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Music

Is There a Formula For a Hit Song? 243

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-like-big-datasets-and-i-cannot-lie dept.
moveoverrover writes "What happens when two Rutgers grad students analyze 50 years of Billboard Top 10 hits with MIT offshoot Echo Nest's API and turn the data into visualizations for an assignment? Great looking visualizations for one, and a fascinating look at 50 years of Pop music at the data level. Posing the question, 'Is there a formula for a hit song?' the students write, 'What if we knew, for example, that 80% of the Billboard Hot 100 number one singles from 1960-2010 are sung in a major key with an average of 135 beats per minute, that they all follow a I-III-IV chord progression in 4/4 time signature, and that they all follow a "verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus" sequence structure?' Using data extracted by Echo Nest on tempo, duration, time signature, musical key, as well as subjective criteria like "energy" and "danceability," the pair generated a number of visualizations with Google Motion Charts (warning: slow) and '(some) Tableau Results' for everyone to see and investigate. Curious about tempo and song duration trends in Pop music over 50 years? Correlation between record label and song tempo? Download the core data, the Tableau reader and look at it any way you want."
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Is There a Formula For a Hit Song?

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  • by s-whs (959229) on Friday July 01, 2011 @08:57AM (#36632510)
    I remember reading about similar analysis long ago. Done in the 1970s IIRC. The programme that analysed also made a song from what I can remember and it was a hit of some sort (not sure which song that was, instrumental probably), but the article I read (1980s) noted that a second attempt didn't produce a hit song. So some variation is always needed beyond mere making a similar song. Does anyone remember/know which was that computer generated hit song?
    • by Canazza (1428553)

      Most of Rush's back catalogue.
      Everyone knows Geddy Lee is a robot

      • by Nerdfest (867930)
        Don't pick on Rush today dude, it's Canada Day (a national holiday). The world is in a sad enough state without starting a war with Canada.
        • by Canazza (1428553)

          I'm not picking on Rush. Rush is awesome. Geddy Lee is an awesome robot. He can write fricking songs!

      • Let us not forget that Rush is not stuck in the 70's. That's jsut the perception of people who have either lost touch/moved on from the band. Or never really liked them in the first place.

        In a rock format, these guys are still cutting edge. And play with more precision and overall talent than they did in the 70's.

        It'll be a sad day when they finally do get tired of touring, and just hang it up.

    • by Kozz (7764)

      I heard a podcast on this recently -- it might have been RadioLab but I can't find it right now.

      Anyhow, they tried to use all the collected knowledge to produce a "hit", and had some human (as opposed to programs) composers write a tune. As you might expect, it sounded too familiar, not adventurous, didn't have a decent hook, and was kind of boring all around.

      On the other hand, they also collected information on what kind of music people did NOT like, which included things like children's choirs, opera, ba

      • by paiute (550198)

        On the other hand, they also collected information on what kind of music people did NOT like, which included things like children's choirs, opera, bagpipes, and so on, in an effort to make the world's "worst" song. And again as you might expect, the "worst" song ended up being far more fascinating and creative. Imagine the efforts the human composers went to in order to make all these things mesh. I remember hearing a clip and it was interesting, for sure.

        Tunes that catch your imagination are often like that. Think of The Smith's How Soon Is Now, Tom Tom Club's Genius of Love, etc.

      • So they experimented with offbeat stuff and sounds, and came up with something fascinating.

        This my friend, is called Progressive Rock.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:47AM (#36633522)

      I heard a similar account from a buddy of mine who was in the recording industry back in the mid 70's. Someone did a bunch of metrics to determine the characteristics of a hit song and came up with some average: x% singing, y% cellos, z% electric guitars, a tempo between t1 and t2, etc. And then they made a song that had exactly all of that stuff.... and it sucked.

      A brief skim of TFA leads me to conclude that it's rife with half-thought-out research. The question they pose, "What if we knew, for example, that 80% of the Billboard Hot 100 number one singles from 1960-2010 are sung in a major key..." is completely meaningless if 80% of the entire population of songs, hits and non-hits alike, are in a major key... with a 4/4 time signature, etc. It's like determining that 100% of all coffee drinkers have faces. 100% of people have faces, so you haven't discovered anything different about the coffee-drinking subset.

      What you're looking for is what sets the "hit" population apart from the "non-hit" population. And, from what little I looked at, they don't address that at all.

