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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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