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#1
Often i hear pepole say ''This song is played in F# minor, the saddest of all keys!'' or ''This is in G major, the happyest key!''.
But how i hear music, is that its not the pitch of all the notes in the key witch make up the emotion of the song, but the distence between them.
Is this true or am i tone deaf?
#2
True.
To a certain extent.
Mnor scales are rather more dissonant and "aloof" sounding as compared to Major scales.
Which is why Metal usually uses Harmonic Minor scales quite a lot.
Not always, but its used frequesntly. Harmonic melodic scales too.
#4
^not when played by elmore james, but i think C major is the happiest of all keys.
#5
I tried to think of all the saddest songs I could here are the results...

Are You Lonesome Tonight - how stunning is that voice?
Oh and that one's in C major

Everybody Hurts - That one's in D major

Nothing Compares 2 U - F Major

Exit Music For a Movie - Bm -interestingly enough though it ends with a picardy third on a B major chord

Goodbye Blue Sky - another in D major

Hurt - Am

I Sarted a Joke - G major

Yesterday - F Major

Julia - D Major

In this selection of sad songs 3=Dmaj, 2=Fmaj, 1=Cmaj, 1=Gmaj, 1=Bm, 1=Am

Ratio of Major:minor = 7:2

All I did here was try to think of the saddest songs I could think of, then I found what key they were in to see if there was any consistency.

Conclusion: A song in a major key can sound very very sad. Tempo, lyrics, orchestration, and delivery are way more important in making a sad song than key. (Major = happy & minor = sad) = Myth.

EDIT: Oh and Elvis said Hank Williams' song I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry is the saddest song ever written - that's in C major.
Si
Last edited by 20Tigers at Oct 2, 2010,
#7
Quote by 20Tigers
I tried to think of all the saddest songs I could here are the results...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrojFR7jM9E - how stunning is that voice?
Oh and that one's in C major

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pudOFG5X6uA - That one's in D major

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUiTQvT0W_0 - F Major

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RByvzmmEFiQ - Bm -interestingly enough though it ends with a picardy third on a B major chord

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0v07InoFiU&feature=related - another in D major

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o22eIJDtKho - Am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRNTQvXSsfA - G major

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-n1Ro456nA&feature=related - F Major

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0shbwip_sI - D Major

In this selection of sad songs 3=Dmaj, 2=Fmaj, 1=Cmaj, 1=Gmaj, 1=Bm, 1=Am

Ratio of Major:minor = 7:2

All I did here was try to think of the saddest songs I could think of, then I found what key they were in to see if there was any consistency.

Conclusion: A song in a major key can sound very very sad. Tempo, lyrics, orchestration, and delivery are way more important in making a sad song than key. (Major = happy & minor = sad) = Myth.

EDIT: Oh and Elvis said Hank Williams' song I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry is the saddest song ever written - that's in C major.


^ none of those are minor and therefore cannot be "sad".

it's been well documented that d minor is the saddest of all keys. *as has been mentioned


really , it's true
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Last edited by GuitarMunky at Oct 2, 2010,
#8
on a serious note, i agree with 20tigers. major doesnt need to be happy and minor doesnt need to be sad. ive heard plenty of sad songs in a major key. i really depends on how you play it/sing it/what the lyrics are about (if there are lyrics. ive heard sad sounding instrumentals in major keys too).

major chords sound more resolved and complete. minor chords dont sound as complete and resolved. thats why people tend to think of them as sad, mysterious, maybe angry. while major chords usually sound more happy, joyful, playful etc... but really when you think about it, both major and minor keys have major and minor chords in them. so its really about how you use the key than the actual key.

that being said, i cant think of as many happy minor key songs than i can sad major key songs. although ive heard celtic/maritime songs that are in minor keys and arent sad songs and are usually very upbeat. theres a lot of funk/soul songs that use minor chords that arent sad. they are usually minor 7ths though and they tend to be not as sad sounding.
#9
i wouldnt say its Dm...id have to say the saddest tune i ever heard/played is Am then Fm together its sad...the lower tones just seem sadder to me on the guitar anyway..cept for Em that doesnt seem to sad...

beethovens - moonlight sonata
the turtles - elenore is more misterous and happy..its got minor and major with 7ths

and that we had joy we had fun song i think that has minor keys too..and its sad and seems happy at points..but in the end..its sad
#11
Quote by aCloudConnected
Playing something in "F#m" doesn't make it anymore "sad" than if you were to transpose it to "Dm."