      They also try to slap a linear regression onto everything. They assert that song duration is increasing. Umm, no... it was increasing during the 70's, and then it stabilized. And that probably had a bit to do with the formats that the music was available in (ie, 78-rpm records vs. 33.3-rpm...). But, again, we would only know that if these jokers looked at the average duration of *non*-hit songs.

    • I found the video I was talking about [youtube.com] in the above post.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2011 @08:57AM (#36632514)

    R&B has a clearly worked out hit formula:
    http://img8.imageshack.us/img8/4185/rnbcreator2tf9.jpg

    Might be applicable to other styles such as pop, trance, rock...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2011 @09:20AM (#36632708)

      Some time back I wrote a lyrics generator inspired by Destiny's Child. It didn't have nearly enough strings to draw from, and I never got around to setting up proper weighting for the various phrases, but it was definitely producing authentic Destiny's child gibberish. Here's an example:

      I gon' trippin'!
      I gon' frontin'?
      you's actin' and you's actin'!
      Nine out of ten cat owners are trippin' as You been doing playin'!
      Why I see you movin'.

      you's trippin' 'n' I gon' actin'?
      Girls be like knowin'?
      I lookin' that to' be braggin' but Keynesian Theory makin' me think You been doing knowin'.
      Shell restated their 2005 financial results cuz they be keepin' it real as We actin'?

      I gon' playin'.
      I gon' frontin' but Keynesian Theory makin' me think Why you thinkin' 'bout playin'.
      I trippin'.
      U frontin'?
      I trippin'.

      you's trippin' 'n' I gon' actin'?
      Girls be like knowin'?
      I lookin' that to' be braggin' but Keynesian Theory makin' me think You been doing knowin'.
      Shell restated their 2005 financial results cuz they be keepin' it real as We actin'?

      better da street if he be actin'?
      Thems knowin'!
      I gon' actin'!
      I actin'.
      I be knowin' U be braggin'!

      you's trippin' 'n' I gon' actin'?
      Girls be like knowin'?
      I lookin' that to' be braggin' but Keynesian Theory makin' me think You been doing knowin'.
      Shell restated their 2005 financial results cuz they be keepin' it real as We actin'?

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      R&B has a clearly worked out hit formula

      Might be applicable to other styles such as pop, trance, rock...

      All popular music has had a formula since at least the 1920s, and probably long before that.

      Put in sex/love and/or a rhythm to move along with.

      Every pop song of all time has followed that formula with the possible exception of The Ballad of the Green Beret which was an inexplicable No 1 hit in 1966.

      • by ari_j (90255)

        That's not quite fair. In 1966 [wikipedia.org] alone: The Sound of Silence, Paint it Black, and Paperback Writer are not really about love or sex, in addition to The Ballad of the Green Berets (the success of which in 1966 is very explicable). And if "a rhythm to move along with" is a sufficient qualification, then the Ballad itself fits well enough as the quintessential "move along with" style of music: a march.

        That said, the interesting thing isn't how to write hit subject matter. It's how we have so many hits that ar

    • R&B? Don't you mean gangsta rap? I don't seem to recall Eric Clapton or Otis Redding singing about bitches.
      • by cpuh0g (839926)
        But Clapton done went and put a cap in the sherriff's ass, fo SHO! But not the deputy. He may have been trippin' on Cocaine at the same time.
  • Ha! I don't have the first post but I do have the first hit song!
  • by tepples (727027) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {selppet}> on Friday July 01, 2011 @08:59AM (#36632526) Homepage Journal
    Hit Song Science has been around since 2003. See previous Slashdot story [slashdot.org].
  • There are 2 ways to look at these results. One is that out of all the music produced this formula is what the majority of people want to listen to, or it could be that this is what the record companies flog us because it's what they think we want to hear. Either way this is all that bands will be producing from now on, meaning less variety in music. It's a case of data driven choices gone mad.

    My next album title's going to be I-III-IV, should make me a million.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Friday July 01, 2011 @09:04AM (#36632586)

      Pretty much any genre of creation based upon personal taste is going to have some sort of a formula that's pure lowest common denominator. The more likely explanation is that it's what record execs think will sell and consequently it's what they push. Way too often the songs that get popular get popular because they're frequently played, not because they're good.

      It used to be extremely unusual for songs on the radio to break out of a standard format and going beyond 2 minutes wasn't typically done.

      • by causality (777677)

        Pretty much any genre of creation based upon personal taste is going to have some sort of a formula that's pure lowest common denominator.

