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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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