That's not really true. Because in different registers instruments have different timbres, or sound colors. A trumpet playing at the height of its range sounds markedly different than a trumpet playing in it's lowest range. Same thing with playing something on a higher set of strings or a lower set of strings on guitar. So yes, some keys are in fact MORE sad than others.
#12
For those professing that some keys sound "sadder" than others, please explain why you can take one "sad" song, not change the key, but increase the speed a little bit and it becomes a markedly happier song. Or changing the genre of the song, keeping the original key and melody and it has a completely different vibe.
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#13
some1 used a pretty good example on another thread abt how keys dont matter.
they said u can play a song for someone on guitar, wait 30 minutes, then play it again 1 fret higher, and they won't notice a difference.
but, Cmajor is personally a very "at home" key for me, its usually how i would start a progressive epic. i think of music like literature, and in every story, there are stages (i think it goes innocence, initiation, conflict, resolution, something like that) and Cmajor feels very innocent to me. but it also feels almost...sarcastic. if i start a song or group of songs in Cmajor, its either because there's a double meaning (the up-front meaning is happiness, behind that is a lurking danger), and if i end it in Cmajor its either because the story is resolved and there's a happy ending, or because there's another lurking danger, or an irony being exposed, or a false happy ending like the main character is doing alright but ur missing the more innocent supporting character's troubles. this is usually determined by which mode im using, if its C ionian, its true innocence and happiness, if its G mixolydian, its that irony and lurking danger.

from Cmajor, the keys i usually move to are Cminor, Aminor, or Gmajor. Gmajor means there's irony behind the story but you won't find out until later, Aminor means the story is at a very deppressing place, and Cminor is all-around epic.

This is just how i've been using keys and key changes, theoretically, as far as i know, all keys of the major scale are the same, then all keys of the minor scale are the same, but if i know ahead of time what key a song is in, it tends to pull me towards a mood/meaning, not really because it sounds different, more because ill have expectations from that key.
Last edited by TMVATDI at Oct 2, 2010,
#16
^ Word.

This thread crops up every month. First we're talking about Dm and everyone's having a good laugh, and then someone comes out of the wood work and claims that it's true. Once we've put them down, someone else comes along and meets them halfway with the timbre argument. In practical terms, key does not matter. Now everyone go home.
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#17
Emotional response is more to do with chord progression than the actual key,etc.

A classic 'Doo-Wap' is to go to the Em after the G as in

G, C, G ,D, G, C, G, D, C, G, Em, G, Em...very 'uplifting'

(also used in 'Brown-eyed Girl', etc.)

'Sad' is not he right word for minor chords...they are more 'moody' (either positive or negative).
#18
Quote by AlanHB
For those professing that some keys sound "sadder" than others, please explain why you can take one "sad" song, not change the key, but increase the speed a little bit and it becomes a markedly happier song. Or changing the genre of the song, keeping the original key and melody and it has a completely different vibe.


this sounds like more chord progression then just raw chords. if you had examples i might would understand better...but unless your changing it to a rap song..i still think it would be sad..the mood may change a little but you are changing the tempo. in the end..its still a sad song.

I have often transposed songs to find such a big difference..the quality is changed a good bit..tho it better suits my vocals the over all tone feels gone...

i think its just up to the player.

Quote by Raptorfingers
Emotional response is more to do with chord progression than the actual key,etc.

A classic 'Doo-Wap' is to go to the Em after the G as in

G, C, G ,D, G, C, G, D, C, G, Em, G, Em...very 'uplifting'

(also used in 'Brown-eyed Girl', etc.)

'Sad' is not he right word for minor chords...they are more 'moody' (either positive or negative).


i think you hit the nail on the head...theres to many variables to just call a minor sad..like you said moody is more like it...

i think it also depends on the listener..after all..ALL notes have there on unique vibrations by them selfs and combined with other notes..thats why every note has a different impact..like i said earlyer i think the lower tone notes are sadder then the higher tones..thats also why i had to combine 2..which is Am and Fm together its just got a very sad vibe to it alot like gloomy sunday..which might even be in the same key

id have to give the dim chords the dark evil name..
#19
I heard that differing frequencies have a different effect on the body itself, on chemical balances within the brain

I think that is the only possible scientific way different keys could possibly sound sadder / happier than others
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#20
Quote by Tominator_1991
I heard that differing frequencies have a different effect on the body itself, on chemical balances within the brain

I think that is the only possible scientific way different keys could possibly sound sadder / happier than others


our bodies, that is virtually all humans react roughly the same way to pitches (ive done a little research on the effects of music/sound and healing on the human body) so i think if that was the case then everyone should be able to agree on the interpretation "oh yeah G is definitely that happiest major key" but since music is kinda all relative and contextual then whats happy/sad etc becomes relative to the person listening to it. i can tell you what keys i like and prefer, but thats mostly because of the relative ease in composing or singing in those keys.
#22
Like the guy who posted all the songs in major keys - i think most of the saddest songs, songs which evoke sad feelings and which move me personally, are mostly in major keys.

Minor keys i find 'dark' sounding rather than 'sad' sounding. But then again like someone said it's all about context. Which vocals and lyrics are used, the tempo, the beat etc etc. Something in C Major can sound totally chipper or totally heartbreaking depending on how you use it.
#23
Quote by rkk94
crazy train is in F# minor, doesnt sound sad to me


During the verses it moves to relative major.


Anyhow, to add more to the topic, I will sometimes open up Wavepad or Audacity and mess with the keys of songs. As well as changeing the tempo, occaisionaly. From my experiance, I would say that the "flat keys" (F, Bb, Eb, so on and so on)sound darker. Also, I find the key of F# Major to be very romantic sounding, for some reason, but that is mostly subjective.

