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#1
I am not teh l33t h4x0r at music theory. I pretty much know the basics of the basics. However, I am very interested with the psychology of music (I guess that's what it would be called). For example, why the major scale sounds happy, why the minor scale sounds sad, etc. But, I would like to go a little bit deeper than that. Maybe even to the point where the music seems to have a certain theme. For example, while playing in a specific key, if you replace all the minor chords with major chords, you get an odd, psychedelic effect (I believe Syd Barrett did it a lot). I actually tried creating a chord progression with nothing but major chords, but then, I decided to create a single note riffs made up of the triads of a few major chords (if you ever heard the intro to "Take a Friend" by Rush, it's similar to that) It ended up sounding like something you would here in a circus or carnival. Happy, but eriee. Another example would be the locrian mode having an evil sound to it. The fact that someone can play a major scale, and everyone thinks "Wow, that sounds happy", or someone plays the Phrygian dominant mode, and everyone thinks "Wow, that sounds mysterious, and sounds like something you would hear in the desert" just interests me so much. Is there any explanation as to why we apply these emotions with music, in terms of the psychological reasons? Is it something like, our brain wants to hear a certain note resolve the song, but when we don't get the note we want, it disappoints the brain, thus labeling the melody "sad"? Is it because in America, we were raised as kids to hear the major scale as "happy"?

Also, what other themes is it possible to create using different scales, modes, rhythms, and what not?

Ahhh, sorry if none of this made sense to anyone, but I just find the psychology of all these melodies very interesting. It creates an image and emotion in the listeners head without the use of lyrics.
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#2
Ahhhh very interesting. Yet I dont know the answers to your questions.
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#4
Music is based off of human speech. Compare how we say "hello" to "goodbye". Musical phrases are just like speaking phrases. Listen closely to changes in pitch and dynamics when people talk and you'll see what I'm talking about.
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#5
I think it has to do a lot with the tone of the guitar not necessarily the notes played but the way those specific notes are played. I think minor chords are amazing i.e Jazz. MAjor chords are too straight and boring and that comes through in a lot of music i do believe i.e Blink 182.
I think maybe these expressions of emotion we have can be perhaps substitutions for real life experiences. I've heard countless cases where people have relied on music to get them through a certain time in their life.
I think this is a great post well done
Im sorry i dont believe i have helped you in anyway ive just mumbled


BTW nice set up you have there
#6
You know, I've often thought about this too.

Another interesting thing to note is that the minor third is usually used to get people's attention: for instance, when you call someone's name (think "Laaassie!" from the TV show), you do so with a minor third. Also, British (and European, too, I suppose) police cars use a minor third in their sirens. At work, there is a metal detector, and whenever it detects something, the alarm rings with the individual notes of a minor triad (always reminds me of that organ part from "Fire on High" by ELO).
#7
i definatley agree that certain scales/notes evoke different emotions. For instance slash's guitar part at the end of November Rain after the whole piano lead up, to me, gives me butterflys---but hey everyones different.
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#8
interesting idea, i have a theory about this myself.
In my theory, the 'mood' of the scale, chord, etc comes from its context. Now this may be true only to a certain extent but think of it this way:
Your listening to some crazy fast, aggressive black metal (dunno why you would want to, but thats beside the point, lol) and then they throw in a run based on an ascending major scale. It would probably sound out of place, so thats why it isnt commonly used in that context. Same goes for sad songs. Your listening to a ballad about some melancholy teenagers breakup and then he throws in a guitar line going up the harmonic minor scale. Chances are, you'll hear this and be like, WTF.
Certain theory can be explained, like tritones, aka the devils chord. Back during the inquisition, playing this chord would result in a visit from the local clergy who would procede to beat you severely, possibly to death. This comes from its dissonant sounds, which makes it sound 'evil'.
So this is sort of my theory, of course someone will likely prove it wrong, but whatever, it makes sense to me lol.
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#9
Quote by Sirwinston89
interesting idea, i have a theory about this myself.
In my theory, the 'mood' of the scale, chord, etc comes from its context. Now this may be true only to a certain extent but think of it this way:
Your listening to some crazy fast, aggressive black metal (dunno why you would want to, but thats beside the point, lol) and then they throw in a run based on an ascending major scale. It would probably sound out of place, so thats why it isnt commonly used in that context. Same goes for sad songs. Your listening to a ballad about some melancholy teenagers breakup and then he throws in a guitar line going up the harmonic minor scale. Chances are, you'll hear this and be like, WTF.
Certain theory can be explained, like tritones, aka the devils chord. Back during the inquisition, playing this chord would result in a visit from the local clergy who would procede to beat you severely, possibly to death. This comes from its dissonant sounds, which makes it sound 'evil'.
So this is sort of my theory, of course someone will likely prove it wrong, but whatever, it makes sense to me lol.


