#1
So I've been trying to figure out how I can express certain emotions through music effectively and stumbled across this. http://www.wmich.edu/mus-theo/courses/keys.html

How much merit do you think it has? And more importantly, how does music affect people emotionally.

Some might say "well music affects everyone differently", and I wouldn't disagree. But I might say, "well maybe music provokes certain feelings universally, but how people react to those initial feelings and translate them into emotions could be something else". Ex. My dad's favourite song is "sweet symphony",, quite the sad song..and he has depression and other issues so I know its not making him feel "good" for lack of a better term, but never the less he wants to hear it when it is played.

Interestingly enough, if I remember it is in the key of E or A. On the chart both those keys are about either joy or love. Does this work perhaps as a sort of masking the dark 'bittersweet' lyrics of the song with a happy and joyful musical background to lighten it up? Is this a common theme in music throughout?
#3
I was pretty skeptical when I saw it, but then I started thinking about songs keys and looked at the chart and found it to be quite accurate tbh.
#4
Quote by tyle12
I was pretty skeptical when I saw it, but then I started thinking about songs keys and looked at the chart and found it to be quite accurate tbh.

Based on what qualifications?
#5
how I imagined the musical part of the song affected me. Granted I only used about 5 quick examples. I'm just trying to make interesting discussion. No need to be passive aggressive.
#6
I would say it might have made sense before equal temperament, or to people with perfect pitch, but to me, everything in music is relative.

One key to another changes basically nothing, except for how it is played on an instrument, and how it relates to my vocal range.

Minor vs major though I do find are significant, and they do often say sad vs happy, which I don't think is the most accurate, for me, but major key definitely has more of a sort of bright or perfect or happy feel to it, whereas minor has more of a sort of serious kind of thing going on to me.

But, you know even if blue and green are softer more gentle kind of colors, I could still paint a horror scene with them, so it's not written in stone.
#7
yes the musical note to paint colour comparison is a useful one for understanding a bit more. Key's could be seen as plain as colours I suppose but colours in themselves don't paint a picture and can be shaped differently on how you use them.
#9
Just took a quick glance at the list.

"A Minor: Pious of womanliness and tenderness of character"


...


wtf, this key is somehow female specific?
will someone carry me across ten thousand miles under the silence
#11
Quote by fingrpikingood
I would say it might have made sense before equal temperament, or to people with perfect pitch, but to me, everything in music is relative.

Exactly.
#12
maybe a better question is. What is a productive way to make your own emotional connections to music. Not only are there key signatures to think about, but also chord movement. Is it just a process of learning by ear and indentifying how it makes you feel?
#13
Quote by tyle12
maybe a better question is. What is a productive way to make your own emotional connections to music. Not only are there key signatures to think about, but also chord movement. Is it just a process of learning by ear and indentifying how it makes you feel?

Mostly. Learning what characteristic sounds are produced when moving from one internal to another is key, though. As is voice leading.
#14
Quote by tyle12
maybe a better question is. What is a productive way to make your own emotional connections to music. Not only are there key signatures to think about, but also chord movement. Is it just a process of learning by ear and indentifying how it makes you feel?


To me, emotional connections don't require thinking. To really be in touch, to really feel, and make music through feeling, imo, it is not suitable, to think about "Ok, I want to make a happy song now, so I'll do xyz." You just feel happy, and play happy.

Even if there are things you can look at with theory, that correlate to certain emotional things.

When you are angry, you don't think to yourself what sort of mannerisms, or what have you, evoke anger, and then attempt those.

A person acting, might try that, but that will be hard. Even in acting, it would be easier to trigger the feeling of anger, and then let it out.

Emotion and cognition are kind of against each other. Each of them vying for being what guides you. If it is one, then it is not the other.

If you're thinking about how to fit chords together, about some theory, or things like that, then your emotions are not guiding you.

But, you can't just walk up to a guitar for the first time and be able to play. Before you can communicate complex angry emotions, or concepts, you must learn a language, so that it is easy, and automatic, and second nature.

This, is the use of theory. So that you may know your guitar so easily, that you master it, like speech. So that you may just feel, and play, without wondering how what links to emotion how. Your emotion will just draw out whatever it wants from the guitar.

So I think it is less important to figure out what sort of theory correlates with what sort of emotions. It is more important to learn how to control the sounds. And then emotion does its thing for you.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Sep 22, 2014,
#16
right but you said yourself you must first develope an understanding of your instrument. I'm not bad with technique, theory and ear, but bringing what I feel out into audio is my new focus after re-listening to pink floyd ~ 70's. After trying to find who has the deepest connection to me musically it was actually the first band that really made me appreciate music about 8 years ago, and I never really remembered that I guess.

