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 ways to add complexity to these basic chords. The first is to add additional notes of the chord, and the second is to replace notes with notes that are not in the scale (so-called “non-diatonic” notes). 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.

The second way to increase the complexity of a chord is to use tones that lie outside of the scale. Since our ears naturally expect to hear scale tones (as is usually the case in popular music), 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).

Browse songs with above average Chord Complexity

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

The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by Nintendo
Before He Cheats
by Carrie Underwood
Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
by The Beach Boys
Dark Side
by Kelly Clarkson
Hello
by Lionel Richie
ET
by Katy Perry
Live Forever
by Oasis
Thriller
by Michael Jackson
Brain Damage
by Pink Floyd
A Saucerful of Secrets
by Pink Floyd
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Jamiroquai
Don't Know Why
by Norah Jones
Fantastic Voyage
by David Bowie
Easy
by Mat Zo and Porter Robinson
Boogie On Reggae Woman
by Stevie Wonder
Hey Ya
by Outkast
One Man and His Droid
by Rob Hubbard
Rock Your Body
by Justin Timberlake
I Just Can't Stop Loving You
by Michael Jackson
Be Like That
by 3 Doors Down
Think For Yourself
by The Beatles
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
by The Beatles
I Saw The Sign
by Barden Bellas - Pitch Perfect
Enjoy the Silence
by Depeche Mode
Final Fantasy VI Boss Battle Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Be My Baby
by The Ronettes
Gangnam Style
by Psy
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
When I Was Your Man
by Bruno Mars
I Want to Hold Your Hand
by The Beatles
Bring Me To Life
by Evanescence
You Are Not Alone
by Michael Jackson
Something
by The Beatles
Desperado
by Eagles
Downstream
by Braid Soundtrack
Canned Heat
by Jamiroquai
Stairway to Heaven
by Led Zeppelin
A Day In The Life
by The Beatles
Michelle
by The Beatles
Zelda's Lullaby
by The Legend of Zelda
I Believe I Can Fly
by R Kelly
Numb
by Linkin Park
Killing Me Softly
by Roberta Flack
Chrono Trigger - Main Theme
by Yasunori Mitsuda
Never Gonna Give You Up
by Rick Astley
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme
by Chuck Lorre
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen
Stars Come Out
by Zedd
Lovefool
by The Cardigans
Sultans of Swing
by Dire Straits
Penny Lane
by The Beatles
Space Dementia
by Muse
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
by Tame Impala
Uninvited
by Alanis Morissette
She's Always a Woman
by Billy Joel
Don't Speak
by No Doubt
Colin Zeal
by Blur
Where Are We Now
by David Bowie
The Great Gig In The Sky
by Pink Floyd
This Love
by Maroon 5
Unbreak My Heart
by Toni Braxton
Day Tripper
by The Beatles
You Never Give Me Your Money
by The Beatles
Final Fantasy Prologue
by Nobuo Uematsu
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
Mega Man 3 - Snake Man's Stage
by Yasuaki Fujita
I Can't Get You Off My Mind
by Miss Li
Freedom of '76
by Ween
Beautiful Stranger
by Madonna
Ken's Theme
by Nintendo
The Chain
by Fleetwood Mac
Blanka's Theme
by Nintendo
A Hard Day's Night
by The Beatles
Virtual Insanity
by Jamiroquai
Hard To Say I'm Sorry
by Chicago
Final Fantasy IV World Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Take A Bow
by Madonna
Rocky Raccoon
by The Beatles
Locke Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Monty On The Run
by Rob Hubbard

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 in the Americas and Europe — melodies are based on 7-note scales called “diatonic” scales, like the Major or Minor scales. Whether or not there is a specific physiological reason for this, or if this is perhaps a cultural artifact stemming from centuries of music that have always done it this way, 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.

