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"Disney Song Stats Part 5A - Chord Types a'Plenty"

Hey everyone and welcome to the last video in this series: “Disney Song Statistics Part 5 a&b: Chord Types a’Plenty.” So yeah, I had to split this one into 2 videos, because it got to be too long and my editing freeware has a really lame crashy memory cache. But Okay, last quick reminder: if you want to skip the expo and go straight to the spreadsheets and charts go here:


Okay, “how does one make statistics, out of chord types?” Well, first thing we got to do is figure out “how many types there are”, and “what they are.” And yeah, that’s probably too hard to do, since there’re hundreds of them, perhaps thousands. So, if we want to do it in a way that gets us something that fits on a graph that we can talk about, we’re going to have to narrow our parameters. And the long and short of how I’m going to do that in this video, is by limiting the tallies to the basic chord “triad.”


And when it comes to this limitation, you know it’s like—how can I possibly lump all of the tetrads, pentads, and dodecahedrads out there in with their boring old basic root triads? Would you reduce Davinci to fingerpaints!”  And I mean, yeah, I agree, the simplification is not ideal, but, to get the comprehensive gist of “what chords are used and how often are they used”, triads will just have to do, for now. Someday, when technology and time allows, I’m sure someone will come along and do a macro study allowing for all chords--like all of the chord type Inversions, Extensions, and Suspensions of all the triads and beyond. But yeah, trust me, gathering data on just triads is hard enough. So until we have better computers, or better dystopian music-theory student slaves to help us out with their slave labor, triads will have to do.

Okay, “so then”, how many chord triads are there out there?


Well, to start, we got to know: that, in western music, there are 12 notes, and 4 kinds of triads, which translate into 12 Major chords, 12 Minor chords, 12 Diminished chords, and 4 Augmented chords.


Okay, Whoa-Whoa-Whoa, rewind! Why only 4 augmented triad types when the rest have 12? Here’s why: Without going into too much detail, it’s because any augmented triad you play is going to have the same notes in it, as any of the other two augmented triads out there with the same notes, they’ll just be different inversions of each other. Here let me show you what I mean. See, “3 in 1.” And, I mean, maybe if people actually used augmented chords in their songs more often, then it might have been worth it to separate them out, by their 12 roots, but, they just aren’t used that much, and I didn’t want them taking up a bunch of space on my graph! So yeah, that’s what it is, and it’s really not something to lose any sleep over.


Okay, speaking of “usage”, I did include two tetrads as “honorary” triad types because of how often they are used: the “I7” and the IV7”. And so I’ll be using a “7” in their chord label. And it’s important to note that their root triads are just the I and the IV, two of thee most common triads. What makes these chords worthy of being separated out into their own chord-types, for inclusion in the study, is both, how they function and how frequent they are, how often they’re used. Anyways, you can make up your own mind whether I should have included these chords, and also maybe if I should have included any other 4 note chords that you were missing, but let’s get into that after we wrap up. For now, it’s a subjective choice I’m making based on the fact that they’re cool chords and I want you to know about them so that maybe you could use them in your music. So, there it is, let’s move on.


Okay, so, all together then, we’re going to tally up and count 42 common chord types, and see how often each was used in our sampling of Disney Songs. But one more thing to explain before we dive in: I want to talk about how all these chords are going to be described as being in a chromatically “Fixed system”, which means all chord-labels are based off of any one of the 12 notes relative to the key and nothing but the key. How this works is that I’m giving all triads with roots not in the major scale a flat, so like in the key of C it’s the black notes: b2, b3, b5, b6, and b7. And yeah, obviously, this will mainly affect chords not in major, and also, “five of five” chord labels will have to go, as I’ll just be labeling them by their roots, instead of with the “of five” slashies, where you have to transpose in your head what it is. For example, all “V/V” chords and II major chords are labeled just II, no matter their function.