If someone played harmonic minor the right way it can sound quite good and very sad
#10
To answer the question about major vs. minor, the human brain interprets major as more happy because the notes are spaced further apart and therefore it sounds open. Also, I'm pretty sure it has to do with the fact that some of the overtones contained in the root note's harmonics are major thirds. Obviously the major is going to sound more consonant, as the minor has a clash between the harmonic of the root and the b3, but the minor still sounds good because the clash isn't that harsh. I could be wrong, I remember reading this somewhere, but if someone can verify that would be great.
#11
basically the way i see it, in our minds a certain sound seems to fit more with a certain mood or surrounding, it's just the way humans percieve things. also because of movies and TV we have now got a "expectation" of what sound goes with what emotion. also i'll use neoclassical shred as one example, in neoclassical sweeps and harmonic minor have been used by those artists for so long, it's what we expect, and anything that does not fall under this category (IE any other modes that aren't used in neoclassical shred), does not sound right simply because, we have never actually heard this particular sound used with neoclassical music.

in short, whatever we expect to be heard in a certain genre of music sounds good, whatever we don't expect in a genre of music sounds off.
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#12
It is not based on what we have heard alot, that makes things sound "right" or "wrong".

The feelings associated with sounds in music, can be explained using physics. Intervals sound consonant or dissonant based on how well the sound waves fit together. This is based on the harmonic series. The notes of the harmonic series will be the original frequency x2, x3, x4, x5, x6, etc... with each consecutive harmonic getting quieter than the last. Since these frequencies are present when you play a note on any acoustic instrument, they are so consonant, that they are almost unnoticeable. Consequently, any fundamental pitches which correspond to these harmonics will also be very consonant. Frequencies can be made into a ratio comparing the two pitches. Simpler ratios are more similar to the harmonic series, and thus are the most consonant. The major scale is very consonant because it has the most consonant intervals with the tonic note, with the exception of the major seventh, which is dissonant. However, as this note is more consonant with the third than the minor seventh, it is used, since the third must be present in the tonic chord. The major seventh is also useful as a leading tone. If you examine the scale intervals, it is very easy to determine which are more dissonant. These dissonances exist between any and all scale degrees, however the most important ones exist with the tonic, followed by the mediant and dominant (as they form the tonic triad). Minor scales are more dissonant than major scales, and thus sound minor. People have associated the different dissonances with different emotions, based on how those sounds make them feel.
#14
Quote by Zycho
Music theory is 'how' and not 'why'.


It is why as well. Sure most people don't know the physics behind it, but we know things like why tritone substitution works, or why the harmonic minor is used.
#15
isaac's half right... part of it is that the major series follows the natural overtone set (1 - 1 - 5 - 1 - 3, above any fundamental pitch). Another reason the major scale sounds happy is because of its natural tendency to ascend, and the lift given by 6-7-1 (scale degrees, and 2-3-4 to some extent, in the lower tetrachord). On the other hand, when you hear a minor scale go 4 - 5 - b6, where you expect the lift of the major six you get something... lacking, that seems to want to sink back down.

However, he's also half wrong -- that's a very westernized effect. A lot of other cultures don't have that. One of the biggest reasons we hear major as 'happy', and minor as 'sad' is because it's been hammered into us our entire lives, and it's very much what we're use to hearing.

