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Chords To 1300 Songs Analyzed Statistically For Patterns

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the math-of-music dept.

Music 132

First time accepted submitter hooktheory writes "We looked at the statistics gathered from 1300 choruses, verses, etc. of popular songs to discover the answer to a few basic questions about pop music. First we look at the relative popularity of different chords based on the frequency that they appear in the chord progressions of popular music. Then we begin to look at the relationship that different chords have with one another. To make quantitative statements about music you need to have data; lots of it. Guitar tab websites have tons of information about the chord progressions that songs use, but the quality is not very high. Just as important, the information is not in a format suitable for gathering statistics. So, over the past 2 years we've been slowly and painstakingly building up a database of songs taken mainly from the billboard 100 and analyzing them 1 at a time. At the moment the database of songs has over 1300 entries indexed. Knowing these patterns can give one a deeper more fundamental sense for how music works" This reminds me of the work done by two Rutgers grad students last year trying to find a formula for a hit song.

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132 comments

Sorry, I have to: (5, Funny)

Zapotek (1032314) | about 2 years ago | (#40318395)

Pachelbel Rant [youtube.com]

Re:Sorry, I have to: (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about 2 years ago | (#40318819)

Oh snap, I totally didn't see this coming (or intend to post the exact same thing).

Also, The Piano Guys' remix. (4, Interesting)

antdude (79039) | about 2 years ago | (#40318957)

Watch it on YouTube [youtube.com].

Re:Sorry, I have to: (2, Insightful)

dov_0 (1438253) | about 2 years ago | (#40319889)

That was an awesome clip. Anyway. They wanted to analyse MUSIC and chose chart toppers? Music?

Interesting... (4, Interesting)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 2 years ago | (#40318405)

Just what we need, a database for the RIAA to use to play Whack-A-Mole on upcoming songwriters for 'copyright infringement'. There are only so many chord progressions possible. This will allow the holders of the eternal copyright to sue somebody because the chord progression they wrote mirrors a song their grandparents heard in the womb and thus infringes.

Yet another argument for 7 year copyrights. Too bad we can't convince our Congresscritters of this...

Re:Interesting... (2)

sackbut (1922510) | about 2 years ago | (#40318461)

I don't think that chord progressions are subject to copyright. Otherwise mashups would not work so well, or Axis of Awesome could not do this (4 Chords) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpB_40hYjXU [youtube.com]

Re:Interesting... (4, Informative)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 2 years ago | (#40318553)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1397511/ [imdb.com]

According to this documentary, mashups are not legal per US copyrights.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40318647)

He didn't say "wouldn't be legal", he said "wouldn't work so well". They do work (despite being illegal) because you can find multiple commercial songs using the same chord progression, which you wouldn't be able to do if chord progressions were copyrighted.

Chord Progression Experts Group Licensing Agency (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40320813)

Even if chord progressions were copyrightable, one could still "find multiple commercial songs using the same chord progression" among songs at one label, or if if the various major record labels were cross-licensing their chord progressions while forcing indie labels to pay up, much as MPEG LA members cross-license video patents.

Re:Interesting... (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | about 2 years ago | (#40318911)

4 Chords is a parody, and thus has a good legal defense.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40321227)

Mmmm, not really... "4 Chords" is a medley, but they don't make any changes at all to the songs except possibly transposing them. I think it's a stretch to call that parody.

Re:Interesting... (5, Interesting)

Forever Wondering (2506940) | about 2 years ago | (#40319109)

Just what we need, a database for the RIAA to use to play Whack-A-Mole on upcoming songwriters for 'copyright infringement'.

This type of analysis has been going on for decades. I remember meeting a guy [circa 1992] who had a consulting business based on doing just that. He would put a [suspect] music CD into his CDROM drive and [with custom software he wrote] have it analyze the note sequences looking for fragments that matched fragments of his clients' songs/catalog. IIRC, the criterion was either 11 notes or 11 bars [I can't remember which] of music.

There are only so many chord progressions possible.

Per copyright law, things that have "only one way to do them" can't be copyrighted. Also, the work must be of sufficient length (e.g. a 3 chord sequence could not be copyrighted but a 50 chord sequence could). Although circuit courts have varied on this, in general, the courts have held that to grant a copyright on a short [enough] sequence is tantamount to trying use a copyright to get patent-like protection. For the most part, this gets rejected.

For specific examples of this, read Alsup's decision in the recent Oracle/Google dispute (including the citations to precedents). Or the second Westlaw mashup (again with citations).

This will allow the holders of the eternal copyright to sue somebody because the chord progression they wrote mirrors a song their grandparents heard in the womb and thus infringes.

