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djbabyboi
09-09-2011, 09:58 AM
Hello, all, i was wondering if any of you know if there is a guide that we can refer to that can describe a feeling by its chord?

for example:
I major = happy
II minor = sad

i'm composing a film score but i'm trying to write a suspenseful cue and I was hoping I could find a chart that would help guide me. any input is appreciated!

JonR
09-09-2011, 12:59 PM
Hello, all, i was wondering if any of you know if there is a guide that we can refer to that can describe a feeling by its chord?

for example:
I major = happy
II minor = sad

i'm composing a film score but i'm trying to write a suspenseful cue and I was hoping I could find a chart that would help guide me. any input is appreciated!Here's mine.

Bear two things in mind:

1. A lot of the following may be subjective. I think broadly most people brought up with western music will have similar responses, but details - the precise words chosen to describe the effects - will differ. Some will experience them as weaker or stronger, or may feel nothing at all. But I doubt many would claim to get opposite effects to these.

2. These are the effects of single chords in isolation. Music almost never has single chords in isolation. They are always coloured by context, which creates expectations (because of our familiarity with common changes).
Also, harmony is only ONE aspect of the emotional effect of music. You may achieve much stronger effects (over-riding these) by the use of tempo, timbre (instrumental tone), dynamics, orchestration (choice of instruments), arrangement (chord voicing, which instrument does what), rhythm, effects such as reverb, etc etc.

Anyway, that would require a book!... Here's a brief sketch of how I see individual chords.

Maj triad
Neutral, but also strong, simple, positive, sturdy, clear. The most no-nonsense ending to a piece, the period at rhe end of the last sentence of the book. Not necessarily "happy", except in a context where we might expect a minor chord (like the "tierce de picardy" ending, which is like the sun coming out). But never sad.

Min triad
Dark, moody. Not necessarily "sad" - other factors (see above) can determine whether its moodiness is miserable, reflective, or intensely energetic. (Eg, the James Bond theme - see below - is in a minor key. Is that sad? Is Hava Nagila sad?)

Maj7
Wisftul, nostalgic. A strong and obvious effect (IMO). Classic ballad chord, cheesy if overdone. Open and airy; not necessarily sad, but definitely sighing...

Dom7
The classical tension chord. In conventional (old-fashioned) music, strongly suggests a following chord. Like a question with only one answer, demands that answer. But in modern music (thanks partly to blues), its tension can be felt as a groovy funkiness, a quizzical, streetwise smirk. If you end a tune on a dom7, it's like a big wink "what, you want an ending?? that's NOT all, folks..."
Its central interval - the "engine" of the tension - is the tritone, the medieval "diabolus in musica". They couldn't handle its dissonance then, but it's a comfortable part of our culture now. (On its own, the tritone is still stark - think the opening to Purple Haze - but it's softened, civilized, by the other intervals in the chord.)

Min7
A very subtle tension, not at all unbearable. Brighter in feel than a plain minor, it's like a minor (introspective) mood, but with an opening for optimism. "OK, things aren't really too bad, in fact they're kinda cool..."

Maj6
Warm, reassuring, even smug. Like you were a minor chord, and this is a major chord putting its arm around you, saying "hey come on let's have a smile". Trouble with maj6 chords is, they just don't understand....:D (yeah, that's the kind of grin they give you.)
NB: it's the same notes as a min7, in a different inversion. So the two are closely related. The maj6 (obviously because of its maj triad basis) has a more positive vibe.

Min6
Mysterious, slightly creepy. End a minor key tune on a min6, and it's like a raised eyebrow "oh, really...you think so, huh?" The James Bond theme ends on one of these, with a maj7 thrown in for good measure - that's a big brash, soup of a chord:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ii1tc493bZM
1:40

Dim7
The classic silent movie melodrama chord: "Oh no, he's tied her to the track!! and there's a train coming!!!" (yep this chord is all italics and exclamation marks.) Probably even more recognisable as a sound than the maj7. Everyone knows what a dim7 signifies.