And then, going back to the “fixed flats” labeling, a diatonic III chord in a minor key, and a bIII major chord in a major key are both labeled “bIII”. This “fixed” sampling, I believe, is the most comprehensive way to do it, because when we’re collecting samples from all tonalities, we can’t rely on tonal context. So it’s my belief -- at least for what I’m doing here -- that swifter comprehension of what a chord is, is more important than knowing what a chord is supposed to do, or its function. But yeah, just making it clear that I’m not in any way against “Functional Labeling,” which often explains music in a better way, but only when it’s in context and you can assume things.


Okay, if you’d like further explanations of why I do it this way, please watch my last chord type statistics videos, or my “Chordisthenics” intro video. Alright! Computer Time! Let’s hop in!


Okay, first up, here’s a graph showing the “Total Triad Types” used per Disney Song. And like I said four videos ago, Disney Songs use a plethora of chord triad types. I mean look at this: “3 to 5-chord songs” are actually less common than “6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12-chord songs,” with the highest number of songs using  8, 10, and 12 chord triad types! I mean, when, like me, you’re used to operating within the world of pop music, this is just nuts. And look over here, a couple of songs even used 18 triad types without falling off a cliff! It’s like, when you consider that most tonalities only even have 6 or 7 diatonic triads in the first place, it’s then you realize just how incredible this songwriting is! Here, if you don’t believe me let’s real quick revisit the Rolling Stone 500 graph of the same parameters:


We see here, it’s “3 to 5-chord songs” that are king. And there ain’t much at all past the “6 or 7-chord songs.” Man... One minor similarity to point out though, between these two graphs, is that the 4-chord-songs column did outdo its neighbors, 3 and 5-chord songs, in both studies. Let’s go back and look.


See, look at that, no contest, 4 wins out over 3 and 5. And yeah, because of this, as well as our winners over here at 8, 10, and 12, I’d like to start a conspiracy theory that songs with an even number of chord types per song are inherently more common than songs with an odd number of chord triads. I mean, even 18-chord songs out did 17 chord songs! So yeah, maybe it’s some kind of consonance-dissonance binary something or other? But yeah, I think I’ll just be wearing my tinfoil hat on this one for a while, join me or don’t.


Alright, next, we saved the best chart in the series for last: overall Chord Type usage. Okay let’s run down the types real quick on the left here. And if you already get these numerals, and want to get straight to the tidbits, you can skip ahead to the whole next video, “Disney Chord Types A’Plenty -- part B”, here’s a link to that ... here.


Okay, now, so we can hear what these sound like as I’m going through them, I’ll be playing all these types in the Key of C, and if I ever single one out, I’ll try to play a C root beforehand so you can get an idea of how they sound, relative to the key they’re in.


Okay, first I got my Major Diatonics in Blue, and they sound like this... And before I played that I probably should have explained that the light blue portion of the bar here—all the lighter colored bars really—they represent chords tallied during modulations, so like whenever a song switched tonal center and a chord type was repeated in the new key. So there’s that, in case you find that useful. I did.


Moving on, got my Minor Diatonics are in Yellow, and they sound like this... Okay next, Secondary Dominants are purple. This is where I put those honorary triads, the I7’s and IV7’s, and I hope that, now that you see it like this, all in a row and whatnot, it makes more sense why they got their spot.  Anyways here’s how they sound relative to the tonal center...


Next, augmented Triads are green, and they sound like this... Oh, please also notice on the left here, that I ordered the chords by name according to which ones were used more often, which I hope sort of makes up for my lumping them together with their inversions. Also I want to mention that some augmented types are missing completely, because only 8 of the possible 12 augmented chords were even to be found, in this study. I mean, augmented chords that contain the second scale degree, the b5, and b7, were missing entirely, hence the “II+” in parenthesis.


Okay don’t fall asleep! We got to get through this! Okay, diminished chords are red and I won’t play these right now because one, I’m lazy, and two, diminished chords sound really aggravating when they don’t resolve like they’re supposed to, usually up a half-step from one of their notes. Some people call these secondary “Leading Tone” chords, which is kind of like a “Secondary Dominant” chord, but just less predictable. There’re also sometimes these things called Common Tone diminished chords, these don’t sound all that great out of context either, but yeah if you’re a songwriter and you don’t use common tone diminished chords or these secondary leading tone diminished guys, you should start, they can be way cool.


