I recently came across a site called, HookTheory.com, where they’ve created innovative tools to analyze songs and chord progressions. I really think they’re on to something great there but what really caught my attention is their analysis of over 1,300 songs. What’s more, they’ve organized their findings into a very intuitive, visual format that anyone can understand and interact with.
The first thing to understand is that even though the 1,300 songs are written and performed in various keys, they bring every song into the same key for comparative purposes. They then allow you to choose what key you want to work in, although this may not be the actual key of the original records of the songs listed.
Over here, we use the number system to do that. Whether the progression is “C major – A minor – D minor – G7″ or Bb major – G minor – C minor – F7,” we know these progressions are identical when you look at them from a numerical perspective as: 1-6-2-5 progressions. C major is to its own key what Bb major is to its key: The “1-chord.” The same goes for the rest of the chords.
Hooktheory.com simply brought everything into the same key. They also give you the option to use the roman numeral system. Don’t expect the chords to exactly match the records shown, though, because they’re all performed in different keys, as mentioned above. (But using transposition, you can move chords and progressions from one key to another).
Take a look at this graphic from their analysis tool. It shows what percentage of the 1,300 songs started on C major (the “1-chord,” which is the same as the key you’re in), and went to various chords.
As you can see here, in the 1,300 songs analyzed, G major was the next most popular chord at 29%, which makes sense considering just about every pop song goes from C major to G major to A minor to F major.
F major was the next most popular chord progressed to from C at 20%. Of course, we also know this to be true as F is the other neighbor to C on the circle of fifths. In fact, if you take a look at any circle of fifths chart, you’ll see C at 12 o clock, F at 11 o clock, and G on the other side at 1 o clock. Whenever keys are neighbors on the circle of fifths chart, they have strong connections to each other.
A minor, the relative minor of C, came in at 9% — another popular movement. G major with B on bass (which is pretty much an inversion of the G major chord, which earlier came in at 29%) gives us another 9%. So if you think about it, the G major chord occurs next almost 40% of the time when you combine the two.
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The cool thing about their analysis tool is you can keep going. From the G, you can see what’s most likely to happen after that. Then it will actually show youtube clips of songs that follow those patterns… REALLY NEAT! I won’t spoil that part… go check it out for yourself.
How can you relate this to every key?
Change the C to “1”. Change the G to “5.” Change the F to “4.” Change the A to “6”.
Out of the 1,300 pop songs analyzed, 29% started on the 1 and went to the 5-major-chord. If you combine the other 9% that went down to the 7 bass but kept a 5-chord in the right hand, that raises 5-chord’s status to 38%.
20% of songs started on the 1 and went to the 4-major-chord.
9% of songs started on the 1 and went to the 6-minor-chord.
And we’ve only gotten started as this would only represent the first two chords of the song. To get the most popular second-to-third and third-to-fourth movements, you’ll have to keep going. Here’s one of the popular ones:
Until next time –