Write Songs Like Human

This blog is going to discuss how to write songs like Human. Christina Perri’s song, Human, is starting to gain popularity and there are many reasons why. From the melodic and rhythmic devices, to intricate lyrics, and beautiful sound, there is a lot that can be learned.

 Write Songs Like Human: Melody

The melody has interesting melodic devices that are useful for making catchy, appealing melodies. The melody shown below is mainly made of chord tones with different non-chord tones here and there. As I have written before, this is typically what you want to do when writing a melody. What Christina did that is interesting was that on the first part of the word “human” a non-chord tone is used and then on the second part of the word resolves on a chord tone. When this occurs it’s an appoggiatura.  An appoggiatura is a type of accented incomplete neighbor tone approached skip-wise from one chord tone and resolved stepwise to another chord tone (“overshooting” the chord tone). In the melody below the note is highlighted in red.

Another interesting aspect of the chorus melody in Human is the use of an Eb note accompanied by a Db chord. This makes a Db major add 9 chord. I highlighted the Eb note below in blue. The notes are Db, F, Ab and Eb. Add 9 chords are common and sometimes sound like suspended chords that give you a sense of “floating” in music. Suspended chords need to resolve a certain way and move to a particular chord, whereas with add 9 chords it is less important where it goes. To figure out how to play an add 9 chord simply add the 9th scale degree to any chord. For instance, C add 9 would have you add a D note. This is also sometimes seen as adding the second scale degree based on the chord. D is the second scale degree because it comes after C. A C add 9 chord is spelled C, E, G and D. You will notice that the chord written above the melody stays Db because when arranging a song you can choose to sing the 9th in the melody but not in the chord, which is what happens here.

Human uses another type of non-chord tone called an anticipation. This is where the note is a non-chord tone, but is a chord tone of the chord that is played next. This note is often held out as a non-chord tone and through the chord it is part of as you see in this song. I highlighted this with a burnt orange color.

Lastly, in this song there are suspensions, highlighted in green. A suspension occurs when a chord tone is tied through a new chord where it is no longer a chord tone. It eventually resolves down by step to a note that is in the new chord.

Write Songs like Human by Christina Perri

 Write Songs Like Human: Chord Progression

Human’s chord progression is the same four chords repeated four times for the chorus. It’s in the key of F minor. Here is the roman numeral analysis of the song:

i | VI | III | v |

Since we are in the key of F minor the chords are as follows:

f minor | Db | Ab | c minor |

It’s important to know why you use roman numeral analysis. It basically helps with transposing keys but also with understanding the chord progression better. This chord progression moves from playing all three tonic function chords and then to a dominant function chord before repeating. If you are unsure of what I just said, read this blog about writing chord progressions in minor keys.


Alex Rindone

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