IIRC, just having a long chord sequence that matches isn't always grounds for claiming infringment. In particular, if the defendant can show that they got there through non-infringing means (e.g. they kept all their composition sheets and could prove that they created the work from scratch, it's not infringing even if a portion happens to match). Unfortunately, I can't recall the case law to cite for this [just an article I read way back when].

Yet another argument for 7 year copyrights. Too bad we can't convince our Congresscritters of this...

Yes, the current length is insane [and unconstitutional IMHO] ...

How to avoid? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40320821)

I remember meeting a guy [circa 1992] who had a consulting business based on doing just that. He would put a [suspect] music CD into his CDROM drive and [with custom software he wrote] have it analyze the note sequences looking for fragments that matched fragments of his clients' songs/catalog. IIRC, the criterion was either 11 notes or 11 bars [I can't remember which] of music.

It was probably 11 notes, seeing as Bright Tunes v. Harrisongs had George Harrison losing over nine notes. Nine notes is already short enough to produce many coincidental matches among existing songs in the repertories of BMI and ASCAP. So what steps should a singer-songwriter take to avoid such copyright trolls?

Yes, the current length is insane [and unconstitutional IMHO]

Your HO matters not in the real world because you aren't five Supreme Court justices. Eldred v. Ashcroft.

Re:Interesting... (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 2 years ago | (#40321247)

"I remember meeting a guy [circa 1992] who had a consulting business based on doing just that."

You mean actually working for a song?

And they found that... (4, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#40318409)

...they were all either:

  • I, IV, VI, V
  • I, IV, II, V
  • I, VI, IV, V or
  • I, V/7, VI, I/5, IV, I/3, II7, V

Right? Or maybe that's just pop songs from the past twenty years....

Re:And they found that... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40318481)

Exactly what I was thinking when I read this. There's nothing mysterious about the chord progressions of songs. Pick a key and play that sequence. It's basic music theory.

Re:And they found that... (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 2 years ago | (#40318519)

Except when it's ABACAB

Re:And they found that... (1)

Falconhell (1289630) | about 2 years ago | (#40319001)

ABACAB refers to parts not individual chords, roughly speaking :

A=Verse
B=chorus
C=Middle 8

Re:And they found that... (3, Funny)

sgunhouse (1050564) | about 2 years ago | (#40319913)

Here I figured it was the song ABACAB by Genesis

Re:And they found that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40321515)

Yep. Genesis took the title from the order of the song parts at one juncture during writing, not from the chords.

Re:And they found that... (2)

mortonda (5175) | about 2 years ago | (#40318539)

Yeah, anyone who has actually had formal music training should know that. Maybe that explains the current state of music. :(

Re:And they found that... (3, Interesting)

Vintermann (400722) | about 2 years ago | (#40319881)

Anyone who had good formal music training should know that chord function is not identical with chord progression, and function may vary from style to style. Also that different styles of music vary along different parameters. Expecting a brave new chord progression in most styles is silly. And, in those styles where you're supposed to expect "original" chord progressions like prog rock, they usually turn out to not be all that original in the big picture.

If variation is all you want in music, white noise is provably the perfect kind of music for you.

The current state of music is that it's more diverse and plentiful than ever.

Re:And they found that... (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 2 years ago | (#40318545)

Then there's other considerations like the choice of keys due to the intonation constraints of standard guitars, which are very popular but unlikely to play in as many keys as a piano, which aren't quite as popular anymore or bagpipes which are only good for a key or two.

Re:And they found that... (5, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#40318733)

BTW, the reason for the popularity of many chords (or lack thereof) is likely because so much pop music is guitar-centric. An A major chord would only be common if you're playing in D major, E major, A major, or sometimes in D minor (with a raised 7th).

  • Playing in D major isn't great for solo guitar work because with standard tuning, you've lost the fundamental. Now if your guitarist is willing to keep an axe in drop-D, sure, but....
  • Playing in E major results in having to play a B major chord as your V, which is kind of a clumsy chord to play (compared with many other non-complex chords, anyway).
  • The key of A major is awkward for tenors. Although the middle A is comfortable, the high A is powerfully high, and the low A is below the bottom of their usable range, so you can't safely write music that spans an octave from tonic to tonic. And even for guys with lower voices, the low A just sounds too boomy.

You'll notice that D, major, A major, and E major are the 5th, 6th, and 7th most popular keys. And although D minor is the 4th most popular key, not all A chords in D minor are going to be major chords.

I would also expect the probability of moving from any given chord to another would be strongly correlated with the standard chord leading rules, assuming you analyze them with numbered chord notation rather than by the actual note names. Certain chords naturally follow other chords, and although you don't have to always use such pairs in that order, good composers will tend to do so the majority of the time.