Half-dim (m7b5)
Hard one to call, this. It's the same notes as a min6, but in a different inversion, the choice of root note making it less stable. So certainly mysterious, and unresolved - but not as in-your-face melodramatic as the dim7. When Wagner opened Tristan and Isolde with one of those, it caused outrage. It wasn't an unknown harmony, but he didn't use it properly; he audaciously didn't resolve it the way you were supposed to. It was so notorious (and ultimately influential) it became known as the "Tristan chord". To Wagner, it signified tragedy, dark fate, a restless romantic dissonance that can never be solved; a story that can have no happy ending.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twpGOE44K0Q - he plays it at 0:40. To us - as he goes on to explain - its a lot milder, even benign. It gets used in jazz all the time as a subdominant.

NB: dom7, dim7, m6, m7b5, all have the tritone in common. That gives them their restlessness. But the other intervals in the chord soften and colour the tritone in different ways. The dim7 is most tense because it contains two overlapping tritones equally balanced - that's what gives it its "on tenterhooks" feel. Its symmetry means it could resolve in any direction, so we don't know which way to turn - panic! The fact it's also stacked minor 3rds only softens it a little.

Sus4
In classical music, a definite tension that must be resolved (we expect the 4 to come down to the 3 of a maj triad and make everything OK). However, because it lacks the tritone of the dom7 (and others), it doesn't have the same restlessness, the same "itch". IOW, it's tension depends largely on its context - what comes before.
In modern music, this chord is commonly removed from its classical context, so we can enjoy its ambiguity, its open-ended nature, for its own sake. Listen to the chords in this:
http://www.youtube.com/results?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwmRQ0PBtXU
Every one is a 7sus4, and they shine with bright expectation. It's the expectation not of disaster, nor of final resolution, but of a promising future, where we don't know what will happen, but we don't mind. We almost can't wait. "Maiden voyage" is perfectly titled in that respect: setting out we know not where, let's just drift and see where we end up...
Also this famous opening chord of course:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD4TAgdS_Xw
- slightly more complicated than a 7sus4, with a 9 as well, which just ups the tension. But still brightly positive, almost unbearably so. This is a "maiden voyage" on a speedboat, with a bunch of teenagers at the wheel... woo-hoo!

(Maj)add9
Poignant, bittersweet. Related to the maj7, but where the maj7 sighs "ah, those were the days...", the add9 says "oh, if only...."

Min(add9)
As above, but on top of the darkness of minor. The saddest chord there is. The Yardbirds knew this, as demonstrated here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9g5cPHNT9M
You get the darkness of the E minor key fully milked by the deep Gregorian chant-style vocal, and the cavernous cathedral reverb. It goes to major after a while, but then at 0:40, you get that chord: Emadd9.
Man, his girl hasn't just left him. She's DEAD, probably from plague or something... Everyone's wearing black cloaks and hoods, it's midnight in a foggy December, and the chord is a funeral bell. "None more black" ( Nigel Tufnel)
Just think how it would sound if they didn't actually resolve that 9th down to the tonic... "No-o-o-o-o-!...".:eek:

BTW, as an example of the power of the add9, try this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH_YbBHVF4g
Every chord here (major and minor) has an added 9th. The poignant yearning becomes the sound of the relentless stalker. IOW, he has a genuine yearning, but its constant circular repetition is a sign of claustrophobic obsession.
Of course, that's underlined by the pounding rhythm, like someone drumming fingers impatiently, or grimly walking the streets. He's not going to let it go...

As far as I can think right now, all other chord types are versions of one of the above, either extending them with other extensions (enhancing the effect), or maybe increasing dissonance with alterations.
Of course, many of the above are kind of versions of each other anyway. Voicing can make quite a difference, even to the same inversion of a chord. A close-voiced chord is more focussed, denser than an open one. Wide spacing of notes (obviously) separates the individual voices more. Close-voicing tends to sound warmer, while open voicing can be sweeter - although the further apart the tones get, the more dramatic the separation will sound, because we imagne human oices at the extremes of their range.

But - as I said at the beginning - the film composer needs to be adept at the arts of orchestration and arrangement too. The chords are really a tiny element in the overall thing.

djbabyboi
09-10-2011, 04:38 PM
Thanks for that thorough reply! I will have to refer back to this message. Also, one more question. Do you know A good technique for using chords outside of the scale? (I don't know what its called). For example, in the key of c: going from c maj, f maj, g maj, emaj/g#, a min. That's the only time I know to use e major in that reference, is there a formula I can follow to play chords outside of the scale?