Okay last, we have what I like to call “miscellaneous” chords in orange. These are the leftovers that don’t often belong to any commonly referred to “Diatonic”, or “Borrowed”, or “Secondary” schemes. They just kind of, do their own thing, when they do it at all. And they sound like this...


Okay well that’s the end of “Disney Chord Types A’Plenty - Part 5a. In part 5b, we’re going to go back and really dig into what’s going on, point out some cool tidbits, and do some comparisons. If you’re watching on youtube, you can click here to go to the next video, or if you’re at the website, you should see the next video directly below the one you’re watching now. Anyhow, Hurry back!




Okay Welcome Back, to Disney Song Stats Part 5b! For this second part we’re going to point out some cool things about these chords, some tidbits, and also do some comparisons:


First, back up here at the diatonics, I want to mention that only 5 songs out of the 70 songs sampled, used diatonic chords only, that’s just 7% of the songs where you can play them using only the 7 diatonic “do re mi” notes. And I’m telling you, this is a huge testament to just how crafty these songwriters are. I mean: these guys know how to be putting some sweet sharps and flats all up on their lines and their spaces man. Black. Ink.


Okay, next thing you want to notice about the Major diatonics, is that the V chord outdid the I chord across all songs studied. If you’re wondering how this could possibly be, the answer lies in the fact that songs in the Minor mode really like to borrow the major V - to the point of it even being standardized. In fact, only two songs in the study didn’t use a major V triad. Both of these songs were from the High School Musical movies. And this fact touches on the trend that songs written in the modern pop age seem to be losing favor with the five.


Hey, let’s compare the V chord here with the Rolling Stone 500 chart, like we do. Okay here we can see that the V is in third place, not first. So yeah, my point here is that Disney Songs as a whole have followed the more old school trends in songwriting and composition, though I believe  they are catching up. Or, if you prefer, they’re being poisoned by these modern trends of boringly flat and circular never resolving crap of non-dominant crap! J/K, I don’t care if your song doesn’t have a dominant chord in it, nobody does probably.


Okay, going back up to the Disney Diatonics, no other big surprises. Although, you may be wondering about this “7-diminished” here. I mean, it’s used hardly at all, even though it’s a “diatonic chord”. In fact, by comparison, you should know that 8 out of 12 of the ‘fixed’ diminished triads were used more often than this Major Key diatonic! I mean, it’s like “Hey Theory class 101, put that in your pipe and smoke it.”


But yeah, regarding this, it’s also worth mentioning that the notes in a viio can be found hidden within the V7 chord - there it is on the top there. And yeah V7s are probably thee most common 4-note tetrads of all time, so, that’s another reason you never see it, because it’s hiding out man, it’s like a chameleon, man, it’s right there and you don’t even know it, man.


Okay moving on to the minor Diatonics you can see that the bVII and iv are the most common minor diatonics, which means that not only are they popular in their own tonality, but that Major keys like to borrow them as well.

And if we compare again to our last study, we can see that Disney songs prefer the iv much more, while the Rolling Stone Greatest songs prefer the beefy bIII and bVI, chords more. Which I think, is of note, in that it illustrates Disney’s general lack of rock and roll--ness.


Okay, going back up, we also notice that the two diminished (iio), is much more widely used in the Greatest Disney Songs vs. the Greatest Songs as decided by Rolling Stone. And, to reiterate about diminished chords, and this iio especially, if you’re not using these chords in your songwriting, you’re missing out.


Okay next we have “secondary chords,” with the II, a.k.a. V/V leading the pack, then we have a virtual tie between our honorary triad, the “I7”, and our VI, III, “often-secondaries themselves.” And we next see that the VII is used second to least as much as its friends, and that’s likely due to the fact that its secondary dominant target, the iii chord, is also the second to least used chord amongst its diatonic friends. See that correlation-causation? Bet you didn’t! And that’s why they pay me the big bucks. J/K


Anyways, let’s compare again. This time we see almost exactly the same proportion of usage in both studies. So, yeah, that’s actually not that interesting, dang. Okay, but: get a good last look because this is the last we’ll see this chart in this video. Why? Because, I was lazier back in the day, and I left out most of the next chords when I did that study. And that’s because, one: most of these next ones weren’t used nearly as often in Rock and Blues and Rap and Pop, I mean, if ever, and two: last time, I wanted the chart to fit into one video screen-capture, instead of having to scroll all the time like now.