Re:And they found that... (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 2 years ago | (#40320841)

I was actually talking about the intonation the instrument fully tuned with a compensated bridge. Unless the nut is compensated as well most fretted notes are out of tune a bit till you get to the 12th and 24th frets. This makes many chords, comfortable or not, out of tune. Get a tuner and try this. Tune up your open notes. Pick a string and start fretting and checking the tune of each note. Surprised? Get someone to play a C maj. chord on a piano. Now play your open position C against this.
YUCK, eh?
            There are a few panaceas and remedies via nut replacement that bring it back in tuneish. Buzz Feiten nut, nearly worthless and needs a tech to wreck your axe. Earvana a bit better making it next to worthless, but a better deal. Microfrets guitars in the late 60s, early 70s actually had a nut that could compensate each string, but got blown off as superfluous gimmickry by a public used to the same old crap served up by the major manufacturers.
          My point was that guitar heavy songs tend to be that way due to the above described glitch in guitars and don't mix so much with other instruments that hilight the glitch.( chorus helps) So certain guitar-centric keys get used far more frequently than say , a song done on a piano with minimal or keyboard emulated guitar in the background.

Re:And they found that... (2)

nothings (597917) | about 2 years ago | (#40321267)

tl;dr: RTFA, not just the pictures.

Full version:

Unfortunately, you misread the site. The site doesn't report the popularity of chords by name at all. If you'd read the lead-in to the chord chart, you'd see the explanation. Or if you'd thought about the most popular chords being "G F C Am Dm Em", the main traids in the key of C, you might be suspicious. Or if you had read the following analysis on the site which explains his theories for their popularity, you'd have seen your misinterpretation.

The site reports the popularity of key signatures by name.

It reports the popularity of chords by pseudo-name: relative to the key signature by transposing all the songs into the key of C. Yes, that's a dumb thing for him to do, but that's what he did, and it's identical to what you propose he should do. (The per-song analyses do actually use roman-numeral notation.)

Your explanation is therefore bogus; the A chord is not necessarily particularly rare as far as we can tell. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Probably it is, actually, which leads me to my second argument: your reason for why it's rare is wrong.

It is absolutely true that the popularity of many chords in guitar music is due to what's convenient on the guitar. But I'm doubtful that A chords are very rare in guitar music. More likely, the pop music analyzed here is not very guitar-centric.

Let's look at an actual guitar band. The easiest to use is the Beatles, since they're well studied. They got less guitar-y in their later albums, though. Here's a source. [mikemake.com]. Note that relative minors have already been adapted in the same way.

Top six keys in order on the site in the slashdot article:
C G Eb F D A

All beatles: G A E D C ...
First two albums: E D A G ...
Next three albums: A G D E ...
Abbey Road: A C E D F

So, in this actual guitar band, before they started writing on piano, retuning songs by changing the tape speed, etc., the keys of E, D, and A were incredibly popular, so I bet the A chord was probably popular as well. (but I have no stats).

And since guitarists don't actually avoid these keys, unsurprisingly, your explanation for why guitarists would avoid these keys are wrong. (1) The B chord is uncomfortable for a beginning guitarist, but the B7 chord is easily learned, so B doesn't present a problem for the key of E. (And the reality is that the difficulty of the chord isn't a big deal for serious musicians. They favor open chords not because they're easy, but because they sound better.) (2) The key of D doesn't present much problem, as not having the chord root not at the top just means you play inversions a lot, or use sparser chords. The fact it's not low is irrelevant when you have a bassist; and look at something like Nashville tuning. Indeed, the convenience of a flexible A7 for use as V, and the ease of Dsus2 and Dsus4, makes D a quite popular key signature on the guitar. (3) I don't know why your A theory is wrong, but since your E and D theories were wrong, and since the Beatles (with three different male singers) loved the key of A, I can't imagine it's correct.

So, the actual explanation for why A is at 2% is that it's the "relative A" chord that is the major VI chord, or i.e. the V-of-ii chord. That makes it popular enough to be at 2% -- V-of-ii isn't [hooktheory.com] unheard [hooktheory.com] of [icce.rug.nl], but not a particularly common chord in the key of C, the way the non-diminished triads from the key signature are.

Re:And they found that... (3, Funny)

redneckmother (1664119) | about 2 years ago | (#40318849)

Uhhh, Formulaic "music" earned the proverbial shitton of money for groups in prior decades... /p>

For instance, Journey...

Posted with effuse apologies to my cohabitant, who is a Journey "groupie".

Also, see my sig :-)

Re:And they found that... (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about 2 years ago | (#40319079)

Also, their speed is also so similar that you can mix and match without much effort. In fact, there's even a sketch [youtube.com] where they do that. (If they're right, though, twenty years might be a little bit too optimistic.)