JonR
09-10-2011, 09:13 PM
Thanks for that thorough reply! I will have to refer back to this message. Also, one more question. Do you know A good technique for using chords outside of the scale? (I don't know what its called). For example, in the key of c: going from c maj, f maj, g maj, emaj/g#, a min. That's the only time I know to use e major in that reference, is there a formula I can follow to play chords outside of the scale?There's two basic "practices", shall we say.

1. Secondary dominants.
That's what's happening when you use Emajor to go to Am (G# bass or not).
You have the "primary dominant", which is G (in C) - but every chord in the key can have its own dominant.
So Am can have E (or E7); Em can have B(7); Dm can have A(7); G can have D(7); and F can have C7. (C7 is the only one that needs a b7 - it's optional on the others).
In each case, you're creating a leading tone to the root of the diatonic chord (G# up to A, D# up to E, C# up to D, F# up to G.) In the case of C7 you're adding Bb going down to A.

So in a sense it's all just adding chromatic notes to make interesting transitions, usually up to chord roots. As you can see, in 3 cases it involves making the minor chords into major ones.

The effect of these chords is usually to brighten the sequence, and drive changes forward more forcefully. It makes it all a lot more jazzy.

Dominant substitutes (closely related to the above).
Many other chromatic effects turn out to be substitutes for secondary dominants. Basic rule is you can replace any dom7 chord with either:
(a) another dom7 a tritone away (the tritone substitute);
(b) a dim7 rooted on the 3rd of the chord.
Either of these tends to make the sequence even jazzier/bluesier.

In addition, dom7s can often be altered, especially when resolving to a minor chord. (This opens up a whole other can of worms, which I won't go into here.:) Get the hang of plain secondary dominants first.)


2. Modal interchange, commonly known as "borrowing from the parallel minor".
This has a kind of opposite effect to secondary dominants, in that it darkens the sound of the major key, making it heavier or funkier.
So the key of C major can borrow any chord from the key of C minor (apart from Cm, which would just turn the whole key into minor!). That means you can use Eb, Bb, Ab and Fm in C major. Maybe Gm too (tho the usual dominant in C minor is G, same as C major).
Technically modal interchange means you could take chords from C lydian or C phrygian too. (C locrian would be highly unusual). But that only adds D major - which you have as a secondary dominant already - and Db. Db would usually have to resolve to C.

To sum up: extra chords you can use in C major:

Secondary dominants and subs:

D7 (V of G); sub Ab7 or F#dim7
E7 (V of Am); sub Bb7 or G#dim7
A7 (V of Dm): sub Eb7 or C#dim7
B7 (V of Em): sub C7 or D#dim7
C7 (V of F): sub Gb7 or Edim7

And you can use similar subs for G7 too, namely Db7 or Bdim7.

Remember these chords (especially the subs) need to resolve to their target chord. It would sound weird if you just slung them in anywhere. (I mean, "weird" can be "good", but you need to understand the dominant function of these chords first.)
The tritone subs in particular have a strong tendency to move down a half-step to their target. (Eg, if you use Gb7 in key of C, it almost screams to move down to F. You wouldn't normally introduce Gb7 unless that move was what you wanted.)

Borrowed from C minor:
Eb (bIII)
Ab (bVI)
Bb (bVII)
Fm (IVm)

Borrowed from C lydian: D(7). Essentially same as secondary dominant of G.
Borrowed from C phrygian: Db - NB, this is Dbmaj7, so is different from Db7, tritone sub for G7.
(C mixolydian and dorian modes don't give you any additional chords not available in C major or C minor.)

NB: these two strategies are rarely combined in the same song, at least not in the same section of the song.

Michel
09-12-2011, 10:12 PM
Tank's JonR. This is a great help for me to analyse somme Jazz standard. I'm not a composer but this should help me to understand the "Whats going on " when i trie to improvise over some Jazz standard.

So :D what about V7 going to im ? The minor color is the b3 and the b7 but it also have a b6 so the V7 can be altered b2, b3 and b6 to fit the im that is to come. Right ? Did i understand ?

JonR
09-13-2011, 02:25 AM
Tank's JonR. This is a great help for me to analyse somme Jazz standard. I'm not a composer but this should help me to understand the "Whats going on " when i trie to improvise over some Jazz standard.