Alright, before we go back up, something of note is that this bII guy here was used relatively a lot in the RS500 survey, comparatively, mainly because of all the metal songs. Metal, a genre sorely lacking in Disney movies. Hope that changes someday.


Okay, now on to our quartet of Augmented chord inversion groupings.

The winner here was team bIII+, V+, and VII+, and they won mainly because of a boost from the harmonic minor scale. See, a healthy majority of songs in the minor mode use the leading tone - and when they use it - that fat pumpkin of a bIII major turns into a carriage of stacking major third intervals all the way to the ball, baby.


Moving on, the augmented one (I+) chord and the III+ trinity of harmony notes are used in a tidy 10% of songs - and I think that’s mainly thanks to chromatic passing tone temptations, like in “Some Day my Prince Will Come” or “When you’re fast asleep.” So, that’s what that sounds like, and yeah, when I was looking for examples of this I found something curious: no one used the I+ or III+ after 1959 - that’s over 50 years ago. So yeah, I guess these chords just, went out of style.


Okay, now, the diminished chords, often used as secondary leading tone chords or as common tone diminished chords…um… I don’t really have anything intelligent to say about these guys... Seriously though, perhaps the more common ones are used more because of their proximity to the more common I and V chords?


Okay finally, here we are at the miscellaneous triads. So, bII, again, more for your metal and rock songs than your Disney songs, though the bV here made a reasonable case for the value of its dissonance. Good job flatted five (bV). Let’s see, the flatted minor five (bv) has a nice top hat of mod reps here because of its appearance in the song “Be Our Guest”, where it appeared frequently as a rare and refreshing “secondary supertonic” chord - google that if you don’t know what that is. Secondary supertonic. And yeah, the last thing to point out here is that the only other chord triad not to be found in the study, other than the II+ and its inversions, was the flatted six minor (bvi). That could be either because using it for a secondary supertonic would land you on the tritone, yuck, or maybe just because it sounds bad, let’s try it out: “This the tonic of the key and this is the flat six minor triad, see, nobody likes that!”


Okay let’s close out this video by giving a shout out to just a couple, of my favorite chords, from the study!


Hello again, Okay, let’s start with my favorite “dissonant” chords, from the book. Check this one out from the song “Cruella Deville”, it’s a bVII9b5. There’s also some “word painting” going on here, because when the singer sings the word “Chill”, the chord sends ‘chills’ up your spine. Incidentally, you can also find this kind of dom-b5 chord a bunch of times in the song “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin... But yeah another thing I like about these is, if you squish all five notes together, you get a whole tone scale! And this has to do with why I classified it as an augmented chord. Because, when you flat a Dominant’s 5th it no longer contains a major triad or any other kind of triad for that matter. Here, it’s the addition of the 9 that lets you label it as a triad. And, I mean, honesty I probably shouldn’t be trying to describe it as a triad at all, but yeah, let me know what you think, if you have an opinion about this either way.


Next party crashers are from “The Incredits.” So in the first section we got a V7#9, and also, later we got this chord some people call the Petrushka chord: it's kind of a V and a bII at the same time. So yeah this also stands in defiance of the triad-only classification system I'm using. Touché spy movie music, touché. I mean, but yeah, if you can think of a genre that calls for more chord dissonances than spy music, I’m all ears, maybe if Stravinsky wrote TV Batman fight music.


Okay next, what about what I’d like to call “soft dissonance chords”, or, harsh sounds sneakily snuck into songs via quiet volumes and/or soft and sweet timbres? Like, in the song, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”, there’s this V+7b9 right in the middle of the verse - yuck. But, since it’s played by a sweet sounding string section at a low volume - along with all the other diminished and augmented chords littered about the song - they all sound more like a bag of sour patch kids, than like rusty razorblades in gopher vomit.


