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Music analysis of popular songs

How do you analyze popular music? Many scholars investigate the meaning of popular music by analyzing lyrics, examining race and society, and considering political climate. Popular music is often considered too simplistic for musical analysis. Analysing popular music: Theory, method and practice. Harold B. Music: Popular: Popular Music Analysis. Moore Allan F. Moore presents a study of recorded popular song, from the recordings of the s through to the present day. Analysis and interpretation are treated as separable but interdependent approaches to song. Analytical theory is revisited, covering conventional domains such as harmony, melody and rhythm, but does not privilege these at the expense of domains such as texture, the soundbox, vocal tone, and lyrics.
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However, there is more to writing songs than writing chord progressions. As you will see, most popular songs have fairly simple chord progressions, but they do range from extremely simple no chords, or two chords only to the extremely complex dozens of chords borrowed from various keys.
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The Database

For many people, listening to music elicits such an emotional response that the idea of dredging it for statistics and structure can seem odd or even misguided. But knowing these patterns can give one a deeper more fundamental sense for how music works; for me this makes listening to music a lot more interesting. Of course, if you play an instrument or want to write songs, being aware of these things is obviously of great practical importance. For example, if a chord is found in a song, what can we say about the probability for what the next chord will be that comes after it? 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. At the moment the database of songs has over entries indexed. The genre and where they are taken from is important. The entries contain raw information about the chords and melody, while throwing out information about the arrangement and instrumentation.
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For many people, listening to music elicits such an emotional response that the idea of dredging it for statistics and structure can seem odd or even misguided. But knowing these patterns can give one a deeper more fundamental sense for how music works; for me this makes listening to music a lot more interesting. Of course, if you play an instrument or want to write songs, being aware of these things is obviously of great practical importance.

For example, if a chord is found in a song, what can we say about the probability for what the next chord will be that comes after it? 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. At the moment the database of songs has over entries indexed. The genre and where they are taken from is important.

The entries contain raw information about the chords and melody, while throwing out information about the arrangement and instrumentation. We can use the information in the song database to answer all sorts of questions. C and its relative minor, A are the most common by far. After that there is a general trend favoring key signatures with less sharps and flats but this is not universal.

That way direct comparisons are possible and more illuminating. We transposed every song in the database to be in the key of C to make them directly comparable. Then we looked at the number of chord progressions that contained a given chord.

Interestingly, F and G actually show up in more chord progressions than C! C major is the tonal center and one might expect it to be ubiquitous, but it turns out to be pretty common to omit this chord in some sections of a song for effect. The A minor chord is the next most popular, but after that there is a significant drop off in use. Why are A minor chords so popular but A major chords practically non existent?

Better stick with A minor, for example. The team over at Apple, Inc. Based on what our database is showing, I might suggest some small changes. In particular, Bdim , while diatonic in C, is much less common than some other chords, like D , and E. Perhaps in the next version of garageband, Apple will fix this they really should. The previous question took an overall look at the relative popularity of different chords, but we can also look at the relationship that different chords have to one another.

For example, a great question to ask is, if a song happens to use a particular chord, what chord is most likely to come next? Is it random, or will certain chords sound better than others and thus be more likely to show up in the popular songs that make up our database?

This result is striking. If you write a song in C with an E minor in it, you should probably think very hard if you want to put a chord that is anything other than A minor or F major after the E minor. There are lot of interesting questions to ask, and we want to know what is most interesting to you. Let us know in the comments below. Hook theory. Skip to content. Next Next post: Part 2: I analyzed the chords of popular songs for patterns.

This is what I found.



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