DominicX's avatar

Requested by DominicX (28777points)
October 18th, 2009

Clearly, there exceptions, however I’ve all the time puzzled why we affiliate music in a minor key with unhappiness and music in a serious key we affiliate extra with happiness. That is seen in virtually each style of music.

Is it simply because western music has historically hooked up unhappiness and heaviness with minor and we’re used to it? However then why was it hooked up to that within the first place? And why does it proceed? I can’t hearken to a track in a serious key like this and assume “unhappiness”. Simply doesn’t work.

For me, probably the most sentimental sounding songs are those that consistently change between minor and main, reminiscent of “Le Jardin Feerique” by Maurice Ravel.

Simply one thing I used to be serious about.

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20 Replys

aeschylus's avatar

It is a nice query. I can’t wait to listen to what individuals need to say.

aeschylus's avatar

I’ve to agree in regards to the sentimentality of items that change from main to minor. Bach’s first prelude come to thoughts.

loser's avatar

Music evokes emotions. The intervals between notes is what causes this. In case you’ve ever slammed your hand down on a keyboard, you’ll most likely get an disagreeable feeling. The most important scale Is simply brighter. Minor, the notes are considerably nearer collectively, just like the hand on the keyboard, after which even get to interrupt the principles a little bit bit so as to add to that. It’s all of the combining of sounds to create completely different sound waves.

aeschylus's avatar

Music is certainly outlined by movement. One observe sounding doesn’t make a lot of a distinction, however movement from one to the following, from one chord to a different, and contrapuntal movement make an enormous distinction. Maybe the movement of minor keys is considerably completely different in some way. However how?

Why ought to completely different intervals of sound coming from some system (piano, audio system, no matter) create an emotional response in any respect. What about extra minute actions is extra somber?

filmfann's avatar

When a track is in a minor key, we are able to hear that there are lacking notes. We discover the emptyness. It may be simply used for unhappiness, but it surely doesn’t need to be.
Most Steeley Dan songs are in minor keys.

aeschylus's avatar

What do you imply by lacking notes? By that measure, something however a chromatic scale would sound unhappy, together with a serious scale. I like your vacancy idea, however say extra.

ish1212's avatar

It has lots to do with the overtone sequence, which is a scientific phenomenon referring to that which we label “music.”

In brief, at any time when any pitch is sounded quite a lot of pitches sound above that one pitch. A serious chord really consists of the primary 5 of those pitches (if you realize something about music idea, the basis could be the primary sounding pitch adopted by an octave above that, then a fifth above that, then a fourth above that (the basis pitch once more) then a serious third above that.) This relationship defines all of western tonality.

So it’s not that main is glad and minor is unhappy, it’s that main is simply “proper” by all scientific definition whereas minor is simply “much less proper.”

ish1212's avatar

SO, to reply the query, sure it’s largely psychological, however it is usually primarily based closely in acoustic science.

andrew's avatar

@ish1212 And, as ethnomusicologists would additionally level out, western tradition’s relationship to that acoustic science.

judochop's avatar

I’d guess that it’s barely due to sound in transferring footage.

jfos's avatar

I don’t assume it has something to do with Western music or keys’ affiliation to moods in films, exhibits, and so on.

When listening to a serious scale, even when the melody is performed slowly (which is typical of unhappy music), the intervals between the notes create a contented “feeling”. It’s simply pure of happiness to have a brighter outlook.

When listening to a minor scale, even when the notes are performed quickly (which is typical of glad music), the intervals between the notes create a tragic “feeling”. The harmonies made by notes of a minor scale appear to rattle the insides in a heavy, somber vogue.

OpryLeigh's avatar

In my singing classes, at any time when it’s time to be taught a brand new track for a live performance, pageant or examination I all the time ask m singing trainer for one thing in a minor key. I simply choose the sound. It’s grow to be a standing joke between me and my trainer and she or he typically says issues like “you’ll like this as a result of it sounds tragic!!!”.

dpworkin's avatar

They don’t. That’s simply your ethnocentric gloss on the expertise.

DominicX's avatar


Um…properly, they do, to me. And so they do to many individuals. I’m not implying that minor keys have an absolute unquestionable sound of unhappiness that even alien lifeforms would agree with, however they do sound unhappy to me and lots of different individuals.

And I’m not so positive that it’s “simply ethnocentrism” as evidenced by a number of the above replies.

I discovered your remark to be fairly impolite, really; ethnocentrism implies a sense of superiority. In case you can clarify to me how I indicated I felt superior, then I’ll change my thoughts.

I used to be merely asking why it sounds this solution to me and to so many different individuals. Therefore why to start with I stated “there are exceptions”. I really learn and noticed that in Japan, sure wedding ceremony songs are in minor and are used for celebration despite the fact that to us they could sound tragic. The ending of Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Sleeping Magnificence” is in G minor, however it’s a celebration of the wedding. A part of the explanation why I discover that piece so fascinating.

dpworkin's avatar

I meant ethonocentric within the broadest sense: that in our tradition we’re raised to understand these peculiar tonal combos in a selected means. My comment was not meant to point that you are in some way ethnocentric, however that we as listeners to Western music are raised to affiliate mournfulness with the minor keys, which incorporates the concept that these sounds are usually not in some way objectively mournful. I embody myself, as a result of I hear them as you do. I actually didn’t imply to be impolite, and I apologize.

DominicX's avatar


No, it’s superb, it’s simply that “ethnocentric” is often used extra negatively. However that is smart. It was my authentic thought that minor sounds unhappy and main sounds glad just because we’re used to listening to it in Western music and it has been carried out that means for therefore lengthy that it continues to be carried out. Although I do discover the scientific facet and try to elucidate goal “much less proper sounds” (reminiscent of what @ish1212 posted) to be attention-grabbing.

Strauss's avatar

Though most music in Western tradition does observe the norm of main=glad and minor=unhappy, it’s certainly not a cut-and-dried rule. A notable exception is I’m So Lonely I May Cry By Hank Williams (Sr). It’s written in a serious key, but it surely is among the saddest standard songs I’ve ever heard. An instance of the alternative, a contented somg primarily in a minor secret is Comfortable Collectively by The Turtles.

DominicX's avatar


Fascinating examples. I do know that it’s not lower and dried for positive. In classical, you’ve Sleeping Magnificence Finale (a very glad ending and one in all my most favourite endings) and naturally Lucia di Lamermoor which ends in D main and ends with the principle man stabbing himself and falling down the stage lifeless. It’s an attention-grabbing feeling to see the “conflict”.

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Willimek's avatar

if you wish to know, wether minor is unhappy or main is glad, you could distinguish between completely different main and completely different minor chords. A serious chord may be very painful, when the key chord is a secundary dominant. Minor can sound under no circumstances unhappy, however bravely and courageously, when it’s an aeolian minor chord, that you simply typically discover in pop music. If you wish to know extra, you’ll be able to learn the essay “Vibrating Molecules and the Secret of their emotions” by the hyperlink
Bernd Willimek

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