Monty On The Run
by Rob Hubbard
Genie
by Girls' Generation
Hysteria
by Muse
Locke Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Too Late To Apologize
by One Republic
Easy
by Mat Zo and Porter Robinson
Flower Power - From C64 Frankie Goes To Hollywood
by Fred Gray
Language
by Porter Robinson
Annie's Song
by John Denver
Your Song
by Elton John
Best Of You
by Foo Fighters
Mario Brothers Theme
by Koji Kondo
Ever Ever After
by Carrie Underwood
Django Unchained Theme
by Luis Bacalov
Downstream
by Braid Soundtrack
Unfaithful
by Rihanna
So Small
by Carrie Underwood
Ken's Theme
by Nintendo
Smells Like Teen Spirit
by Nirvana
Love The Way You Lie ft Rihanna
by Eminem
Levon
by Elton John
Stop Crying Your Heart Out
by Oasis
I See You - Avatar
by Leona Lewis
The Rock Theme
by Hans Zimmer
Katamari on the Rocks
by Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
Enjoy the Silence
by Depeche Mode
Eclipse
by Pink Floyd
Take A Bow
by Madonna
Because Of You
by Kelly Clarkson
Hello
by Lionel Richie
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Jamiroquai
Uninvited
by Alanis Morissette
Call Me Maybe
by Carly Rae Jepsen
So What
by Pink
Give Me Everything
by Pitbull
Real World
by Matchbox 20
Who Knew
by Pink
Leave It Alone
by NOFX
Domino
by Jessie J
One Of My Turns
by Pink Floyd
Fake Plastic Trees
by Radiohead
Where I End and You Begin
by Radiohead
Teenage Dream
by Katy Perry
Titanium feat Sia
by David Guetta
The Great Gig In The Sky
by Pink Floyd
It's My Life
by No Doubt
She Will Be Loved
by Maroon 5
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen
One Man and His Droid
by Rob Hubbard
Basket Case
by Green Day
Tiny Dancer
by Elton John
Love Song
by Sara Bareilles
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by Nintendo
Mega Man 3 - Snake Man's Stage
by Yasuaki Fujita
Airbag
by Radiohead
I Can't Get You Off My Mind
by Miss Li
Strobe
by deadmau5
Sakuranbo
by Ai Ootsuka
The Cave
by Mumford and Sons
Karkat's Theme
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Karma Police
by Radiohead
Ziggy Stardust
by David Bowie
Brain Damage
by Pink Floyd
My Grown Up Christmas Wish
by Kelly Clarkson
Nigel's 'Top of the Heap' 1959 Gibson Les Paul
by Nigel Tufnel
Videotape
by Radiohead
ET
by Katy Perry
All Along The Watchtower
by Jimi Hendrix
Final Fantasy VI Boss Battle Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Always
by Erasure
Be Like That
by 3 Doors Down
The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
by Nintendo
Nyan Cat - nyanyanya
by PRGuitarMan -Yamaha Vocaloid
Want You Gone
by Jonathan Coulton and Ellen McLain
Blanka's Theme
by Nintendo
Don't Speak
by No Doubt
Crazy
by Gnarls Barkley
No Surprises
by Radiohead
Still Alive
by Johnathan Coulton and Ellen McLain
Kick the Rock
by Hunnid-P
This Love
by Maroon 5
Breathe
by Faith Hill
I Gotta Feeling
by Black Eyed Peas

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.

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

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.

One Man and His Droid
by Rob Hubbard
My Way
by Frank Sinatra
Boogie On Reggae Woman
by Stevie Wonder
Wonderwall
by Oasis
Seven Days in Sunny June
by Jamiroquai
I Get Around
by Beach Boys
We Are the Champions
by Queen
Virtual Insanity
by Jamiroquai
Lisztomania
by Phoenix
A Day In The Life
by The Beatles
Strobe
by deadmau5
I Believe I Can Fly
by R Kelly
Martha My Dear
by The Beatles
Give Your Heart A Break
by Demi Lovato
Run
by Snow Patrol
If I Ever Feel Better
by Phoenix
Thank You
by Led Zeppelin
Eclipse
by Pink Floyd
Penny Lane
by The Beatles
Killing Me Softly
by Roberta Flack
Atma Weapon Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Black Star
by Radiohead
Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen
Easy
by Mat Zo and Porter Robinson
Final Fantasy Prologue
by Nobuo Uematsu
Never Gonna Give You Up
by Rick Astley
Creep
by Radiohead
Zulf's Theme
by Bastion Soundtrack
Rock Your Body
by Justin Timberlake
The Legend of Zelda Main Theme
by Nintendo
Uninvited
by Alanis Morissette
Where Are We Now
by David Bowie
Tiny Dancer
by Elton John
Love The Way You Lie ft Rihanna
by Eminem
The Legend Of Zelda Fairy Theme
by Nintendo
Kick the Rock
by Hunnid-P
Be Like That
by 3 Doors Down
Blanka's Theme
by Nintendo
November Rain
by Guns N' Roses
Photograph
by Nickelback
Bottle It Up
by Sara Bareilles
Here Comes the Sun
by The Beatles
Wasted Time
by Skid Row
Only a Northern Song
by The Beatles
Genie
by Girls' Generation
Locke Theme
by Nobuo Uematsu
Domino
by Jessie J
Temple Of Dreams
by Messiah
So Small
by Carrie Underwood
Love Song
by Sara Bareilles
You Are Not Alone
by Michael Jackson
Don't Talk - Put Your Head On My Shoulder
by The Beach Boys
Videotape
by Radiohead
Stairway to Heaven
by Led Zeppelin
Hurts Like Heaven
by Coldplay
Rocky Raccoon
by The Beatles
Wonderboy
by Tenacious D
Don't Know Why
by Norah Jones
She's Always a Woman
by Billy Joel
Michelle
by The Beatles
Hey Jude
by The Beatles
ET
by Katy Perry
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
by Tame Impala
Have You Ever Seen the Rain
by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Where I End and You Begin
by Radiohead
Soviet National Anthem
by Alexander Alexandrov
No Surprises
by Radiohead
Hard To Say I'm Sorry
by Chicago
Home Sweet Home
by Motley Crue
Take A Bow
by Madonna
Monty On The Run
by Rob Hubbard
Karkat's Theme
by Homestuck Soundtrack
Malaguena
by Blast
She Came in through the Bathroom Window
by The Beatles
The Veldt
by deadmau5
Day Tripper
by The Beatles
Enjoy the Silence
by Depeche Mode
Ken's Theme
by Nintendo
Skyscraper
by Demi Lovato
Walkaways
by Counting Crows
Fantastic Voyage
by David Bowie
Desperado
by Eagles
Beautiful Stranger
by Madonna
Eye Of The Tiger
by Survivor
She Will Be Loved
by Maroon 5

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.

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