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What makes a song catchy? Or is it just catchy in the ear of the listener?

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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 08:29 AM
Original message
What makes a song catchy? Or is it just catchy in the ear of the listener?
I've been thinking about this recently.

I think, for instance, "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini" is a real catchy tune.

You may think this is trivial. People in advertising wouldnt think so.

If anyone here has any ideas about what makes a song catchy, particularly if youre in advertising or music, please chime in.


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no_hypocrisy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 08:36 AM
Response to Original message
1. I endorse the premise of memorability of a simple tune and
the theory of the ear preferring the "three chord" song above all others.
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 08:39 AM
Response to Original message
2. Simplicity, primarily.
A simple, repetitive, bouncy, major key melody, and lyrics that rhyme, use simple words, and are also repetitive in some way.

In short, a song that's very easy to remember, both in tune and lyrics.

Think of "It's a Small World after All" from Disney. It's awful, but everyone who's ever been on that ride will always carry that as a potential earworm.

See...I made you start hearing it again.
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kentuck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 08:45 AM
Response to Original message
3. Time may change me, but I can't change time.
Sorry for the earworm. It only lasts for 2 or 3 days. :-)
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dipsydoodle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 08:53 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. Only bugged me because
I couldn't remember its origin.

Ch-ch-changes.

Gone now.

My turn : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkHTsc9PU2A
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Le Taz Hot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 08:58 AM
Response to Reply #3
6. "Let Me Take My Chances On theWall of Death."
I swear. Been rolling around in my head for 4 days now. Usually if I listen to it it will go away but that hasn't worked this time. Since this is a Richard Thompson tune I was pretty sure it was all about some gruesome medieval practice but, as it turns out, the "wall of death" is a carnival ride.
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Iggo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:17 AM
Response to Reply #3
11. Or 2 or 3 (or 4) decades.
But that's okay. It's one of my favorites.
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 08:46 AM
Response to Original message
4. Just the other day, I was thinking about this very thing, with
regard to advertising jingles. There's a new jingle right now for a company called Bushel Boy Tomatoes. It's a Twin Cities, MN grower of hothouse tomatoes, and their new jingle is about to become an earworm that's going to last for a very, very long time. I'm trying to find out who the copywriter and composer is. Pure Genius!

Sadly, I can't find a copy on the internet, or I'd post a link.
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Morning Dew Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 08:59 AM
Response to Original message
7. four-chord progression
http://www.ecollegetimes.com/music/rebecca-black-s-frid...

When responses such as "abomination" and "worst song ever" are the most printable comments about a hit record like Rebecca Black's "Friday," you know it's fully entered the realm of pop phenomenon.

But for anyone who's surprised that this simple ditty has connected in a big way the 13-year-old's relentlessly chipper YouTube video is about to cross the threshold of 66 million hits don't be.

Patrice Wilson, the entrepreneurial musician who wrote and produced Black's record and created the video that quickly went viral, has been both praised as a pop genius and villified as the worst sort of exploiter of youthful dreams for charging Black and her family $2,000 for the whole package.

But if nothing else, this tune demonstrates unequivocal songwriting savvy: He tapped a song structure that's embedded in our collective DNA, one that's been the foundation of dozens, even hundreds of hit records over the last half a century.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD2LRROpph0
Friday

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8CSjDC18b0&feature=rela...
heart and soul

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrK5u5W8afc
unchained melody

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Le Taz Hot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:12 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. Gack!
Edited on Wed Apr-06-11 09:20 AM by Le Taz Hot
How the hell did I end up in the Lounge? Anyway, for the musicians out there, they're talking about the vi and it's actually the basis for tens of thousands of songs, not dozens. Substitute the vi with the iii as in I-iii-IV-V-I and you have the chord progression for 85% of all rock songs written in the 50's.

For the novice, in the Key of C, the vi chord is a min, the iii chord is e min.

(On edit: got the iii and vi mixed up on my example.)
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dipsydoodle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:14 AM
Response to Reply #8
10. Which only goes to demonsrate
if it looks interesting then which forum its in don't really matter.

I didn't notice it was the lounge either. :rofl:

:hi:
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tridim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:23 AM
Response to Reply #7
13. Songwriting savvy, my ASS.
"Partying partying yea! Fun, fun, fun, fun" is not songwriting savvy. It's lazy crap.
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Morning Dew Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:31 AM
Response to Reply #13
16. Yep. It's a crap song and catchy as hell. Over 86 million views on that one link.
My Goddaughter played this for me the first week it was out and it was stuck in my head for a week.
Worst. Song. Ever. ? Maybe not... I remember "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast" blecccchhhh.

check out some of the parodies of this song - they're fun, fun, fun.
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tridim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:39 AM
Response to Reply #16
17. Then why have they only produced one song that worked?
Shouldn't all of their stupid songs be huge hits?

Honestly I think it's popular because the "singer" is young, cute and naive.

Boil it all down and it's just about sex, like everything else in corporate entertainment.
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Morning Dew Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:52 AM
Response to Reply #17
18. I think Ark Music is a vanity producer
There's someone ( probably dozens of people) here on DU who knows what the Ark Music deal is.

Rich parents buy their kids a music video.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARK_Music_Factory
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charlie and algernon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 10:23 AM
Response to Reply #7
19. Here you go: The Axis of Awesome - Four Chord Song
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dipsydoodle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:12 AM
Response to Original message
9. Just four chords. Great demo here.
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Morning Dew Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:24 AM
Response to Reply #9
14. very cool demo, thanks! n/m
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dipsydoodle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:27 AM
Response to Reply #14
15. The longer I listened to it the more it made me laugh.
:)
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tridim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:20 AM
Response to Original message
12. If you figure it out let me know.
I'm teaching myself to play guitar and have reached the point where my brain has figured out the whole fretboard and my fingers know where to go without thinking about it. I can improvise blues, jazz and rock for hours.