Kudos to the guys mentioning vocal inflection. That's another big part of how different cultures hear melody differently from other cultures. It's natural for the western languages to rise in inflection during a question (leading tone effect), or during excitement. We relate that to the tendency of major to rise; and conversely, we expect minor passages to descend (other emotions, such as hushedness, fear, timidness).
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#16
^^ Ohh yeah. Its the pull to the tonic, which is created by physics, and not by hearing it alot. Its getting late.
#17
^ The 7th isn't in the overtone series. Sorry, that's not a natural effect.
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#18
wait.. isn't the major and minor scale the exact same scale just starting from different notes? im sure that the minor scale starts of the 6th (maybe 7th im not 100% sure) of a major scale. eg C major is also A minor (or B minor if it is the 7th).

so that would really mean that its the note that comes after the one before it that makes it feel happy or sad, not the scale.
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#19
Quote by Corwinoid
^ The 7th isn't in the overtone series. Sorry, that's not a natural effect.


It pulls because its NOT in the overtone series.
#20
Dunjma, that's kind of like if I asked you to do 2*2, so you did 2+2, and got 4. You're getting to the right ideas, but getting to them the wrong way.

The major scale and minor scale are completely different -- especially in regards to tonality. A given major key has a relative natural minor, and those are related tonally because they share the same pitches... but they should be viewed as different scales, and very different keys. So, while C and Am are related, they shouldn't be seen as the same at all.

In regards to how successive notes affect each other... it's not that simple. If you assume a melody without any harmony, or maybe two voices, then the effect of sequential notes is determined partly by their relationship (and the expected relationship -- which is major, or lydian), and partly by the melodic shape. That's far outside of anything I want to discuss in this thread... the point is that you've come to the right conclusion, but with the wrong set of ideas.
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#21
Quote by isaac_bandits
It pulls because its NOT in the overtone series.

You'd like to explain how there's a physical relationship then, and not that it's a psychoacoustic effect?

Ed: I mean, don't get me wrong. I'd like to believe you're not pulling **** out of your ass. But it's really really hard not to be completely ****ing sarcastic when what you're saying is "Physics explains this because there's no physical relationship between these notes." It just doesn't even make sense.
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Last edited by Corwinoid at Apr 26, 2008,
#22
Quote by Corwinoid
You'd like to explain how there's a physical relationship then, and not that it's a psychoacoustic effect?

Ed: I mean, don't get me wrong. I'd like to believe you're not pulling **** out of your ass. But it's really really hard not to be completely ****ing sarcastic when what you're saying is "Physics explains this because there's no physical relationship between these notes." It just doesn't even make sense.


I can explain it. The leading tone is the most dissonant note in the scale, as it forms a tritone with the fourth, and a semitone with the root. This makes it highly unstable, it needs to move somewhere. The best place for it to move is to a stable chord, that being the tonic. The tonic is stable, because it has only stable scale degrees. The stable scale degrees are stable because they do not form a tritone interval with any other scale tone. This is important, as the tritone is the only irrational interval, thus the only interval, which the two frequencies will never align. Since consonances are created when the two frequencies align well with each other, and the tritone's frequencies never do (well in theory they never do, but imperfect intonation means that they usually do a little bit, but not very well) it is very unstable. Its instability requires that it move somewhere stable, but if there are no chord tones, which have a tritone relationship with another scale tone, the chord will be consonant. Now the V7 chord, as you know, has a tritone between the third and the seventh, which needs to resolve. It just so happens that there is a scale tone one semitone away from each of them, which is very consonant. Since those notes are the closest available consonances, that is where the pull is to, thus the leading tone pulls to the tonic, and the subdominant pulls to the mediant.

If you analyze a major scale, you'll find a tritone between 4 and 7. Taking these away, we have 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 as the remaining scale degrees. The second degree cannot form a triad, since it requires either the fourth or seventh degree, in any triad. We are left with 6, 1, 3, and 5. Which, you might notice can form the vi and I triads. Both of these are stable, however, the I is more stable. This is for two reasons, firstly it is major, which is a more consonant chord, than the minor. Secondly, both the root and third of the chord have a strong pull to them from the 4/7 tritone, whereas the minor has those intervals as the third and fifth. Since both have the third, we compare root of I with fifth of vi. Since the root is much more vital to a chord than the fifth, the tonic is the most stable interval.