Another example of a sneaky soft dissonant chord can be found in the song “I’m Late” from Alice in Wonderland, which starts with these pulsing C Minor chords. And yeah, they’re so quiet, you barely notice anything’s wrong, when the major melody comes in. Major and minor at the same time - you are late indeed white rabbit: late, to diatonic tonal harmony! Okay that’s enough dissonance. Now, let’s switch to some sweeter sounds, like the G/A(5) in the song “Someone’s Waiting For You” from “The Rescuers”. What I like about it, is it’s just this nice open voicing of a pentatonic scale, with an A5 on the bottom and a G major chord on top, isn’t that so nice? It can also be thought of as an A11 with no 3rd.


Anyways, another chord that shlaps on the schmaltz is one of the vi (minor) chords from “A Whole New World”, and I know you must be like, “what’s so great about a boring old diatonic vi chord? Well, it has to do with how it sounds in context. This is called a “deceptive cadence” for those of you keeping score.


Next, let’s highlight some Funky/Jazzy chords, from the world of Disney. Okay, furthering this idea that you can get away with almost any tonal shenanigans if you just do it all smooth-like, are a couple of chords from Sting’s “My Funny Friend and Me” via The Emperor’s New Groove movie. First we’re in A major, then have this bizarre bvm7 - minor chord on the tritone, like what? Anyways it resolves to a IV so that’s okay then I guess.


And if that wasn’t a rare enough chord, later we have a viim7 coming right off a tonic (A) chord. This chord brought to you by the raised Lydian 4th scale degree.


Okay, next let’s listen to some “descending, circle of fifths, tritone subs” from Randy Newman’s “When She Loved Me.” First, listen to the bass... Now listen to the chords... And I mean, these chromatic descending T-subs, they just keep going - there’s like 7 of these guys before we return to the verse. Anyways, the long and short of these things, is that “dominant chords” that are a tritone apart will always share a tritone (7th and 3rd). Like, G7 and Db7, so then all you have to do is switch the other notes, and even sometimes mess with the tritone themselves like here, for re-harmonizations that’re half the same, and half crazy-funky-jazzy-different substitutes who probs all smoke weed in the parking lot during recess. If you want to learn more about T-subs, google them in youtube - someone will help you out. Okay last I want to highlight a few important “chord-concepts,” related to these chords.


So, everyone knows that the “one chord” is the chord that establishes the tonality in any song right? Well, what if I told you, that sometimes, you can keep the establishment from showing up until the last possible moment?

Like in the song “Part of Your World”, the tonic chord is so fashionably late, that two whole sections, the A and the B section - 50 whole seconds - have passed before it’s finally heard, starting the third section, making for a truly anticipated entrance. And yeah, I’m not going play that whole thing right now, but I’m just going to encourage you to go out and listen to that song so you can hear what I mean about this late, late, late, tonicization.


Another chord concept I want to touch on is what I’ll call “identical-chord palates between songs within the same medium”: so like, the songs “Someday” and “God Help the Outcasts” from Hunchback of Notre Dame have the same exact tonal palate, all the same eight chord triads--no more no less. And so, if you listen to both these songs, you can get some ideas about how songs with the same chords can be different. And it also it raises the question: can songs with similar or same tonal palates hold together a story or movie in an aesthetically pleasing gluey continuality? And the answer to that is, perhaps!


Um ... OMG you guys that’s it, that’s all there is! Ahhh! So, thanks so much for watching this whole thing, and make sure to let me know what you think--what you liked what you didn’t, and if you found anything you’d like to dig deeper into, and even what kind of stat-study you think I should do next! Drum and Bass trends? I mean I dunno! But anyways, if you still haven’t connected with us via, Facebook, youtube, twitter, mailing list, and all that, please do so, and tell all your friends about the songwriting and music theory videos at ... “And they lived happily ever after!!”

"Disney Song Stats Part 5B - Chord Types a'Plenty"

Click Picture for link to the "New Illustrated Treasury of Disney Songs" on Amazon.