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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Most Popular Keys And Chords

Most Popular Song Keys image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog

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).
One of the things that most songwriters inherently or experientially know is what chords work with others, so I'm not sure if the survey brought much new information. I guess I might've been more surprised if C wan't the most used key, although I bet in the days of the guitar bands it was probably E or A.

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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Jef Knight said...

Not *that's* fascinating!


Q said...

Eb: written by guitarists who drop tune a semi-tone perhaps?

Anonymous said...

I doubt very much it's guitarists that are writing most of the songs in Eb. Eb is a very comfortable key on piano and also perfect for Male vocalists for a lot of songs.

Anonymous said...

And beyond that, it's also very likely Cm causing the rise in songs considered Eb. Where do most basic songwriters start on the piano? C major! Not a happy song? C minor it is!


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