Tabs That Show the Theory Behind Songs.

Conventional tabs and sheet music are great for showing you how to play a song, but they’re not ideal for understanding how everything fits together. Theory Tabs show you the function of each chord and note within a song and reveal structure that isn’t readily apparent.


For many people, listening to music elicits such an emotional response that the idea of analyzing it can seem odd or even misguided.

But there is a lot of knowledge that has been developed that explains how we perceive different chords/notes and how and why they go together. Knowing these patterns can give one a deeper more fundamental sense for how music works, and it can make listening to music a lot more interesting. It also goes without saying that knowing more about these connections will make you a better musician and songwriter.

Theory Tabs number the chords relative to a song’s key.

Theory Tabs number the chords relative to a song’s key and let you hear them in sync with the music. Colors are used to emphasize each chord. Below is a Theory Tabs howing you the chords to Leonard Cohen’s famous song "Hallelujah". Notice that as he says "it goes like this, the 4th the 5th…" he is referring to the chords being played at that moment, shown as Roman numerals IV (the green chord) and V (the blue chord). Theory Tabs make it easy to see this:

Note: Theory Tabs let you remove the distraction of the arrangement to just hear the pure sound of the chords. Change the selector from “YouTube” to “Piano” and listen again. Hearing this reduced arrangement makes it easier to focus directly on the chords without other distractions.

Melody works the same way: notes are color coded to their position in the major scale.

To see this in action, listen to the introduction to "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music in which Maria shows the Von Trapp children this basic concept. As she sings, you can watch how the colored degrees of the scale light up in time with the words she is singing. In this song, the red, orange, and yellow notes correspond to the notes Do Re and Mi:

Conventional tab sites let you search by title and artist - and that is pretty much it. With Theory Tabs, there are new and powerful ways to search and explore music.

Build a chord progression and see all of the songs that use it.

With the Trends page, shown below, you can build up a chord progression and see all of the songs that use it. You can even see the chords that are “most likely” to follow any progression.

You can learn, for example, that over 10% of the songs in the library include the progression IVvi (C → G → am in the key of C) and that 75% of the time the chord that follows this pattern is a IV (F). Kind of amazing, right?

One of the songs you’ll find that uses this progression is “Four Chord Songs” by Axis of Awesome, a song that makes fun of the fact that so many songs us this particular combination of chords. Click play to hear it.

See the most popular chord progressions and the songs that use them.

The Theory Tab progressions page lets you browse groups of songs that use common chord progressions.

Remix the chords to your favorite song and make it your own.

You can copy any Theory Tab into Hookpad (our free songwriting software) with a single click. Change the chords and melody around to get your own unique sound.

Browse songs by the complexity of the chords it uses.

Every Theory Tab has an icon to indicate its harmonic complexity. So whether you are just starting out, or are a complete music theory nerd, it is easy to find songs that match your taste and skill level.

Theory Tabs are just one part of Hooktheory.

All Theory Tabs are created with Hookpad, our free songwriting software. Hookpad simplifies songwriting by helping you choose chords that sounds good together and guiding you to write a good melody.

If you want to learn more how chords and melody work, check out Hooktheory I, the interactive music theory book you'll love. Its fun and relatable way of explaining concepts in music theory is changing the way people learn about music.

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