There must be some sort of intellectual or intuitive understanding of where to go for certain expressions.

I just really started getting into writing which I haven't done much and I notice I get easily discouraged because I'll just kinda noodle around the neck trying to find something at random (and it never goes anywhere). And ironically enough, given the revival of the Tom Hess hate thread, I just read an article he wrote about writing down the emotions you want to convey and then picture how those would sound to you and try to play it. And I gotta say it's already worked on two examples I wrote down.

Hopefully that advice can help others out as well.
#17
The link didn't work (it didn't load the page) but I guess it was talking about A major and E major keys having different "feelings".

All keys sound similar but not exactly the same. If you play the same song in a different key, it will sound lower or higher. And sometimes playing the song higher/lower sounds better. But it doesn't have that much effect on how the song sounds like. You can play the same song in all keys and it will sound like the same song. And people transpose songs all the time to match their singer's range.

Of course if you modulate from A major to E major, the keys sound different. But it sounds the same as modulating from C major to G major.

When it comes to emotions, I don't think note choice has that much effect on it. You can write a melancholic song in a major key and you can write a happy song in a minor key. "Creep" by Radiohead is in a major key but doesn't really sound happy at all. "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO is in a minor key and is a pretty happy song.

The feeling has a lot to do with rhythm and tempo. Many times sad sounding songs are slow ballads. They are usually also pretty "melodic". Minor key does help but you can use major key too. Happy songs are usually pretty fast. And of course major key does help if you want to be really cheerful.

But of course all of this is just generalization. You can write a slow happy song and a fast sad song. I don't even like the terms "happy" or "sad" when describing music.

But yeah, don't just pay attention to melodies/chords. That's really limited. The feeling of your song has to do with so many other things.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
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#18
Quote by tyle12


There must be some sort of intellectual or intuitive understanding of where to go for certain expressions.



Why do you want to express emotion by intellectual means? Is that what you do normally without the guitar? You normally express your emotions with intellectual analysis and calculation?

Colors are just colors. Paint brushes are just paint brushes. Now, these are relatively simple to grasp, and understand their possibilities and how you may manipulate them for what results, but emotion comes out of how you use them.

Let your emotions guide you for that.

If you want to play music with emotion, then let your emotions guide you. Don't use intellectual calculation and analysis to play with emotion. You will never succeed that way.

A lot of it is rhythm and how you play a piece anyway, and has nothing at all to do with any theory. Try taking any song and playing it differently to get a different range of emotion.

Studying music, is like learning language, it is not learning what to say. You would learn english, but you wouldn't seek to learn how to say angry things, or how to speak with emotion, right? Learning english won't teach you how to write great novels, and it won't tell you what to say. But, it will teach you a vocabulary, with which you can freely say any sort of thing you want, with any sort of emotion you want. "What words can I use to say angry things?" Well, basically all of them, right? You could scream or be short and curt, and you could scream if you are happy, or curt if you are shy. Like, there are so many possibilities. But if you just let your emotions guide you, and act however they make you act, you will never be wrong.


If you try and find some recipe to fake it, it will sound fake.

Learn the words, but not how to use them. Use them as you honestly wish. If you are not at that stage yet, then you need to practice more vocabulary. But trying to find shortcuts on what to say if you are happy or sad, is not the best way to act with emotion, imo.

That's how I look at it. That would be my advice, but everyone is different, and you should approach as you wish. I can tell you though, that I can play with any emotion, and I don't have any answers for this question, which are more precise than that.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Sep 22, 2014,
#19
Quote by tyle12


Interestingly enough, if I remember it is in the key of E or A. On the chart both those keys are about either joy or love. Does this work perhaps as a sort of masking the dark 'bittersweet' lyrics of the song with a happy and joyful musical background to lighten it up? Is this a common theme in music throughout?


I think it's almost completely bull.

Being in the key of E or the key of A, with the same instrument and the same singer, is going to have different impacts because of changes in timbre. eg, an open E7 sounds very different from an open B7, so if I play a V7 chord in each key on a guitar, it will sound different. I could switch and barre the E7, but of course now I'm way up the neck which sounds different. But that's not a function of the key, it's a function of the way we play it on a given instrument and the limitations of that instrument.