Re:And they found that... (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#40319231)

Yeah, I was talking to my parents, and they pointed out that it was pretty much that way back to the 1950s.

(I) Big (VI) girls (II) (V), they don't (I) cry-yai-(VI)-yai, (II)they don't (V)cry.

I'm just hoping that Justin Bieber's "Baby" finally puts the four-chord song form out of its misery.

Re:And they found that... (2)

Deep Esophagus (686515) | about 2 years ago | (#40319211)

Right? Or maybe that's just pop songs from the past twenty years....

I wish he had included the year of the song's release in his analysis. It would be interesting to see if chord preferences have changed much over the past 100+ years.

As a barbershop quartet singer, I tend to favor simple melodies that follow the circle of fifths fairly closely, because those are the songs it is easy to improvise harmony parts to go along with. That preference spills over into the type of music I listen to, not just sing... and it's the reason my dislike of an era's music increases with newer music. You just can't get four guys together crooning an a cappella arrangement of "Oops, I did it again" or "Umbrella".

Unless you're Big Daddy, I guess. That's a nifty group who cut a few albums in the 80s and 90s retrofitting contemporary hits into doo-wop and rockabilly styles. "Super Freak" is an awful, awful song unless it's done as a sweet ballad in Everly Brothers harmony...

Re:And they found that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40319267)

I think the Axis of Awesome covers this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I

Re:And they found that... (1)

locofungus (179280) | about 2 years ago | (#40319787)

If they'd tried analyzing Beethoven it would have been even simpler :-)

V I V I V V V I IV V I

Take the slow movement of the seventh symphony. No tune (all on the same note), no rhythmic interest (dah, da, da, dah, dah repeated over and over again) and yet it's a hauntingly beautiful movement.

It's not even the way he uses the orchestra - Liszt's piano transcription is just as haunting:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKePu4Je7l4 [youtube.com]

(while four against three is fairly common in piano music - the chopin fantasy impromptu being the canonical example, this is the only piano work I know of that has four against three in one hand - the recurrence of the main theme before the fugue)

Tim.

Re:And they found that... (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about 2 years ago | (#40319857)

Obviously, more variation in music makes for superior music. With this simple, uncontroversial assertion, we can prove with mathematical information theory that this [simplynoise.com] is the perfect musical composer.

Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (4, Interesting)

theNetImp (190602) | about 2 years ago | (#40318437)

Don't need no computer analysis for that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I [youtube.com]

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (1)

Eredhel (1804132) | about 2 years ago | (#40318557)

The formula is already known, and incredibly simple. In any major key the most commonly used chord progression is as follows: I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii Just insert that formula into the circle of fifths and you're done. The minor key formula just switches the majors, capital, and minors, lower case.

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40318621)

that is not accurate at all. There are specific patterns used to write music. These patterns (called Cadences) are used in combinations and extended. The issue is not the chords used, but the intervalic relationships between the chords.

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (4, Insightful)

jasno (124830) | about 2 years ago | (#40318629)

Yeah, this whole thing sounds like something a computer programmer came up with after learning 2 hours of music theory. If he would have spent a few more hours on music theory he would have realized how obvious his conclusions were.

I'd be more interested in hearing why those chord changes are popular - i.e. an explanation of their psychological effect.

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (3, Interesting)

thereitis (2355426) | about 2 years ago | (#40318917)

I'd be more interested in hearing why those chord changes are popular - i.e. an explanation of their psychological effect.

There's plenty of information culled from research sitting in Wikipedia. eg. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_neuroscience_of_music [wikipedia.org]

However, a more narrative explanation would make for more interesting reading (to me, at least).

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (1, Insightful)

Mike610544 (578872) | about 2 years ago | (#40319099)

That's one of my favorite things about music. Nobody can explain it. People throw around some bullshit hypotheses, but in reality we just don't know.

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (2)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | about 2 years ago | (#40320695)

I'd be more interested in hearing why those chord changes are popular - i.e. an explanation of their psychological effect.

Probably because they're popular? I know that's kind of begging the question. But these chord progressions can be found even in folk music. It's kind of asking why Microsoft Windows is so popular. It's popular because somehow it got popular.

I've heard plenty of so-called "progressive" rock, and none of them can match the sheer power and inventiveness of Beethoven. Aside from the evolution of Jazz, mainstream Western music really hasn't progressed that much from the time of Beethoven. (Let's not talk about atonal, avant garde music which finds its place mainly in horror music soundtrack.) As for psychological effect, I suspect it's largely cultural as part of the Western musical tradition. Of course, this extends even to "Eastern" cultures like Japan, given the overwhelming popularity of Western music.

