Tonal Trends Pop Music Theory for Songwriters

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Hi Everybody! Welcome to!


So if you’re like me, you like spotting things—like animals hiding in the grass, or like up in trees, or Waldo in that one book, or spotting anything you might have missed if you’re weren’t looking hard enough. Well, here at the, we spot fun things in music that not everybody might notice, and then blog about it.


See what I call, a Tonal Trend Spotter is just a person who wants to know the reasons WHY some songs are fun and some, not so fun. Why? So they can appreciate music, and, so they can make better music themselves! OK, but how is this done?


Well, just like Computer People need to learn about ‘coding’ so they can make software, or like Sculptors need to learn about Clay, Rock, or Metal so they can dig all the cool art, and make all the cool art—musicians need to learn about chords and melodies and rhythms, and such.


Some people call this “Music Theory,” but don’t be scared, is more geared towards the Studio or Band Practice or the stage, than it’s about getting good grades in Music College. Not that there’s anything bad about Music Schools—I graduated from a Music College myself and had a blast while I was there—it’s just that some of the Classical Music jargon is a little different than how we talk about things as pop musicians. Just FYI.


All right, Why’d I start this site? If I had to pick just one reason I’d say “Because when I was young I learned that the three most popular chords in music were: the one (I), the four (IV), and the five (V) chords.” And then I was like "Cool, but well…what are the fourth, fifth, and sixth most popular chords in music? I mean, how many Chords are there even out there that people use?” And so on…


Well, I couldn’t really find any definitive answers, so, long story short, I went and collected a bunch of data, and figured it out for myself. It took me kind of a long time! And guess what? The next most popular pop chords are: the flat seven (bVII) chord, the minor six (vi) and the minor two (ii).


And in total, there’s arguably anywhere from 26 to no more than 50 chord triad “types” people use in any given song, with about as many ways that you can spice up those chord triad types, by adding notes or moving notes around.


I found other cool stuff in my searches too, like:

   -A, E, and G are the most popular Keys, or tonal centers, people write songs in, out of the 12 keys.

   -Also...About 9% of popular songs have modulations to other keys.

   -44% of songs I've studied so far have a Bridge, or a third section.

   -And, The most common Tempo used, across the board, is 112 beats per minute.

   So yeah, want to know more tonal trends and tonal tricks to put in your own tonal tool-shed? Take a look around!


"Spotter Smarts” is where we blog about specific Music Theory Concepts that are good to know about when studying songs and spotting tonal trends!


The “Spotter Syncs” Blog is where we blog about Popular Songs themselves, in real time, while you listen to them on your iPod, or some other music player.


“Spotter Stats” is where we dig into the database and explore more big-picture tonal trends, across all songs!


There’s other stuff on here too that you should check out; just visit the pages themselves and there'll be more Intro Videos that explain the stuff on those pages. Last, if you Like spotting cool things in music—

I mean like, if you like it so much you have to tell everybody about it, you can—and you should—submit your own Blogs to the site! More on how to do that in the Spotter Shooters page.


So yeah, Thanks Everybody, Don't forget to sign up on our email list and ‘like’ us on Facebook and Youtube. Also, follow us on Twitter to get the tonal tweets. Alright, well, let’s get Spottin!