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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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