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#40321111)

I'd be more interested in hearing why those chord changes are popular - i.e. an explanation of their psychological effect.

I'd be interrested to know if the popularity of these same chord changes hold true in different cultures with different musical systems.

The division in 12 notes that make up an octave is pretty much a west-european invention; different cultures have historically invented their own systems of notes and chords with striking similarities but also and huge differences.

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#40318949)

In any major key the most commonly used chord progression is as follows: I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii Just insert that formula into the circle of fifths and you're done.

Those are the most commonly used chords, but that's not a common progression at all. Among other patterns, the most common progressions tend to have:

  • V leading to I. This resolves the 7th scale step to the tonic.
  • IV leading to either a V chord (everything slides up a whole step), a II/II7 chord (the top interval goes away and is replaced by the same interval at the bottom), or a VI chord (the bottom interval goes away and is replaced by the same interval at the top). These in turn tend to be followed by either a I or a V and then a I.
  • A VI chord tends to lead to a II if you're working in a minor key (where the VI is really your key) or sometimes to IV in a major key.

The interesting questions from a statistical perspective, in my mind, are:

  • What about chords without natural leading?
  • Which of these natural leadings are most common when there are choices?
  • Are there patterns to the choices? For example, does choosing to go from IV to VI tend to make it more likely to later go from III to V?

BTW, just to clarify, for the purposes of simplicity, I'm playing fast and loose with my numbering. I find the lowercase notation to be difficult to read when mixed with English text, so I am using the convention of naming chords diatonically rather than distinguishing between major and minor forms of the chord, and in cases of minor keys, describing them diatonically based off their relative major.

It's less precise, but it tends to make the concepts a little clearer, too. For example, I said that VI can go to II or IV depending on whether the VI is really the root in a relative minor passage. This is clearer and easier to understand than saying that VI can go to IV in a major, or i can go to iv in a minor (which isn't really interesting because i or I can go to pretty much anything).

Hope that avoids any confusion. :-)

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (3, Interesting)

bogjobber (880402) | about 2 years ago | (#40319711)

I don't think that statistical analysis can glean anything terribly interesting other than confirming what we already know. Sure, an authentic cadence sounds satisfying, and because of that it's always going to very popular. But for anything even moderately more complex, most of it is going to depend on cultural factors for whether or not it becomes popular.

Just look at the history of blues changes in western music. Go back 200 years and Beethoven was the only major European composer playing around with the V-IV progression IIRC. Most people absolutely hated it, and it sounded completely foreign to their ears. They nicknamed it coitus interruptus because it did not resolve "properly." Then blues explodes in the US, and from the 1950's on that's one of the most common progressions in Western music. Then in the 1970's everybody's so tired of blues-based rock that it gets passe again. It sounds boring. So over time it went from sounding unnatural and experimental to being so common that it was uninteresting to many musicians. Nothing about the actual theory or function of the chords changed, just cultural factors.

Plus, it would be pretty difficult to do. Even if you spent a great deal of time on each song, it would be difficult to give consistent interpretations. Is that iii substiuting for tonic? Is that a tri-tone sub of the V, or just a passing chord? Things like that.

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#40319737)

Fair enough. Still, I think we can all agree that the four-chord song needs to die already. :-)

What might be most interesting would be searching for patterns that don't fit the mould, e.g. songs that resolve a iii to a tonic, followed by a ii. Then burn every copy of any song that doesn't have at least a certain percentage of outliers. :-D

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (1)

GrandCow (229565) | about 2 years ago | (#40318693)

Don't need no computer analysis for that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I [youtube.com]

Man, as soon as I saw the title of the OP I knew this was going to be posted. The Axis of Awesome is, well, AWESOME; but they are not the first or only band that has done a 4-chords performance. They are the most recognizable group that has performed a 4-chords performance though, and I absolutely adore them.

Here are two other examples, though not very well circulated. The first is from before Axis of Awesome, I found many of the same type of pop-medley mashups a few years ago. Sadly, I forget the search terms I used to find them and it's been a few years since then:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWOR0Ujb7Ms [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIdUnQgT9ik [youtube.com]

Check video sites for yourself, the basic chord progression has been studied and used for years by pop music writers.

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (1)

BetterThanCaesar (625636) | about 2 years ago | (#40319897)

Don't need no computer analysis for that.

Agreed, there's no need to back up theses with data.

Re:Axis of Awsome already figured out the formula. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40320529)

You know I think I downloaded a simple cheat sheet a few days back based on this that explains the idea a little more in depth.
Ah yes, here it is.

As always, be careful of opening images from people you don't trust. Don't want you to end up getting promoted do we? (image is entirely safe though, but it is big)
Musical Theory Cheatsheet [minus.com]

Dm to G7 to C occurs quite a bit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40318531)

My second theory of the brontosaurus, that which belongs to me, and is mine, and mine alone, can be stated as follows...

