Tonal Trends Pop Music Theory for Songwriters

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The TonalTrends "Favorites" Page

Links to Websites and Papers related to pop music theory. If you'd like yours, or someone else's, "Site" or "Study" listed in this page, please ask in the Comments!



Reddit Music Theory

Largest Online Forum for discussing all trends of a tonal nature. Don't forget to check out the reddit pages on Recommended Textbooks, and Apps, and Ear Training Resources.


Facebook Music Theory Group

Facebook group with over 1,000 members. Read the Feed!

Interactive midi and chord-numeral song-mapping. Very cool way to visualize tonality in real time! Plus they also have a video blog you should be watching by Ryan Miyakawa.


The Society for Music Theory

For true-blue music theory scholars who "construe this discipline (music theory) broadly as embracing all approaches". They construe, how about you?



"A new kind of music school for today’s musician." A diverse group of internet music educators with an even more diverse list of topics!



Good songwriting and general music resource site. Blogs, forums, more content than most songwriting sites I've seen.



Stopmotion black marker music theory.


Hit Songs Deconstructed

Very prolific and polished songwriting blog! Offers subscription level content. Short on traditional Music Theory.


Why This Song is Great

Blog with staff music examples, what it sounds like.


Switched On Pop

A podcast about the making and meaning of popular music hosted by musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding.


Rick Beato

All thing music by the guy who fathered that wunderkid who with a perfect ear.


8 bit Music Theory

Video Game Music Theory!


Ongaku Concept

More  Game Music Theory!


Chilly Gonzales Masterclasses : Pop Music

Pop Music Masterclasses from the piano!

Music Theory Blog focusing on Pop Music examples. Strong contender for's favorite favorite.


The Rest Is Noise

Alex Ross music blog. He's from the New Yorker.


Stumbleupon Music Theory

Stumbleupon's Music Theory Interest Page. Happy procrastinating.



Basically Billboard Charts with Music Theory Stats next to the songs listed: Key, Chord Progressions, Tempo, Genre, and Meter. Rob Risley is a saint for doing this.



Free Music Notation Software! Get Composin'!

Plug in any youtube or spotify link, and this little site will generate EVERY CHORD TRIAD used in the audio from the link!!! As of yet, it only recognizes major and minor triads, and no adds, 7s, suses, etc. Still, I’m keeping my eye on this link!


Anytune Music Trainer

Need some help analyzing a tough tune? You can get a dandy of an app that will slow down the music up to 30% and shift the pitch, up or down, one full octave! Theres a free version and a pay-for more features version.


Adam Neely

Music Theory, and bass guitar.

It's dot 'net', not dot 'com'. "" is the devil's seed sent to lead us astray (seriously you guys don't type it into your browser, BeatleJuice shows up). Oh, also - don't forget to check out musictheory.NET's Tenuto App, and also their Roman Numeral Analysis generator: just plug in the notes and key! For some reason, doesn't recognize bVII... Oh well, still cool!


William Wieland's "Theory Things"

A very-lot of no-frills links to theory concepts you should know if you're from the northern part of South Dakota. Also check out his Music Theory Links!


Dave Conservatoire

Free Theory Lessons in digi-chalkboard format, straight to ya from The Royal College of Music. Very High Tech!


Byron Weigel Music Theory

Yuotube channel with lots of real time roman numeral analysis, and other cool stuff.


David Bennett Thomas's Music Theory Playlist

Realtime youtube analysis, classical.


Open Music Theory

Reddit-approved Music Theory online Course.


Music Lessons

Free Music Lessons from Michael New.


Furmanczyk Piano Academy

Free Theory Lessons from Andrew Furmanczyk.


Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People

Well designed and informative PDFs, all dealing with a different music theory concept.


Steven Jacks

Produces "Music Minute" videos, blogs about his favorite music theory concepts.



A music theory application that combines music notation, automatic music analysis and grading, word processing, and multimedia playback. This could save a lot of trees!



