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Hooktheory, a site that builds interactive tools to help musicians understand and write music, has created a new way for users to visually explore the construction of popular songs called Hooktheory Trends. Based off a crowdsourced database of 1,300 songs, the tool allows aspiring song writers or casual hobbyists to navigate through different color-coded chord progressions and see where they appear in familiar music.
The developers at Hooktheory said the interactive project was created in response to feedback they received after an initial study of chords from last year. Users wanted to know what songs used certain chord progressions and a way to use this knowledge to help them construct their own songs.
The interface for the tool is easy to use and straightforward. First, you can choose a key from a dropdown menu that displays popular color-coded chords:
Once you click a chord, the tool takes you to a new screen that is divided into three parts.
On the left, your chord is displayed surrounded by other chords, each with a percentage that corresponds to how likely that chord will be next in the progression. These percentages are pulled straight from the crowdsourced database.
Each of the secondary chords is also clickable, and will lead to another set of likely chord successors. The tool allows you to build a chord progression up to about six consecutive chords.
The second column displays popular songs that have been written using the chords selected in the first column, and includes selections from artists as diverse as Skid Row, Adele and The Lonely Island.
Once you click a particular song, an analysis of that song will display in column three. The analysis visualizes each note on a simplified musical staff while the song plays through a YouTube video or piano rendition.
The tool does a great job of promoting exploration and play, with an easy-to-use interface that makes it simple to experiment with different options. Even for non-musicians or beginners, Hooktheory’s visuals make it easy to navigate and understand.
Fewer standard colors and shapes and a more cohesive visual scheme would make Hooktheory Trends look more mature, but its ease of use and functionality overshadow its design weaknesses.
In addition to exploring their database of songs, Hooktheory offers an editor that allows users to create and experiment with their own chord creations.
To try out Hooktheory Trends, click on the image or the link below.