I just read a most fascinating study of 1300 popular songs on the Hooktheory site that attempts to determine the most popular song keys and chords. This is what they found:
- The most popular keys in order are C, G, Eb (that's a surprise), F, D, A, E, Db, Bb, Ab, B, F# and their relative minors.
- Next came the most popular chords. First, all the songs were transposed to the key of C for a common reference point. They then found that the most popular chords were G, F, C, Am, Dm, Em, E, D, Bb, A. If you look at that in Nashville style numbers, it's 5, 4, 1, 6m, 2m, 3m, 3, 2, b7, 6.
- Finally, they looked to see what chord should come next after an Em (or the 3m in the key of C). Surprisingly, the most popular chord was F (the 4 chord), followed by Am (the 6m), and Dm (the 2m).
That said, you can't beat a surprise in a song to keep your interest. Let's hope that these results change soon.
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