        Yes, it's lowest common denominator. There's no way you could have widespread common ground among millions of different people, for something as hugely diverse and personal as individual taste in music, without recourse to the lowest common denominator. It's a race to the bottom of sophistication and variety in order to superficially appeal to the largest number of peo

        • by DdJ (10790)

          Yes, it's lowest common denominator. There's no way you could have widespread common ground among millions of different people, for something as hugely diverse and personal as individual taste in music, without recourse to the lowest common denominator.

          That is "lowest common denominator".

          Just because it's "lowest" doesn't necessarily mean it's particularly "low", just that going any "higher" destroys the commonality. If you're talking about widespread common ground among millions of different people, then

          • by causality (777677)

            Yes, it's lowest common denominator. There's no way you could have widespread common ground among millions of different people, for something as hugely diverse and personal as individual taste in music, without recourse to the lowest common denominator.

            That is "lowest common denominator".

            Just because it's "lowest" doesn't necessarily mean it's particularly "low", just that going any "higher" destroys the commonality. If you're talking about widespread common ground among millions of different people, then you're talking about lowest common denominator.

            1. Decide that a term I used bothers you.
            2. Miss the point being made.
            3. Find a way to insert your offense at my term into the conversation.
            4. Uh, profit?

            Ever listen to much recent popular music? It's at around an 8th grade emotional level, usually about a failed relationship. That puts the low in lowest common denominator. I'm sorry if the correct way of naming things offends you.

            This isn't like taking a survey of 5 million men and asking if they enjoy getting hit in the testicles. Ther

            • by DdJ (10790)

              Hm, I suspect I actually misunderstood you.

              See, this is Slashdot. When you said

              There's no way you could have widespread common ground among millions of different people, for something as hugely diverse and personal as individual taste in music, without recourse to the lowest common denominator.

              , I took for granted that you were being sarcastic, and were attempting to argue exactly the opposite of what you were saying, and were expressing anger at the use of "lowest".

              That's what I was reacting to.

              (And no, I have not ever listened to much recent popular music. Not sure what I might discover if I did. I haven't yet heard a single song by "Lady GaGa" or "Justin Bieber" or ... heck, that's all I can name.)

              • by causality (777677)

                (And no, I have not ever listened to much recent popular music. Not sure what I might discover if I did. I haven't yet heard a single song by "Lady GaGa" or "Justin Bieber" or ... heck, that's all I can name.)

                Believe me, you aren't missing anything worthwhile. There's only so many different ways a singer can whine about their inability to mature into an adult person with the self-knowledge to confidently select a life partner who's actually good for them to be with, and then invest the effort and patience

      • by Madman (84403)

        Exactly, it's circular. People like what they hear so execs give us more of it to the point that's all we ever get. The same thing's happening with hollywood, nobody is willing to go off formula so we are getting the same movie formulas all the time.

    • by yarnosh (2055818)
      Why would record companies have an opinion on what we want to hear? There is and always will be room from some "alternative" types of music. It is just that pop songs won't have much variety. That's the way it has been for decades. You have Top 40 and then a bunch of other stuff that satisfied various niches.
    • I think, at least based on the summary, the results are missing some things. For instance, maybe there is such similarity in the music because every time there is a hit song, a lot of people rush to create another song just like it. And there is no consideration of how many songs become hits because people think the artist is sexy, with no regard for what the song sounds like.
    • by NekSnappa (803141)
      Maybe it's me, maybe it's who ever wrote the summary pulling something out his ass. But I don't think I've ever played a song with a I-III-IV progression.
      Then again I play blues and country which tend to be different variations of I-IV-V.
  • by jonas_haase (149709) on Friday July 01, 2011 @09:01AM (#36632542) Homepage

    Here is the entertaining version of this important discovery:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I [youtube.com]

    • by Creepy (93888) on Friday July 01, 2011 @09:39AM (#36632876) Journal

      As a cellist, I have to point out that this is all a refinement of the Original 1 hit wonder [youtube.com].

      Some of the same songs even ;)

      Technically this is 5 chords, but the 6th is often "skipped" by using a turn.