American bias (1)

White Flame (1074973) | about 2 years ago | (#40318561)

This does not "give one a deeper more fundamental sense for how music works", but gives insight into what tends to be popular in the USA. Now, you could say that that has a major effect on the popular culture of the rest of the world because of the way it's exported, but still it's not necessarily the fundamentals of music in general.

Re:American bias (1)

jd (1658) | about 2 years ago | (#40319439)

Agreed. What you would need to do is get music from all points of time and all cultures. Anything common to all is fundamental, anything common to a given genre (without geographical limitations) is fundamental only to that genre, anything common to a given culture (without genre limitations) is fundamental only to that culture.

The data collected is thus not random and will fail statistical tests used to determine the validity of the data set.

They should have just watched this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40318587)

Axis of Awesome - 4 Chord Song

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I

Axis of Awesome has already discovered this (1, Redundant)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 2 years ago | (#40318613)

Oblig [youtu.be].

Re:Axis of Awesome has already discovered this (1)

catmistake (814204) | about 2 years ago | (#40318933)

Rediscovered and capitalized upon... this isn't new information, just new to their audience. Anyone that learned to play piano or guitar figured this out long before these guys... and cringe every time the pattern is re-released as a new pop single. It's kind of funny and subtle that transition from sensitive artist to business man... funny how that teenage girls always fall for it, and the business man always looks identical while performing. My best friend, a piano prodigy, wrote this very song at age 8 or 9, back in the late 70's, same chords, but unfortunate lyrics making fun of the retarted. I knew it immediately then as "Heart and Soul," from my grandmother singing it and my father playing it. I picked up guitar when I was 17, and within a year realized this pattern was insanely popular throughout the history of rock/pop... that was 1988... I have little doubt that the musicians of the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's were well aware of it as well, but the songs they knew it as are likely unknown to us even if we would immediately recognize the music.

You know, I was wondering about this (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 2 years ago | (#40318749)

with a fast enough computer could you programatically write sheet music for every possible song ever, copy write it, and the sue away? Sure, you'd get dinged for the already copywrited stuff, but you could just cross reference off future product, since you know own all of music.

Re:You know, I was wondering about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40319017)

I don't think there'd be enough matter in the universe for that, even if you limit the songs to a few minutes. You'd need to store (less than)

(number of possible notes*) ^ (size of the largest sequence of notes* in a single song)

different songs. Even for very short songs that's a lot of possibilities. By the way, a good way to know if the number of possibilities is way too large for a machine is to compare it to the number of atoms in the universe (about 10^80), if it comes anywhere close find a different approach.

* or chords or something else; I don't have a background in music.

That isn't to say machines can't generate music. They can. Not as well as Mozart but most mortals can't either. What I think is more useful (because it's much easier) is for machine and man work together in creating a song, either by having the human selecting how the song should evolve or by having the machine suggest improvements to a human-written song. Depending on how you see it that's already being done, though.

Just under 1.5 billion distinct songs (2)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40320867)

I don't think there'd be enough matter in the universe for [copyrighting everything]. [...] Even for very short songs that's a lot of possibilities.

A judge isn't looking for the whole songs to be identical; he's just looking for the songs to be "substantially similar". This cuts down to comparing the melodic hooks, as shown by the cases listed here [ucla.edu]. A nine-note hook was deemed an infringement in Bright Tunes Music v. Harrisongs Music, so let's go with that.

Model a "note" as a duration plus a pitch interval to the next note. There are seven distinct intervals in a diatonic (major or minor or modal) scale. Notes can be short or long; the performer's exact timing does not change the fundamental character of a melody. This gives fourteen possibilities for each note. But the last note does not really have a duration, nor does it have an interval to the next pitch because there is none. With eight duration/interval combinations, you end up with 14^8 possibilities, or about 1.48 billion distinct hooks. That's fewer than one for each person on the planet.

Please keep this away from the RIAA (1)

hAckz0r (989977) | about 2 years ago | (#40318751)

Don't let the RIAA get their hands on this technology. They will just start suing all the off-label artists for stealing their valuable "copyrighted" chord progressions.

Re:Please keep this away from the RIAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40319257)

Alternatively, this could be demonstrative of how general pop music composition actually is, undermining the validity of the copyright.
What if a computer could write a chord progression to suit your mood of the moment? What if a computer could translate written text into a movie? How about a computer capable of writing a basic plot based on certain pre-determined criteria given by the user? Generic entertainment - not the genius stuff, but the brain candy being dished out through most corporate avenues - has become very formulaic, it seems reasonable that a computer should be able to automate most of the process, now.