I think It mostly depends on the chords used, and the notes and distance of the notes all affect it too. Remember, the same note is going to sound totally different over certain chords. Tempo is a big part of it, too. I think major=happy and minor=sad is just a basic way to explain to beginners, and that as a musician gets more advanced they will realise that rules are ment to be broken.

Also, certain modes do generally sound happier. Phyrgian is very dark and evil sounding, and I read somewhere that Lydian generally sounds very happy, almost to the point of being cheesy.
#24
Quote by rkk94
crazy train is in F# minor, doesnt sound sad to me


It's in A major for most of the song.
#25
E major seems like the happiest key to me.

A minor is the saddest.
#26
I can't think of Dm as a sad key after listening to RATM and Muse all the time

I write songs.
YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO THEM
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#27
D minor is obviously the saddest key, i mean, how much sadder is take the power back by RATM than adagio for strings! Bb minor? pfffft
#28
Truth is, art is subjective, so there is no concrete way to determine the sadness or happiness of a particular scale.


That said I don't have a problem when people describe Major as sounding "happy" and minor as sounding "sad". It's more often used as a way to give someone a general idea as to what the scales sound like based on common context. Most people get what you mean when you describe it that way, so I would say there is something to it.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Oct 3, 2010,
#29
i think sad vs happy is all in perception of the listener. someone might think f# minor is the sadest key, while the person beside them might thing that g minor is the saddest..

i personally think it's all in the arrangement
keep writing. keep dreaming.

keep the notes coming...

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#30
Quote by metalmetalhead
this sounds like more chord progression then just raw chords. if you had examples i might would understand better...but unless your changing it to a rap song..i still think it would be sad..the mood may change a little but you are changing the tempo. in the end..its still a sad song.

I have often transposed songs to find such a big difference..the quality is changed a good bit..tho it better suits my vocals the over all tone feels gone...

i think its just up to the player.


I'm merely talking about when a cover sounds different from the original, despite keeping the original chord progression, melody and key. The sound doesn't work on my computer right now, but I'm sure you can think of some examples yourself.

Edit: The acoustic and original versions of Layla (Eric Clapton). Same key, chord progression, melody. Different atmosphere to both songs.
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#31
I've always read that individual key signatures (Em as opposed to Am) really make a difference to people who are trained or naturally pick up on the different timbres of the notes. Otherwise, as a rule of thumb, the lower the key, the more somber it sounds.

As for the key signature making the mood: that's crap. Phrasing is what defines the mood of a song. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata is in C# minor. So is BTBAM's Selkies (it jumps around a lot, but it starts and finishes in C# minor, IIRC). The two songs don't share anything more than a set of notes; their tones are entirely different. It's the phrasing and the instruments that make the mood, not the key.
#32
I find that chord progressions have a lot to do with it. For example, Alter Bridge's Broken Wings sounds very sad, and has a Db, Ab, Bbm, Gb progression. On the other hand, this song I wrote in Bbm, with a Bbm, Ab, Gb, progression, adding one quick strum of Db, and A at the end of the chorus, and it has a more melancholy, but hopeful feel.
#33
Quote by Fausch
I find that chord progressions have a lot to do with it. For example, Alter Bridge's Broken Wings sounds very sad, and has a Db, Ab, Bbm, Gb progression.


An I V vi IV progression? That is an extremely common progression in music. Observe below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpB_40hYjXU&feature=related

Edit: Considering all of this song/s is in the same key, same chord progression, people may want to think about how much a key is important really to creating a happy/sad mood.
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#34
Quote by Eastwinn
^ Word.

This thread crops up every month. First we're talking about Dm and everyone's having a good laugh, and then someone comes out of the wood work and claims that it's true. Once we've put them down, someone else comes along and meets them halfway with the timbre argument. In practical terms, key does not matter. Now everyone go home.



God I missed this place.
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#35
I think this is a decent thread - at least it's sorta making people think. It's also introducing some people to theory
#36
Quote by \o/
I think this is a decent thread - at least it's sorta making people think. It's also introducing some people to theory


I'd be surprised if the majority of people on this thread knew how to determine what key a song is in
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#37
I never found keys to set the mood but the chord movements and intervals. The lower the tone the more somber it gets (in relation to the key).
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#38
Quote by OldRocker
I never found keys to set the mood but the chord movements and intervals. The lower the tone the more somber it gets (in relation to the key).


I may be misunderstanding your comment in relation to the "lower the tone in relation to the key" comment.

Firstly the key is ever present in the song, encompassing all, so you can't really get lower or higher in relation to it, as you'll always be within it.

Secondly, if you're referring to lower and higher in relation to the root of the key, if you kept on getting lower you'd just reach an octave of it and be right on it again. Using this logic arguably at the lowest point away from the root, you would also be at the highest point away from the root as it repeats again below it.

But maybe I'm misunderstanding.
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#39
Maybe I shouldn't have said in relation to the key but in relation to the tone. Sorry.
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#40
Quote by OldRocker
Maybe I shouldn't have said in relation to the key but in relation to the tone. Sorry.


No worries - I was just trying to understand the point you were making.
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