You can try this out with harmonic minor, and harmonic major, and they both have a strong pull to the tonic for these reasons.
#23
I think it's very clear that I already understand the music theory of how tritones want to resolve. Thanks for that.

Explain it with physics, or stop wasting my time.

Some helpful hints here:
1) Psychoacoustics is the study of how the brain perceives sound.
2) Physics doesn't describe perception
3) I understand the physics also, so be sure you get it right (I won't hesitate to point out mistakes)
4) Many cultures don't find the tritone as needing a strong resolution -- this, incidentally, includes most western cultures after the 1920's or so.

Furthermore, a tempered scale (what you're familiar with) doesn't use fractional justification, it's an exponentiated subdivision. AND in a just scale, which you just described, the tritone -is- rational, it's just the least related to the fundamental. (you do understand what rational and irrational numbers are? I can explain that too if you're not completely sure, because, I mean... let's not keep screwing the pooch here, you're supposed to be the math nerd). Yes, I understand tempering a scale also.

Finally -- the tritone's relationship to the other notes in the scale has jack all to do with what phase of the moon my ass is in, or anything else you want to think it does. It's a symmetrical interval; you can resolve it the other way (to completely non-scalar tones), and it sounds equally as good. In fact, that's an incredibly common method of modulation, and it has been for about 500 years.

I don't know why you're giving me half assed, wildly incorrect explanations of your hypotheses here. I mean, I have a higher degree in the field, and I'm well versed in the physics, math, and theory of it all. I'm pretty sure I have a working grasp on psychoacoustics also... that's kind of related to the entire "Hey, I write music for a living" thing.

So, instead of giving some hair brained half thought out ideas, why don't you provide some actual physics to back up this argument. You know, that branch of science that describes forces, and the interactions of objects, and, well, other physical things, and is largely mathematically based. (I minored in math, so don't be scurred to let me have it.)

I mean, I could be wrong here... but the last time I checked "physics" and "how the brain interprets X" never belong in the same discussion as each other.
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#24
i have no idea but someone mentioned tritones as the devils chord...whats a tritone?

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#25
^ An interval of six semitones (three whole tones... three tones... tritone. I'm not being condescending), a diminished fifth, or an augmented fourth... eg. C - Gb. Its generally regarded as a dissonance, and unstable interval.

And yes, I'm aware I said otherwise one post before this.
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#26
Well, I think we're just attributing these emotions due to past experiences. That desert experience, for example, is perhaps the result of someone watching a film in which lies a desert scene with that music. And in the future, we attribute similar styles with that image.

Or we just have really complex patterns in our brain which allow us to collectively assume the same emotions from various musical arrangements.
#27
I'm too hungover to have anything constructive to add to this thread, but it was a really interesting read and you can be sure I'll be checking back :]
#28
Quote by kthxbi
I'm too hungover to have anything constructive to add to this thread, but it was a really interesting read and you can be sure I'll be checking back :]

Haha, I'm still feeling a bit groggy from last night myself. Though it was mostly the hash...
#29
Quote by Corwinoid
Furthermore, a tempered scale (what you're familiar with) doesn't use fractional justification, it's an exponentiated subdivision. AND in a just scale, which you just described, the tritone -is- rational, it's just the least related to the fundamental. (you do understand what rational and irrational numbers are? I can explain that too if you're not completely sure, because, I mean... let's not keep screwing the pooch here, you're supposed to be the math nerd). Yes, I understand tempering a scale also.


I think your pulling this "tritone is rational" "**** out of your ass"

A tritone is irrational. I know what an irrational number is. It is a number which cannot be represented as a fraction. An irrational ratio, is a ratio involving one irrational number. Just intonation requires that all 12 notes of the chromatic scale be evenly spaced. Thus we can use the exponential formula to determine any frequency of a note. Since an octave is 12 notes, and twice the frequency, and we know it uses a common ratio, rather than a common difference, so that the notes will sound evenly spaced, we can come up with the following formula:

(frequency of pitch 2) = (frequency of pitch 1) * (2^((difference in semitones between pitch one and two)/12))

I will condense it into function notation, for notes relating to A440, to get:

f(x) = 440(2^(x/12))

Now we can substitute 6 for x to find out the exact pitch, in terms of Hz of a justly intonated Eb, when A=440Hz.

f(x) = 440(2^(x/12))
f(6) = 440(2^(6/12))
f(6) = 440(2^(1/2))

As you can see, we have the irrational number of 440(2^(1/2)).