Re:Please keep this away from the RIAA (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 2 years ago | (#40319297)

Dude RIAA has known this for milennia. This is why they often don't even wait for talent to come up with their own songs, but click on their computer,"Create Song.", then they teach a random cute or outrageous looking young person how to sing to it.

Nothing to see here... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40318785)

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of music theory could have told you that. It's not just pop songs either, composers have been using that progression for hundreds of years in every conceivable genre. It goes back to the very beginning of what we would consider standard harmony, circa late 16th century, maybe earlier.

Patterns (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 2 years ago | (#40318795)

Strangely, they found that a vast majority of popular music from the last 60 years seemed to break down into a pattern of 48 beats using three repeated chords (and variants thereof), such as: AAAADDAAEDAE. Odd that.

Let me guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40318801)

I'm betting the majority of then were G C D... Oh wait, that's Country music and they were analyzing Pop!

Lets lock down this forumula so no one can produce (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40318907)

So does this mean that if I copywrite these in a 4 cord song called happy birthday 4. I will rule all the cords with my 4 fundamental mind controlling cords for life?

This is B.S. there's plenty of people who don't give a shit about these cords, I guarantee most ambient/electronic beat"less" music and much classical doesn't fundamentally really on these.

I'm talking about artists (or groups) like Jon Major Jenkins, Numina, or Max Corbacho.

Anyway this further illustrates why "music" should not be owned at all. Almost virtually any of the big record labels are producing is non-unique from a scientific or even layman's perspective.

Anyway I would be more then happy if no one could produce music with these 4 cords without a hefty license, because the majority of it is crap anyway (sarcasm).

Re:Lets lock down this forumula so no one can prod (3, Insightful)

mug funky (910186) | about 2 years ago | (#40319159)

i'm not sure how far you'll get trying to own all music related IP if you're unable to spell Copyright or Chord correctly...

Tell about the software you used - analyze Vivaldi (1)

beachdog (690633) | about 2 years ago | (#40319037)

What kind of software did you use for your analysis?

What kind of chord information do you see when you analyze something like one of the sections of Vivaldi's For Seasons pieces? I'd say borrow a Vivaldi score and then run your analyzer on those blocks of violins that are sawing away in something like the Summer or Winter pieces. The Vivaldi tunes are really "wall of sound" or "wall of musical excitement" pieces. But underneath all the flashy richness of multiple violins playing I wonder would your analysis system find just one simple chord progression, just like a popular tune?

Can your analysis software output detail about what specific musical notes are being played and when one note stops but other notes continue?

Regarding the Vivaldi and other classical tunes I hear on the local radio station, sometimes I just stop and say wow that sounds just like a Jazz riff. Where did I hear that before? I don't understand... I just started hearing things differently lately or else the 8 am DJ on KDFC is an imp.

No suitable tab/chord format? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40319135)

Suuuure, just ignore the markup-like ChordPro format that many tab/chord sites use. It's only been around for 15+ years.

No quality control either (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40320875)

"Many tab/chord sites" aren't authorized by the songs' music publishers. Apart from the copyright issues, this means the music publishers have no opportunity to exercise quality control, making the tabs less likely to accurately represent what the musicians performed.

patent it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40319145)

patent the patterns and then claim you want 5 trillion dollars for using it.
HA no more riaa problems.....

Organic processing device (1)

mrmeval (662166) | about 2 years ago | (#40319387)

I prefer organic processing devices. The music sounds so much better. I hate when they crash. *sobs*

What chords you need for a pop hit: (2)

skine (1524819) | about 2 years ago | (#40319543)

It really doesn't matter, so long as you have a good marketing department.

I'm sorry to burst your bubble here (1)

Mark Rawls (2648691) | about 2 years ago | (#40319587)

Just about every pop song for the past... eternity... has used the same pattern: I, V, vi, IV. It's hilarious how bad it's getting. For instance, look at the preview of Coldplay's "The Scientist" [musicnotes.com] on MusicNotes. The original key is F Major, so we'll work off of that. We start off with a Dm chord, thusly iv (minor sixth). Transition into Bb Major, so we get IV (major fourth). Then down to F, so I, and finally to C, so V (major fifth). They just shifted the pattern two chords over.

Extremely and ridiculously reductor ... (2)

yvesdandoy (44789) | about 2 years ago | (#40319607)

to consider that music needs ONLY a succession of notes happening in predefined patterns in order to please people !!!

Roman numbering??? (1)

advocate_one (662832) | about 2 years ago | (#40319723)

Couldn't he at least have used that system and then told us the most common chord sequences as well as the most common keys...