      • by ari_j (90255)
        Don't forget Title of the Song [youtube.com] by Da Vinci's Notebook. It's the Madlib blank form for boy band songs. Meta-music humor is always fun. =)
    • by yarnosh (2055818)
      I really like that bit, but I'm pretty sure they're exaggerating the similarities between songs a little. They're just singing the songs in the same key. If you do that, almost any chords you play in that key will at least not sound bad. Many probably do use the same chord progression though.
      • by ari_j (90255)
        I-V-vi-IV is historically a successful chord progression that I know to have been used in many of the songs they included in their medley, although I don't know them all so I can't swear they're all the same. Other songs they left out include about 1/4 of the Beatles catalog and Pachelbel's Canon in D (which does admittedly have a twist that the others omit).
  • Scum (Score:2, Informative)

    by Beelzebud (1361137)
    Anyone who "writes" music based on algorithms, market research, and what a computer tells them will be a "hit", needs to be deposited in the bottom of the ocean.
    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      How do you know the music you like isn't already generated by some computer?

    • by LizardKing (5245)
      You've been able to generate music based on algorithms with affordable software since the 1980's. A company called Dr T's produced sequencer software for the Atari ST that included sophisticated algorithmic generators - great fun to mess around with. Before that, analogue sequencers could be used to make music based on tweaking knobs or sliders, and the legendary Roland TB-303 bass sequencer also had a pattern based interface. Analogue sequencers are enjoying something of a resurgence in interest at the mom
    • Let's add those who use auto-tune to the list of people who get deposited on the bottom of the ocean.
    • Who is using algorithms to write their music? Well of course big labels are writing songs to make sure they sell, what do you expect? Are they using an algorithm? I doubt it, they're probably just writing songs around a time tested and proven formula and apparently spans generations and genres. This isn't surprising at all.

      If you think about it, songwriters use a subconscious algorithm when writing music. There are certain time signatures, chord progressions, tempos, that equate to popular music. Also consi

      • by DdJ (10790)

        Who is using algorithms to write their music?

        Larry Fast, but not in the sense you mean.

        Larry Fast's solo project, "Synergy", was an early innovation in electronic music. (Not as early as Wendy Carlos, but we're still talking about the 1970s.) For the most part, the albums consist of performances programmed in ahead of time, either via MIDI or via assembly language, and then performed on electronic instruments.

        But he had an experimental album years ago, "Computer Experiments Volume 1", in which he programm

    • Anyone who "writes" music based on algorithms, market research, and what a computer tells them will be a "hit", needs to be deposited in the bottom of the ocean.

      I believe anyone who's a fan of the Aphex Twin [wikipedia.org], might respectfully disagree there. It's all in how you use the "tools" whether they're instruments, computers, voices, etc.

    • In a previous life, you were the one saying,

      "Anyone who 'designs' a bridge based on algorithms, public demand, and what a computer tells them will be 'desirable to drive on', needs to be deposited in the bottom of the ocean."

  • by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Friday July 01, 2011 @09:03AM (#36632570) Journal
    Did they only look at the hits or also at the misses? There are bound to be enough songs that abide the "formula" but lack enough musicality to become a hit.
    • by mwvdlee (775178) on Friday July 01, 2011 @09:15AM (#36632674) Homepage

      Indeed, the trends they spotted over the years may also apply to all the songs that never quite made it to the top, or even into the charts.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      Did they only look at the hits or also at the misses? There are bound to be enough songs that abide the "formula" but lack enough musicality to become a hit.

      I initially made the assumption that any analysis like this would be supervised by someone who understood such things... but maybe that's not the way the kids do things these days.

    • by timeOday (582209) on Friday July 01, 2011 @09:48AM (#36632962)
      That isn't a correlation v. causation problem. More likely it means the regularities found are necessary but not sufficient conditions. In other words they have identified *some* of the causes, but not enough to completely define it, as in write a hit automatically. But on that basis I agree it does not constitute a "formula" for making a hit.
      • If you read the intro on the project page a bit further: "To be clear, neither of the authors truly believe there can be an unchanging "formula" for a hit song, as much of what appeals to us in music is a combination of familiarity and surprise (Sacks, 2006). Currently, intangible notions such as emotional qualities also have a great affect on our experiences with music. However, while there are many outstanding questions, our inquiry may shine some light on a few characteristics that could increase the c
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2011 @09:52AM (#36633006)