Now back up your claims that a tritone is rational with some math, please.
#30
at the risk of sounding really stupid (i can take that on the chin ), in equal temperament can every interval not be expressed as a certain amount of 12ths?

a major 3rd - 4 frets - 4/12 = 1/3
5th - 7 frets = 7/12
tritone - 6 frets = 6/12 = 1/2

no?
probably not.
#31
Quote by branny1982
at the risk of sounding really stupid (i can take that on the chin ), in equal temperament can every interval not be expressed as a certain amount of 12ths?

a major 3rd - 4 frets - 4/12 = 1/3
5th - 7 frets = 7/12
tritone - 6 frets = 6/12 = 1/2

no?
probably not.


Yeah, but it's not a straight relationship like that. Isaac has the formula used in his post.

The reason you can't do that is because then the interval between the nut and the first fret wouldn't be the same as that from the first to the second, since the distance between the nut and the first fret would be a smaller percentage of the total distance of the string than the other one.

Edit: and to Isaac, using equal temperament, all intervals are irrational numbers, except for the octave. 2^(1/12), 2^(1/6), 2^(1/4), 2^(1/3), 2^(5/12), 2^(1/2), 2^(7/12), 2^(2/3), 2^(3/4), 2^(5/6), and 2^(11/12) all are irrational numbers. The only one that comes out to a rational value is 2^(12/12) which is the same as 2^1, or just 2.
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Last edited by seedmole at Apr 26, 2008,
#32
Quote by seedmole
Yeah, but it's not a straight relationship like that. Isaac has the formula used in his post.

The reason you can't do that is because then the interval between the nut and the first fret wouldn't be the same as that from the first to the second, since the distance between the nut and the first fret would be a smaller percentage of the total distance of the string than the other one.

Edit: and to Isaac, using equal temperament, all intervals are irrational numbers, except for the octave. 2^(1/12), 2^(1/6), 2^(1/4), 2^(1/3), 2^(5/12), 2^(1/2), 2^(7/12), 2^(2/3), 2^(3/4), 2^(5/6), and 2^(11/12) all are irrational numbers. The only one that comes out to a rational value is 2^(12/12) which is the same as 2^1, or just 2.


Yeah, thats correct. However, most of the time a fifth is considered 3:2, a fourth 4:3 etc... Its only the tritone, which is intended to be dissonant that should be expressed as (2^(1/2)):1 which should be expressed irrational, others are usually just rounded to the nearest simple fraction. Also, it is impossible to play a justly intonated tritone as irrational, because our instruments do not allow for that level of precision.
#33
Perhaps there are some evolutionary reasons behind it all. I suppose if you look at quite gentle relaxed speech the sound is quite pure and 'sine wavey' in nature. Then when people shout, as they might do if some beast is about to munch them, the waves are jaged. As far as the physics goes with major and minor chords and scales I don't know. I guess it's got alot to do with how we are 'taught' to percieve music too. Music in other cultures is very different and that's quite an interesting subject to look into aswell. But who really knows?!
#34
Quote by Archaon
Haha, I'm still feeling a bit groggy from last night myself. Though it was mostly the hash...

My brother was in amsterdam recently and he said the draw he had there didn't give him ANY kind of comedown at all, he woke up feeling fresh the next day.
Tells chapters about the purity of everywhere else, dunnit?
#35
Quote by isaac_bandits
Yeah, thats correct. However, most of the time a fifth is considered 3:2, a fourth 4:3 etc... Its only the tritone, which is intended to be dissonant that should be expressed as (2^(1/2)):1 which should be expressed irrational, others are usually just rounded to the nearest simple fraction. Also, it is impossible to play a justly intonated tritone as irrational, because our instruments do not allow for that level of precision.

