie Underwood
Lovely Rita
by The Beatles
Into The Great Wide Open
by Tom Petty
Kick the Rock
by Hunnid-P
Penny Lane
by The Beatles
Skyfall
by Adele
ET
by Katy Perry
Ken's Theme
by Capcom
Day Tripper
by The Beatles
The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
by Nintendo
Don't Know Why
by Norah Jones
Uninvited
by Alanis Morissette
Mega Man 3 - Snake Man's Stage
by Yasuaki Fujita
Michelle
by The Beatles
Tiny Dancer
by Elton John
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
Sultans of Swing
by Dire Straits
Unbreak My Heart
by Toni Braxton
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Jamiroquai
Unfaithful
by Rihanna
Free Fallin'
by Tom Petty
Virtual Insanity
by Jamiroquai
Live Forever
by Oasis
Blanka's Theme
by Capcom
Desperado
by Eagles
A Day In The Life
by The Beatles
Lovefool
by The Cardigans
Jump 'N' Move
by The Brand New Heavies
Final Fantasy Prologue
by Nobuo Uematsu

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.

It's My Life
by No Doubt
Teenage Dream
by Katy Perry
Ziggy Stardust
by David Bowie
She's Always a Woman
by Billy Joel
Creep
by Radiohead
One Of My Turns
by Pink Floyd
Don't Speak
by No Doubt
Tiny Dancer
by Elton John
Money For Nothing
by Dire Straits
Morphogenetic Sorrow - I Am Zero
by Shinji Hosoe
Love Song
by Sara Bareilles
I See You - Avatar
by Leona Lewis
Morning Music
by Konami
So What
by Pink
Downstream
by Braid Soundtrack
The Cave
by Mumford and Sons
Locke Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Who Knew
by Pink
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
Ken's Theme
by Capcom
Flower Power - From C64 Frankie Goes To Hollywood
by Fred Gray
Final Fantasy VI Boss Battle Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Basket Case
by Green Day
Showtime
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Videotape
by Radiohead
Gravity
by Sara Bareilles
Emerald Sword
by Rhapsody of Fire
Pushing Onwards
by SoulEye
Your Song
by Elton John
Always
by Erasure
Ever Ever After
by Carrie Underwood
Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites
by Skrillex
Boyfriend
by Justin Bieber
Final Fantasy IV Battle Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Karma Police
by Radiohead
Final Fantasy Prologue
by Nobuo Uematsu
Passion for Exploring
by SoulEye
Strobe
by deadmau5
Language
by Porter Robinson
Brain Damage
by Pink Floyd
All Along The Watchtower
by Jimi Hendrix
Mardy Bum
by Arctic Monkeys
Wide Awake
by Katy Perry
Leave It Alone
by NOFX
Yakety Sax
by James Rich and Boots Randolph
The Chain
by Fleetwood Mac
The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
by Nintendo
Hello
by Lionel Richie
November Rain
by Guns N' Roses
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by Nintendo
The Great Gig In The Sky
by Pink Floyd
You Know I'm No Good
by Amy Winehouse
Blanka's Theme
by Capcom
Karkat's Theme
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Unfaithful
by Rihanna
Nigel's 'Top of the Heap' 1959 Gibson Les Paul
by Nigel Tufnel
Final Fantasy IV World Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
One Man and His Droid
by Rob Hubbard
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen
Easy
by Mat Zo and Porter Robinson
Nyan Cat - nyanyanya
by PRGuitarMan -Yamaha Vocaloid
Kick the Rock
by Hunnid-P
Where I End and You Begin
by Radiohead
My Grown Up Christmas Wish
by Kelly Clarkson
Sakuranbo
by Ai Ootsuka
Monty On The Run
by Rob Hubbard
ET
by Katy Perry
Fantastic Voyage
by David Bowie
Still Alive
by Johnathan Coulton and Ellen McLain
Genie
by Girls' Generation
The Rock Theme
by Hans Zimmer
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
No Surprises
by Radiohead
Eclipse
by Pink Floyd
Cryin'
by Aerosmith
Give Me Everything
by Pitbull
Django Unchained Theme
by Luis Bacalov
Titanium feat Sia
by David Guetta
Time
by Pink Floyd
Be Like That
by 3 Doors Down
Domino
by Jessie J

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.