If we synthisized the music with perfect sine waves, changing ONLY the frequency, we wouldn't notice any sort of universal thing like that.

People have tested various aspects of music to see what is universal about music, and they came up with a list of somewhere around a dozen things that seem to have the same emotional impact regardless of cultural context. I can't remember what most of them are, except for one: a series of descending fifths coming to rest.

None of them, however, were about specific keys.
#20
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
It was published in 1806. People were terrible in 1806.


hahaha - true!
#21
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
It was published in 1806. People were terrible in 1806.


Which also means they were most likely not referring to equally tempered tunings.

I would actually like to hear some older more famous pieces played in their original tunings. I wonder how different they would sound.
#23
Some instruments were still tuned in any of various well temperaments, which generally feature compressed fifths clustered between some naturals (giving a meantone-like sound) and gradually stretched out fifths as you work out into the sharps/flats (producing slightly more tense thirds). The wider fifths make up for the narrower ones in completing the twelve pitch circle...which can also achieved with a chain of twelve equal fifths as is commonly done today.

This made the intervals from one particular note vary subtly from those from a different note, and could color keys differently (the exact character of each one is still a matter of subjectivity).

Needless to say, as intervals are uniform across all keys in twelve-tone equal temperament, those characterizations are even less meaningful nowadays.
#24
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
They would just sound out of tune.


I think it would be more than that. When you run the scales, it sounds like that, but the songs would have been designed for those tunings.

It would sound "out of tune" compared to if we play it in equal temperament, but technically, they would be "in tune" and what we would expect, is "out of tune".

It would be out of tune, in a very specific way, with certain notes off, in a very specific way, and songs were designed to be played specifically in this tunings. So, you'd be hearing the song how it was written.

Otherwise they would just write everything in the same key, C I think it would be, which would be much easier and would sound much more like we are accustomed.

Composers did view keys like the subject of the thread, each having different character, and specific chords as well, and did use that knowledge in their compositions, which is something we lose when we play them in equal temperament.

So, sure, they would "sound out of tune" compared to what we'd expect. They would be differently tuned, of course. But they wouldn't "just sound out of tune." They would sound out of tune, specifically the exact sort of out of tune they were designed to sound, by the greatest composers of the era.

I would like to hear exactly what they intended, not just the sort of sterilized versions we made of them.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Sep 22, 2014,
#25
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
Nah. Every key sounds identical.


this is an important post.
i don't know why i feel so dry
#26
Yes, pieces composed (or likely composed) in an unequal temperament, actually sound more in tune when played in a period-appropriate unequal temperament (rather than 12TET). I once had the privilege to hear a Beethoven sonata played on a replica of Beethoven's Broadwood piano, in a period unequal temperament (which I could remember which one). It sounded very in tune, with a little different character than versions played in 12TET. One of Ligeti's preludes probably wouldn't have worked as well, but the Beethoven sounded great.
#30
I would say that major and minor keys do have an inherent and natural expression to them- happy and sad. This expression, however, is subject change. Vocals seem to be best and used easiest to change the expressional tonality of a key from what their inherent and natural tonality suggests.

The key characteristics written by Tonkunst is only his view of keys, and so I wouldn't say that they are concrete, definitive characteristics that should be studied as such. Furthering the explanation of inherent key tonality, C major is inherently a "happy" key and A minor is inherently a "sad" key. But they are essentially the same key, as they have the same note est. Usually the only difference is the basis upon which the chords are placed. Tonkunst lists two different descriptions for each. However, if you were to use the "happy" chords in the A minor key you would then have that "innocence" Tonkust describes for the C major key.
Last edited by Will Lane at Sep 22, 2014,
#31
This is a very subjective thing. I would argue that defining the qualities of keys is not going to match for everyone. As Will Lane said, they aren't concrete, definitive characteristics. Nonetheless, they are important characteristics and composers used them intentionally as well as subconsciously to create different moods.
But then again, that's just my opinion in the end.
#32
Nah, the last thing that dictates the "emotion" of a piece is the key. Assigning emotions to them, specially predetermined ones, specially ones that say shit like "womanlike", is not going to work

Tempo, rhythm, phrasing, bla bla bla are all more important than the key. But of course, everything is connected, in some ways I most likely forgot by now.

You can have a happy upbeat song, and by just reducing the tempo turn it into an ominous sad one (e.g the Inception soundtrack). You can do anything
#33
You can do a lot, but minor key and major key are very different. Every mode has its own characteristic. But unless you have perfect pitch, or are working within tunings which are not equally tempered, then there is no difference depending on the tonic, only on the mode.