However, when I sit down with the intent to write a catchy melody, it usually doesn't happen. Sometimes I'll discover a catchy riff while improvising, but it seems to happen randomly. Maybe luck is part of it?

Some people claim that fractals and the golden ratio have a lot to do with catchiness, you might want to research that.
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MrScorpio Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 11:11 AM
Response to Original message
20. It's a mathematical equation, that has an elegance that's confirmed subconsciously
L(r, j) = true

As the brain interprets the correctness of the equation, that manifests itself by being catchy to you.

Regardless of any song's complexity, as long as the song's concordance corresponds to the equation, the catchiness is confirmed.

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Tikki Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 11:50 AM
Response to Original message
21. First time I heard "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" I knew...
it was going to be another hit for REM...So did the radio jock who played it all day
as close together as the law allows.

A song that hits it seems to ' seek a hook' or almost (not quite) 'seek a hook'
but it'll come damn close either way.
Once you get into a band's/singer's sound your ear will be trained to hear more...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIOXQp-YGpQ
I would say that this REM song is an example of a song that almost (not quite) hooks.

This instrumental by Santo and Johnny "Sleep Walk" is an example of a song that 'hooks'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1st_9KudWB0

imo
Tikki
p.s. the lyric can pull you, also.
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applegrove Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 08:18 PM
Response to Original message
22. I love 'the hook' at the beginning of songs.
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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:32 AM
Response to Reply #22
23. "Rebel, Rebel!" nt
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pink-o Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:47 PM
Response to Reply #23
25. That is the best guitar riff in the freakin' WORLD!!!
Makes you wanna build a shrine to Mick Ronson, doesn't it? That whole period of Bowie is one of my favorites, but I have that song cycling on my shuffle, and it tends to come on when I'm in the gym. Always enhances the workout.
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Bake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 05:47 PM
Response to Original message
24. Two words: AFTERNOON DELIGHT!!!
:evilgrin:

Bake
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pink-o Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:54 PM
Response to Original message
26. "Catchy" sounds like major chords and a simple, jaunty melody line.
But I like to think "catchy" songs are those that affect us on a visceral level, like invasive parasites that wrap themselves around your nerve endings until they become part of your very being. I can come up with 2 by Green Day: "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "21 Guns". With the former, there's just one part you wanna scream the harmony out, you can't wait till it comes around in the chorus. I watched the band perform it, and the whole audience seemed to feel the same way I do.

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MilesColtrane Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 10:31 PM
Response to Original message
27. Broadly, it is tension and release.
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 10:32 PM by MilesColtrane
We expect certain melodies and harmonies to resolve.

When you anticipate it, and it happens, it gives your brain a neurochemical shot of "satisfaction".
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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 09:08 AM
Response to Reply #27
28. I can't get my mind around what that means-- "certain melodies and harmonies to resolve,"
Edited on Fri Apr-08-11 09:11 AM by raccoon

but thanks a lot.

Does "Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" do that?






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MilesColtrane Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 12:13 PM
Response to Reply #28
31. Yes, it does
Melody and harmony are always in motion, going toward or going away from resolution.

Let's take a look at melody first.

Sing to yourself "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or "Mary Had A Little Lamb", but don't sing the very last note.

It just leaves you hanging with no resolution.

Now sing it the same way again, but at the end wait a couple of seconds and add the last note of the melody.

The melody has resolved giving you a sense of satisfaction.

In harmony, resolution consists of a return to the "home" chord of the piece. (also called the "tonic")

In the case of Connie Francis' horribly charming version of "Itsy Bitsy", that home chord is Ab major because the key of the song is Ab major.

The chorus of the song is 8 bars long and features four cadences (resolutions) back to the tonic. The melody though doesn't resolve to the tonic until the final bar of the chorus, bringing an even greater degree of the feeling of finality to the entire phrase.

The simple, predictable harmony and melody, in addition to the simple, very repetitive melodic rhythm make for a powerful and dangerous ear worm.

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Iggo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 09:46 AM
Response to Reply #27
30. And when you anticipate it and it DOESN'T happen...
...you have math metal.
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MiddleFingerMom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 09:42 AM
Response to Original message
29. The very first song I ever wrote all by myself...
.
.
.
...was after our first lead guitar player left. He and I co-wrote songs
together -- me supplying the lyrics and a basic musical idea and he
writing the actual music.
.
When he left, I taught myself basic guitar (NEVER got good enough
to perform onstage -- though it was fun at bonfires) so that I could
continue to write.
.
When I wrote my very first song, I was very self-conscious and it
seemed like forever before I played it for anyone -- an acoustic solo
cover performer whose opinion I respected.
.
"Oh," he said. "That's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door".
.
"IT'S NOT!!!", I cried. "IT'S A SONG THAT I... ... oh damn it... it IS
'Knockin' on Heaven's Door'."
.
.
.
"Relax," said he. "EVERYBODY'S first song is "Knockin' on Heaven's Door".
.
.
.
:rofl:
.
.
.
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pootbutta Donating Member (57 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 12:17 PM
Response to Original message
32. catchy song writing
the unique combination of words that fit a simple melody!
that's the ticket
also ... it helps if radio plays it incessantly :)
i've been a professional song writer for too many years to mention.
when that perfect combo happens its a great feeling.
here's a you tube of me singing "Drill Baby Drill"
catchy?
not sure, but see what you think
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyuQIgL8dM8
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