      Hey there, I'm one of the authors of this study... the media picked this up and is sensationalizing the study. You are absolutely correct that we need to look at the misses too (in the form of a control group) to make any statistical correlations, which is what we are currently working on. What we did was simply make some observations of descriptive metadata using visualization tools. They have blown this way out of proportion by mistaking our hypothetical opening paragraph as the results of the study.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        How about the songs that were hits but *don't* match the formula? Are you looking into those at all to see what's special about those?
        • by sdellis (2329642)
          Yes, the outliers would be particularly interesting! But to clarify, we didn't come up with a "formula", just visualizations based on descriptive metadata. There are so many variables outside of descriptive data (peer influence, lyrical zeitgeist, etc.) that would require years of research if at all possible. This is simply one semester's final project. Our data set (a mashup of Billboard's open data and EchoNest's open data) is published on the study website: https://sites.google.com/site/visualizingah [google.com]
  • Yes there is... (Score:3, Informative)

    by DamageLabs (980310) on Friday July 01, 2011 @09:04AM (#36632580) Homepage

    ... and it was written ages ago

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Manual [wikipedia.org]

  • There may be historical patterns which can be followed, but there are many elements of success which have little to do with talent, style or proficiency. Just as in Japan, pop stars do not need to sing well -- they just have to be hot. You can follow that pattern all day long but if the performers are obese or have skin problems, they aren't going anywhere. (Wilson-Phillips anyone?)

    So if you want to be on top and stay on top, you have to be able to do some kind of music, but it doesn't have to be great.

    • You can follow that pattern all day long but if the performers are obese or have skin problems, they aren't going anywhere. (Wilson-Phillips anyone?)

      They sold 10 million of their debut album and had 3 number one singles.Their second album went platinum as well. I'd call that going somewhere.

  • Of course you can create a commercial hit this way.
    Whether you can create Art this way is another question altogether.

  • Axis of Awesome, NSFW if on speakers

    http://youtu.be/5pidokakU4I [youtu.be]
     

  • Of course (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192)

    Popular music has always been formulaic. Good music, on the other hand, is not.

  • We've known this for some time, but it is nice to see it confirmed mathematically. Pop "music" is indeed getting louder over time. I suspect based on the loudness graph that the song they used for 2010 was that "you're beautiful" song that is practically whispered in comparison to other recent pieces.

    Now get off my lawn.
    • by LizardKing (5245)
      Welcome to the current limiting and mastering preferences that take much of the dynamics out of a recording. This is done out of fear that a quieter song, or one with varying dynamics, won't grab the attention of listeners on the radio. However, in tests it's been shown that the lack of dynamics produces "listener fatigue", following which the listener stops really paying attention to what they're hearing.
      • by inviolet (797804)

        Welcome to the current limiting and mastering preferences that take much of the dynamics out of a recording. This is done out of fear that a quieter song, or one with varying dynamics, won't grab the attention of listeners on the radio. However, in tests it's been shown that the lack of dynamics produces "listener fatigue", following which the listener stops really paying attention to what they're hearing.

        That is not why it is done. Compression of the dynamic range makes the song listenable in a car or on an ipod in a noisy environment. That is where MOST people listen to MOST of their music.

        Yes yes, I realize that the acoustics are excellent in your mother's basement... but have you ever tried to listen to a song with a large dynamic range while driving a car? Or listen to an ipod on earbuds while shopping? You have to turn the volume up in order to heart the quiet parts, and then you get your ears bla

        • OK, I accept what you've said - that compression makes music listenable in sub-standard environments.

          However, why in the bloody hell have music-makers decided that's it's OK to destroy the source material to achieve this?

          Instead of compressing the songs, why didn't the industry get together with the hardware folks and implement compression in the playback devices? My car, for example, has radio settings that automatically turn the volume up when driving faster, then lower the volume when driving slower. (

  • I do find it interesting: Hit songs got progressively longer, more "dancable", and louder.

    Aside from what appears to be a very clear divide in key up to vs. after 1980, key doesn't play much role.

    I find the "weeks on" interesting as well... The music in the 90's stayed on a lot longer than the more modern stuff. That doesn't surprise me, really, some of the recent hits do strike me as pretty disposable.

    • by yarnosh (2055818)

      That doesn't surprise me, really, some of the recent hits do strike me as pretty disposable.

      Hint: Pop music has always been disposable. The fact that you're only noticing it about recent hits just means you're getting old.

      • That's just it though... The numbers demonstrate that it's more than just me being old: The evidence suggests that pop music ~really is~ more disposable than before.

        Now get off my lawn.