Come On Get Higher
by Matt Nathanson
Like A Rolling Stone
by Bob Dylan
Fantastic Voyage
by David Bowie
The Chain
by Fleetwood Mac
Final Fantasy VI Boss Battle Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Say
by One Republic
I Will Follow You Into the Dark
by Death Cab for Cutie
A Long December
by Counting Crows
Airplanes
by B o B ft Hayley Williams
Haven't Met You Yet
by Michael Buble
Because Of You
by Kelly Clarkson
Super Hexagon Theme 1
by Chipzel
Last Friday Night TGIF
by Katy Perry
Lust For Life
by Girls
Rolling In The Deep
by Adele
Everybody Talks
by Neon Trees
I Gotta Feeling
by Black Eyed Peas
It's My Life
by No Doubt
Ignorance
by Paramore
Karkat's Theme
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Firework
by Katy Perry
Don't Look Back in Anger
by Oasis
Dreaming With A Broken Heart
by John Mayer
Hey Ya
by Outkast
Someone Like You
by Adele
The Show Goes On
by Lupe Fiasco
Girlfriend
by Avril Lavigne
Animal
by Neon Trees
She Will Be Loved
by Maroon 5
Say Yes
by Elliott Smith
The Scientist
by Coldplay
Let's Go
by Calvin Harris
Guile's Theme
by Capcom
Starlight
by Muse
Wild Ones
by Flo Rida
Hold It Against Me
by Britney Spears
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
Iris
by Goo Goo Dolls
Turn Me On
by Nicki Minaj
Epic Sax Guy
by Epic Sax Guy
Before He Cheats
by Carrie Underwood
Don't Stop Believing
by Journey
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Wonderwall
by Oasis
Temple Of Dreams
by Messiah
Like A Prayer
by Madonna
Canned Heat
by Jamiroquai
Somebody That I Used To Know
by Gotye
That'll Be The Day
by Buddy Holly
In The End
by Linkin Park
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
Say My Name
by Destiny's Child
Baby
by Justin Bieber
Duele El Amor ft Ana Torroja
by Aleks Syntek
Hello
by Lionel Richie
Ass Back Home
by Gym Class Heroes
Smile Smile Smile
by My Little Pony
Walt Graces Submarine Test January 1967
by John Mayer
Ghost Of Days Gone By
by Alter Bridge
So In Love
by Cole Porter - Ella Fitzgerald
Waking Up In Vegas
by Katy Perry
Who says you can't go home
by Bon Jovi
Realize
by Colbie Caillat
Cooler Than Me
by Mike Posner
Take Care
by Drake
Enjoy the Silence
by Depeche Mode
Super Bass
by Nicki Minaj
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
by Chuck Lorre
Breezeblocks
by Alt-J
My Heart Will Go On
by Celine Dion
Doctor
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Uninvited
by Alanis Morissette
When I Was Your Man
by Bruno Mars
Payphone
by Maroon 5
Turn Around
by Conor Maynard
California Gurls
by Katy Perry
Kick the Rock
by Hunnid-P
Lights
by Ellie Goulding
Already Gone
by Kelly Clarkson
Malaguena
by Blast
Mardy Bum
by Arctic Monkeys
Boyfriend
by Justin Bieber
Smells Like Teen Spirit
by Nirvana
Forget You
by Cee Lo Green
Home
by Daughtry
Whistle
by Flo Rida
The One That Got Away
by Katy Perry
Summertime
by Kenny Chesney

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.

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

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.

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