D Major: The Song Key of Winners

April 23, 2010

We analyzed the musical key of 70 UK number one singles from the past five years. Although the results are by no means statistically significant, let’s pretend they are, otherwise I’ve just wasted my time researching this stuff.

In which case, you’d better compose your songs in D Major, which our results show is the most popular key for number one singles. C# Major, Eb Minor and F# Major, on the other hand, didn’t have a track between them. Coincidentally, D Major “was by far the most common key for overtures in the second half of the eighteenth century” (source), though perhaps this could be attributed to its suitability for the violin (due to the instrument’s tuning).

If we look at relative keys, the C Major / A Minor combination produces the most number ones. This is probably because of the dearth of talent in the popular music industry: these keys are arguably the easiest to play on a keyboard for a novice.

An Analysis of Number 1 Single Song Keys. 10% are in D Major, the most popular.

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2 Responses to “ D Major: The Song Key of Winners ”

  1. Kim Rees on June 10, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Interesting data. Do you know if any of the D Major songs used a violin? If they didn’t, then it probably had nothing to do with violins.

    I’m wondering if this is more about fashions. Is it just in fashion now to play in that key? C Major is typically the rock-n-roll key.

    I would love to see this historically. For instance, how do the winning keys map out over time… do different styles of music that are in fashion (blues, ragtime, etc.) affect the winning key?

  2. amorphous on June 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    @Kim Actually, I can’t answer the violin question, but I’ve just got my hands on a new, comprehensive data set that will let me answer your other questions: how the key has changed over time (if at all), and how it varies with Genre. I’ll do a follow-up post this weekend! Thanks for the suggestion.

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