What Song the Sirens Sang by Charles Sheffield (3, Interesting)

multiplexo (27356) | about 2 years ago | (#40319725)

The science fiction author Charles Sheffield wrote a story about a similar idea in the late 1970s called What Song the Sirens Sang [baenebooks.com]. The protagonist is a journalist investigating a politician who has come seemingly out of nowhere and is about to be nominated for president. He discovers that the secret to the politician's success is that he has developed a theory of communications that allows him to combine words and music to evoke optimum emotional responses. Check it out, it's a short read and very good.

Slower and more minor (1)

DollyTheSheep (576243) | about 2 years ago | (#40319783)

A recent study of the "Freie Universität Berlin" of trends in US charts suggests, that pop songs got slower over the last 50 years and use more minor chords. Doesn't mean that society got sadder, the study explains, it only shows that we listen to more ambivalent stuff and are able to enjoy even sad emotions.

Re:Slower and more minor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40320121)

Nothing so complex. That, basically, is down to the ever-increasing influence of blues on the Billboard 500.

The research is based on flawed assumption (1)

melodraama (782539) | about 2 years ago | (#40320149)

I'm sorry, but the reserch won't tell anything interesting. For a song it is much more important, HOW it is performed, not WHAT is performed. There is no (naive) formula there, that a computer could analyze. The success of a song has everything to do with the charm of the artists and how skilled the musicians are and how it is arranged and so on. The chord progressions are irrelevant. Look, this song [youtube.com] had only 1 chord and it was a huge hit. So what now -- we start writing 1-chord songs and every monkey could be a star? Sorry, but no.

Not to a judge (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40320883)

For a song it is much more important, HOW it is performed, not WHAT is performed.

Not to a judge in a copyright suit [ucla.edu]. Judges strip away the performance and look at the sheet music.

Re:Not to a judge (1)

melodraama (782539) | about 2 years ago | (#40321259)

For a song it is much more important, HOW it is performed, not WHAT is performed.

Not to a judge in a copyright suit [ucla.edu]. Judges strip away the performance and look at the sheet music.

And? People listening music are generally not judges of a copyright suit. People like songs, which touch them emotionally and that emotion in music is not defined by the chord progressions, that comes from the artistic performance.

What I'd like to see (1)

PingXao (153057) | about 2 years ago | (#40320209)

The coolest app ever would be one where you hum, whistle or sing a few bars of a song you know, or almost remember, and it identifies the song for you. Of course said app would have to know all the songs in advance in order to find a match. Yeah, that would go over big with the RIAA.

Doesn't that limit it to just English songs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40320241)

This seems to overlook both regional tastes and language.

For example, myself and 3 other people I have on twitter like to listen to Korean and Japanese songs along. I like to listen to the 'Glee' cover versions of a few songs that I'm not fond of the regular artist's version.

But bravo for trying to figure out what the 'perfect' song americans like, even though it would probably shift tastes were it ever to be produced.

Chord fit-together study (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#40320487)

We'll explore more patterns in Part II.

So the juicy stuff comes next month?

I did something similar on a smaller scale recently for a still-in-progress hobby auto-composing app using cSound and scripts. I took chord progressions that I personally liked and built a chord pairing chart something like:

A --> C
Am --> F, Em, Dm // note: m=minor
A# --> G, D#, Am
B --> D, F
etc...

The first chord is the "lookup chord" and the second is a list of candidate "good" chords. In a loop it produces a chord sequence. It's almost like a Markov chain, but so far without probability weights.

I also considered a 3-way lookup to give a "good" next chord based on the prior 2, but that's a later experiment.

I notice some gaps. If you transpose to base it on C keys, then the A, B, C#, F#, and G# chords were rare altogether.

(Note that one can transpose the chords, and that's why I didn't use Roman notation. Sample has dummy values only; if you try them, they'll sound like sh8t.)

What kind of summary is this? (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about 2 years ago | (#40320697)

"we look at 1300 songs to discover some answers... It was hard because the data wasn't good. We entered the data ourselves." And that is it???? That is your entire summary? What about like maybe telling us what the article is actually about like what were some of the answers they discovered?

or use it to create new ones (1)

SuperDre (982372) | about 2 years ago | (#40320877)

Since I was a young boy in the 80's I've always thought that it would be possible to create a hit using a computer based on analysing all hits.. It's an easy way to create new songs you certainly would like.. Now with current technologies it really should be a breeze... I can't believe I would be the only one who ever thought up such an idea...

user-contributed database fail (1)

nothings (597917) | about 2 years ago | (#40320903)

They accept user-contributed analyses and etc. Check.

They have no visible license (that I can find) under which user contributions are made. Check.

They do not provide any way (that I can find) to download the database. Check.

Made of fail.

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