Music theory for the web. Check out their recent publications section towards the bottom, and their "this day in music history" ticker.



Website where you can get interesting tidbits about songs beyond the tonal trends and music theory aspects of the songs.


Play With Your Music

The Music Theory Youtube of Ethan Hein, NYU Music Tech teacher, and journalist of great insights.


Doctor of Rock Blog

Dan Morris' music theory and songwriting blog, he's also a primary developer of the "Songsmith" songwriting software, which you should check out, especially if you teach music.


Hybrid Moments Blog

Scott Brown's Music Theory and Songwriting Blog focusing on "punk, hardcore, indie, and 90's."



Audio and Midi auto-scoring, "Like Google Translate for music."


Los Doggies

Super cool music theory and songwriting blog going strong since 2008, also the flash widgets are freaking cool as heck.


Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time

The list that started my descent down this “tonal trend-spotting” rabbit hole.


"Music Theory tutorials" on Vimeo

That's the name of the account. The true identity of the author of these videos is still a mystery...


Mr. Wilson Presents

Prolific and Inventive Music Composition Blog. Check it out; it's quality.


Wikipedia List of musical works in Unusual Time Signatures

Okay, one of the listings has "1/√π/√" as a time signature. There just aren't enough emoticons to express how I feel about that.


Hooks Analysis

Music blog of high caliber.


Songwriting Research Center's 'Bazzle'

Tool for Getting Chord Charts from names, converting tabs to chords, alternate tabs, or even different instruments' Tabs. It's Bazzling. Also, check out their Youtube Music Theory Videos.


Joe Musicology

Music/Life Blog centering mainly on Pop Music and Romanticism.



It's kind of like a sleepier Reddit, still worth a check now and again.


Mugglin Works Chord Charts and Maps

Scroll down to the "Generic Map." And then, for good measure, you should probably tatoo it onto your forearm.


How Music Really Works

Wayne Chase's website for his popular book by the same title. Lotta charts and downloads and other free stuff. Yum.


The Muse's Muse

A top songwriter's resource and news feed.


American Songwriter

Website for the Magazine. No Canadians allowed.


Aidan O'Connor's Music Theory Page

A labor of love ABC's of music theory. Some youtube tutorials as supplement, cool.



Echonest's blog focuses on trends in music popularity, like if Billboard had a nerdy little sister. Recently aquired by Spotify to help build a better music discovery engine.


Song Exploder Podcast

Podcast where musicians tell you all you need to know about how and why their songs were made. Pretty sure the guy from episode 9 is a convicted felon or something, cause they did that thing where you distort the voice real low.


ASMR Softspoken Music Theory

Quietest Music Theory Lessons Ever!!! Great for Stress Reduction and putting the baby to sleep.



"Scalar Shift in Popular Music"

"A Corpus Analysis of Rock Harmony"

"Statistical Analysis of Melody and Harmony in Rock Music"

"A Corpus Study of Rock Music"

First off, here are four links to the work of professors Trevor de Clercq and David Temperley, scholars of the holy RS500, and preeminent minds in the field of pop music theory. Read these papers folks; these are the droids you've been searching for.


Making Sense of Rock's Tonal Systems by Walter Everett

A study that "suggests an array of six tonal systems ranging from the traditional major mode through modal (including minor-pentatonic) practices having increasing structural value, to chromatic relations with little basis in any deeper diatony." Interesting fare, read it. Everett has also written the books: The Foundations of Rock and The Beatles As Musicians (Volumes I and II) which people have siad good things about.


Analysing popular music: theory, method and practice by Philip Tagg

An early paper (1982), that still holds much resonance for today's pop music theorists. Quite prophetic even.


What to Listen For in Rock: A Stylistic Analysis by Ken Stephenson

"Similar to the standard textbooks on tonal theory, but explores the unique aspects of rock and roll" - Amazon Review.