  • There was a Flintstones episode on this topic. More about the lyrics, though.
  • Since it is well established that familiarity is a safer return on investment than risk, this is a circular argument. Saturday Night Live has a successful skit, reworks successful skit again. Broadway has a successful musical, are they going to follow with a circus act or another musical? Do people want to buy tickets to see a different team play in their local stadium every time, or do they buy more tickets based on knowing the team and basically what to expect? This is as scientifically exciting as
  • 1-record a non complex song 2-record company promoton 3-profit$$$$ The music industry has been doing it for a while now and they have the formula down pat. Then again maybe I'm just a snob because I was exposed to classical music as a kid. My father had a huge collection of tapes and played them all day long. I don't listen to classical but I tend to stray as far away from pop music as possible.
  • I'd argue that if they look at the "not-hit" songs they will find the same percentage mach their formula, or very close to it. What they've found is that most songs are written in a very similar fashion based on old Blues and Bluegrass riffs.

    The formula for a hit song is 20cents per play on local radio stations. It's called payola, and they've been doing it since the invention of radio.
  • It isn't the size of your chords that matters; it's what you do with them.

  • Without an input variable on how much money was spent convincing the masses that it is music one should listen to, it lacks the full measurement. There is most certainly a large percentage of the measurement showing just this. By the sounds of it, this algorithm can help me pick out songs I don't want to listen to ;)
  • Depending on how you shoose to interpret it, this is either a very deep question - or a daft and superficial one.

    If we take the extremely superficial line and look back over just the last 50 years, then perhaps, yes, there is a "hit formula", but I am not sure that the poster get close to it. Each decade has had its own style, and I think the most important common trait has been the alternation between a "revolution phase", where a new style has found resonance with something in the time: Rock'n'Roll and th

  • From the Authors (Score:4, Informative)

    by sdellis (2329642) on Friday July 01, 2011 @10:04AM (#36633114)
    Hey everyone, just want to clear up a few things. First, we never claimed to have discovered a "hit formula". The media glommed onto our hypothetical opening paragraph and apparently didn't pay too much attention to our results. Please read the study observations, not the articles, for the full story. This was for a data visualization class and we thought it would be cool to mash up the Billboard data with the EchoNest data. There is no "control group" as we were only observing descriptive metadata from "hit songs". We are working on doing some statistical analysis to look at correlations. However, the data is available and we encourage others to play with it as well. Cheers, Shaun and Thomas
  • Since we came up with the genetic code for a good song, does this mean I mean have to hear a Rebecca Black song again?
  • No mention to Knuth's work of art?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Complexity_of_Songs
    Isn't this slashdot?
  • Harry Chapin touched on that subject in his song "Bananas". It was a formula for a hit country-western song. In it it said you had to mention motherhood, infidelity (hurting songs), and trucks. He also said that you needed a fiddle, steel guitar and it also helped to have a choir ( the audience - aka he Mormon Tubercular Choir ). The resulting song was rather funny.

    "Harry, IT SUCKS!"

  • "The KLF" already wrote a manual (which is really called "The Manual" :-) ) on how to make a #1 hitsong. I think it was written in the late nineties.

    They more or less mention the same things. If you want to read it, google is your friend :-)
  • I could swear this was part of the plot to a "Numbers" episode.
  • I-III-IV? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jfengel (409917) on Friday July 01, 2011 @11:26AM (#36634034) Homepage Journal

    Something from the summary really irked me: I doubt they'd find that the best songs use a I-III-IV progression. Pop songs practically all start with a I-IV-V progression. (Remember the lyrics to Hallelujah? "It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth...")

    When the III is used, it's usually minor, though the minor vi is more common ("The minor fall.."). The I-vi-IV-V sequence has been the basis of rock and pop since the 50s. Learn those four chords, and you can play practically any top 40 hit. (You know the guy complaining about Pachelbel's Canon? Most of them are really just using the I-vi-IV-V, which happens to mesh nicely with Pachelbel's real progression: I-V-vi-iii-IV-I-IV-V.)

    So I checked their data and discovered... nothing. Nowhere in their data do they talk about chord progressions. That's not really surprising, since figuring out the chord progressions is much trickier than figuring out the tempo. But they mention it in the summary. Why?

    Because that progression is so universal, of course you'd see it in the top 40 hits. You're also going to see it in the songs you've never heard of. If they really had found that I-III-IV was a frequent hit, they'd actually have learned something.

    This wasn't really intended as news. It's old stuff with new visualization applied. It's a student exercise passed off as research by people who don't actually know the state of the art, like the stories about "Students build 9,000 mpg car; why can't Detroit do that?"

    It just irks me that they're talking a little music theory and betraying their lack of understanding of music theory in the process. What I've just talked about is something every, EVERY musician knows.

  • Yes, there is (Score:3, Informative)

    by gpig (244284) on Friday July 01, 2011 @02:41PM (#36636324)

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