These sounds the keys have are very real, and you can't really get away from that. A minor, is different from C major, in a fundamental way. There is no other word for it, than minor key, or major key to explain the sound difference. No adjective can describe it properly. When people say "happy or sad", these are attempts to use adjectives to describe the main character of the keys. They are not words to say "If you want to write happy music, then use a major key, or then that must must be in a major key." It doesn't work that way.

It's like I said earlier. If we were to describe blue and red with emotions we might say that blue is a more sad color and red is a more happy one, but you can paint a happy with blue nonetheless.

Minor key and major key is different though. A minor is different from C major, even if it is the same notes. But unless you have perfect pitch, or use some old tuning, A major and C major are the same, sounding-wise, but may be chosen one over the other to accommodate an instrument or voice, or because of certain qualities of the instrument, such as where the open strings on a guitar are, or the pattern of the keys on a piano. That would be the same for A minor and C major. The pattern on the piano is the same, no sharps or flats. But the character of the keys are different. All songs which are in those keys, will share some piece of that similar sort of character. But it just doesn't fall nicely into some group you can define perfectly with one word, like happy or sad.

I do find that bright and dark are good descriptions for them though. But that is not to say that you can only write bright music in a major key, and only write dark music in a minor key. It's just to me, the major key, is more kind of perfect sounding, more kind of "taadaaa" clean perfect resolve. Whereas minor is more kind of serious, more kind of "cool" to me, and less sort of cheesy I guess. But it's a general description of how I would characterize the keys. An individual song, is not the sound of the key.

You know, you might say that a song sounds sad, a progression maybe, but that doesn't mean that every chord, if you look at it on its own, has a sad character.

But that's why you shouldn't go through the process "I want to write a sad song now, ok, so let's see, I'll need a minor key, and this and that.." It's just limiting yourself for nothing.

If you are sad, and you feel sad, then play, and play honestly, and whatever you play will sound sad. That might be in a major key, or it might be in a minor one.

Music is a sum of parts. There are no rules you could ever come up with. There are too many variables that can counteract each other. But it is sometimes helpful to give things a descriptive label.
#34
Really wanna play some kinda emotional melody or create one ..try this /...pick up any scale for instance C# minor...and choose a simple chord progression pattern...and over it play some arpeggios(mild distortion),.just try it....its really works out it done properly...haha
#35
Quote by Will Lane
I would say that major and minor keys do have an inherent and natural expression to them- happy and sad. This expression, however, is subject change. Vocals seem to be best and used easiest to change the expressional tonality of a key from what their inherent and natural tonality suggests.

The key characteristics written by Tonkunst is only his view of keys, and so I wouldn't say that they are concrete, definitive characteristics that should be studied as such. Furthering the explanation of inherent key tonality, C major is inherently a "happy" key and A minor is inherently a "sad" key. But they are essentially the same key, as they have the same note est. Usually the only difference is the basis upon which the chords are placed. Tonkunst lists two different descriptions for each. However, if you were to use the "happy" chords in the A minor key you would then have that "innocence" Tonkust describes for the C major key.

A minor and C major are different. The notes in both scales are the same. But the function of those notes is way different. C in C major is the tonic, C in A minor is the minor third. Also, you can use all the 12 notes and still be in the same key. So what makes A minor and C major different is their tonic.

C minor and C major are also close to each other. They have the same tonic (C) but what makes them different is the quality of the tonic chord. As long as a song resolves to a major chord, it is in a major key (if we are talking about tonal music).

A minor and C major are not the same key. They are not even the same scale. They just share the same notes - they are relative keys. But as I said, all those notes get different functions. If you compare C major and C minor, same notes get exactly the same functions in both keys. C is always the tonic, D is always the major 2nd. You can use a major third in C minor and a minor third in C major - both accidentals are pretty common. Again, they get the same function in both keys. F note sounds the same in both C major and C minor. But F note doesn't sound the same in C major and A minor.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#36
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
They would just sound out of tune.


Thats ignorant as ****. I hope your being sarcastic?

First of all, yea, even 12TET keys have characteristics. Because *instruments* have different characteristics. The way your hand feels in C maj on a piano is very different than what Db maj feels like. This is going to affect how the performer interprets the piece.

Second of all, not all music is in 12TET

Third of all, 12TET is considered a relatively out of tune temperament
Last edited by bassalloverthe at Sep 27, 2014,