Emotional cues in American popular music: Five decades of the Top 40 by Schellenberg, E. Glenn; von Scheve, Christian

"We examined whether emotional cues in American popular music have changed over time, predicting that music has become progressively more sad-sounding and emotionally ambiguous. Our sample comprised over 1,000 Top 40 recordings from 25 years spanning five decades."


The McGill Billboard Project

A catalogue of 1300 songs' chords taken from a random sampling of Billboard charts, one of the side projects of The Distributed Digital Music Archives and Libraries Lab. WARNING: the study is only available in .xz, .bz2, or .gz files, which--as far as I can tell--don't work with Windows or Mac OS directly. I think they're for Linux users. In order to view the study, I had to download a Winzip reader and open in Word... and pour the tears of a fairy into my USB jack.


"I analyzed the chords of 1300 popular songs for patterns. This is what I found."

Part 1 of 3 from the blog at very insightful take on the McGill data, with nice visuals.


How Music Really Works : The Essential Handbook for Songwriters, Performers, and Music Students, by Wayne Chase

The top Amazon review reads thusly: "How Music Really Works is the most comprehensive and useful book that I have ever read on music and songwriting. Chapters 8 & 10, in particular, introduce elements of songwriting that have never been addressed before in any of the 30+ books I have read on songwriting. If anyone is truly serious about writing songs that will stand the test of time, then this book is a must read."


The Million Song Dataset

This website's 'about' paragraph states: "the dataset consists of almost all the information available through The Echo Nest API for one million popular tracks." And as far as I've gathered "Echo Nest API" is something that helped gather over 50 fields of Data for each song. I haven't figured out how to read it yet because it's formated in HDF5, which is a format developped by NASA to, large things of things. I'm learning as I go. Oh, andalso, if you dive in, beware of rickrolls! They got me good.


Teaching Approaches in Music Theory, Second Edition: An Overview of Pedagogical Philosophies, by Michael R. Rodgers

Modern Music Theory Teaching Techniques with fiver star reviews. Here's chapter six if you'd like to taste before you buy.


Integrated Music Learning and Improvisation: Teaching Musicianship and Theory Through Menus, Maps, and Models, by Steve Larson

The title just about covers it.


The Songwriting Secrets of the "Beatles", by Dominic Pedler

An 'Amazon Editors' Favorite Book of the Year' for 2014. Very easy on those without a PHD in theory, which you may appreciate, or you may not. Very deep book either way.


Alan W. Pollack's Beatles Notes

Trove of in depth analysis of beatles tunes.


Form and Voice Leading in Early Beatles Songs, by Drew F. Nobile

EEEEEE!!! More beatles music theory please. This one covers mostly Harmony, Voice Leading, and Form.


Modal Function in Rock and Heavy Metal Music, by Nicole Biamonte

Appetizing little paper outlining the modes in metal. If you ever wondered like, "who in the heck uses Locrian?" Your answer is Sabbath, Rush, Metallica, and Judas Priest--that's who!


Further Thoughts on the Melodic-Harmonic Divorce, by Drew F. Nobile

Further examination of pop tunes via Temperley. I'm not sure where to find the first paper this one suggests, but when it pops(pun intended) up I hope someone lets me know.


David Bennett Thomas' Video Analysis

Realtime audio-video splices of (paper) analysis of classical tunes. 20 videos and counting!


Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns, by Nicolas Slonimsky

"Sesquiquinquetone Progression"? (book-page 136.) Go home Music Theory, you're drunk.


MIT's Music21 

"Is a set of tools for helping scholars and other active listeners answer questions about music quickly and simply. If you’ve ever asked yourself a question like, “I wonder how often Bach does that” or  “I’ll bet we’d know more about Renaissance counterpoint (or Indian ragas or post-tonal pitch structures or the form of minuets) if I could write a program to automatically write more of them,” then music21 can help you with your work."


"Parsimonious Graphs..." by Jack Douthett and Peter Steinbach

Mainly, "Two parsimonious methods of modulating between modes of limited transposition are explored, one by bridging and the other by coupling components of mode graphs."