This is utter bull****. If I had more than 3 minutes I'd do more than dismiss it out of hand, but I have a stage call in half an our. There's not a single thing in this post that's accurate.

Anybody who's curious and has half a brain can google equal temper and just tuning.

Isaac, please, stop mixing the two.
Quote by les_kris
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#36
Quote by kthxbi
My brother was in amsterdam recently and he said the draw he had there didn't give him ANY kind of comedown at all, he woke up feeling fresh the next day.
Tells chapters about the purity of everywhere else, dunnit?

Haha, it really does. But I suppose the lack of sleep contributed to my grogginess as well.

Sorry for going off topic, gents.
#37
I usually agree with what Isaac has to say, but here, Corwinoid is right.

If you're gonna say that the tritone is 2^(1/2):1, then you have to call a perfect fourth 2^(5/12):1 and a perfect fifth 2^(7/12):1. You can't pick and choose which definitions of intervals to use.

And of course you can't actually play an interval that is truly irrational. It is quite literally impossible to make anything that precise, as it would have to be accurate to within the planck length to be able to be considered irrational.

While physics does clearly demonstrate that the tritone interval is unstable, as evidenced by the fact that the beat frequency caused by it and the tonic is so awkward, physics is not what makes it resolve. That is just a man-made convention in western music. If physics were responsible, then why would there be situations when people say that a b5 wants to resolve downward, while a #4 wants to resolves upward, despite the fact that (in equal temperament, which is what we're talking about here) they are the same note?
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#38
Quote by seedmole
Yeah, but it's not a straight relationship like that. Isaac has the formula used in his post.

The reason you can't do that is because then the interval between the nut and the first fret wouldn't be the same as that from the first to the second, since the distance between the nut and the first fret would be a smaller percentage of the total distance of the string than the other one.

i still don't understand.
the distance between the nut and the first fret is 1/12 of an octave.
the distance between any fret and the one next to it (minor second) is 1/12 of an octave.

just so you know, i am neither trying to say i'm right or trying to say you're wrong.... i just want to understand
#39
Quote by branny1982
i still don't understand.
the distance between the nut and the first fret is 1/12 of an octave.
the distance between any fret and the one next to it (minor second) is 1/12 of an octave.

just so you know, i am neither trying to say i'm right or trying to say you're wrong.... i just want to understand


Yeah, it is one twelfth in terms of semitones, but not in actual distance. The exact percent between any fret and one fret away from it would be 2^(1/12), or about 5.94%. That number holds true for any two neighboring frets, regardless of where they are on the neck.

Edit: Lemme clarify what I meant by "5.94%"

Let's say you play a note at any fret on the neck. Measure the distance from that fret to the bridge, and we'll say that distance is equal to one. If you move one fret closer to the nut, and measure that distance, it would be equal to about 1.0594. In order to get the number it would be if you moved one fret closer to the bridge, you just need to divide 1 by the number 1.0594, and you will get your measurement.

I hope this clears it up for you.
Strat / SH-201 -> DOD Mixer -> ZVex Mastotron -> Fulltone Clyde -> BYOC OD II -> Ibanez FLL -> VS Chorus -> DOD FX 96 -> Boss DD-6 -> MXR 10-Band EQ -> Boss RC-2 -> Stereo Mixer -> Alesis PicoVerb -> Peavey Delta Blues 210/Yamaha Fifty112
Last edited by seedmole at Apr 26, 2008,
#40
I think its just the music we've been exposed to all our lives. Western music clearly defines major as happy and minor as sad, but if you listen to some other cultures music, like oriental, its completely different. Now granted I dont know all that much about other cultures, but you can just listen to it and tell thats its different, based off of something else. Theyre used to hearing it, and know what to listen for. They probably listen to Western music and think its the weirdest thing ever.

Or it could be opposite of that and they feel the emotion tied with certain chords just because its human nature to hear like that.

Damn, that one sentence pretty much took away my argument. We should ask a foreigner what he thinks of our music. Then we'd be able to figure it out.
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