So :D what about V7 going to im ? The minor color is the b3 and the b7 but it also have a b6 so the V7 can be altered b2, b3 and b6 to fit the im that is to come. Right ? Did i understand ?Yes, something like that.

Eg, if it's G7 going to Cm, you could explain Eb, Bb or Ab extensions on the G7 as reflecting the diatonic C minor scale.
From that perspective, you could hold on to those notes (well the Eb at least) when the Cm appears, as if it's an anticipation of that chord.
But a better viewpoint, IMO, is to see the alterations as tensions suggesting half-step resolutions. Remember the usual scale on a tonic minor chord is melodic minor, giving you consonant 6, maj7 or 9 extensions. So a Cm chord could have A, B or D added. So notes in an altered G7 could pass to notes on a Cm chord as follows:

G7alt chord tone > Cm chord tone/extension
Ab G (5th) or A (6th)
Bb A (6th) or B (maj7)
B C
C#/Db C or D (9th)
D#/Eb D (9th) - or sustained as 3rd.

oolaef
09-16-2011, 12:18 AM
Here's mine.

Bear two things in mind..



Great post!

oolaef
09-16-2011, 03:45 AM
2. Modal interchange, commonly known as "borrowing from the parallel minor".
This has a kind of opposite effect to secondary dominants, in that it darkens the sound of the major key, making it heavier or funkier.
So the key of C major can borrow any chord from the key of C minor (apart from Cm, which would just turn the whole key into minor!). That means you can use Eb, Bb, Ab and Fm in C major. Maybe Gm too (tho the usual dominant in C minor is G, same as C major).
Technically modal interchange means you could take chords from C lydian or C phrygian too. (C locrian would be highly unusual). But that only adds D major - which you have as a secondary dominant already - and Db. Db would usually have to resolve to C.


in what place would you tend to use these? In substitute for the chords neighbouring, (say in e major a bIII (Gmajor) instead of a III (G#minor)) to get the same effect but darker/jazzier?

Another interesting one seems to be doing key shifts in-progression:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9UauaXTXUI&ob=av3e

Verse goes
Emajor (definitely sounding like the root), then Gmajor (at this stage potentially borrowed from Eminor), then moves on to Cmajor and Dmajor7 (the IV and V7 from Gmajor), then this resolves into E again (like a shift from VII back to I in E mixolydian?). Through all this I think it sounds totally natural and not jarring at all - though the E to G definitely has a 'jazzy' sound to it.

JonR
09-17-2011, 12:20 AM
in what place would you tend to use these? In substitute for the chords neighbouring, (say in e major a bIII (Gmajor) instead of a III (G#minor)) to get the same effect but darker/jazzier? Well, it's more rock/blues than jazzy.
G is not really a substitute for G#m in key of E. It shares one note, so it could be an alternative harmonization (of the shared B note), but the effect is really very different.


Another interesting one seems to be doing key shifts in-progression:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9UauaXTXUI&ob=av3e

Verse goes
Emajor (definitely sounding like the root), then Gmajor (at this stage potentially borrowed from Eminor), then moves on to Cmajor and Dmajor7 (the IV and V7 from Gmajor), then this resolves into E again (like a shift from VII back to I in E mixolydian?). Through all this I think it sounds totally natural and not jarring at all - though the E to G definitely has a 'jazzy' sound to it.That's a very good example of the principle, but actually a very untypical kind, because of the gentle acoustic sound and the very "sweet" effect of the occasional 6th and maj7 on the E chord. That makes the G sound more unexpected.
In fact all the chords have 6ths or maj7s added - that's what makes for the "jazzy" sound, IMO.

That's not the normal "rock" type of modal interchange, which tends to go for plain triads (or even power chords for the borrowed chords), and if the tonic chord has a 7th it would a b7.
Eg, this sort of thing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_n_P40sEaM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1J9mzqJXP2Y&feature=fvst

The idea probably derives originally from 60s R&B tunes like these:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ62_JCtqnA - covered by lots of 60s groups including the Stones.
And you can hear a kind of harbinger of heavy rock in these mid-60s soul tunes:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kceiks__PsE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGVGFfj7POA
All three are classic "borrowing from parallel minor".

Willimek
02-21-2013, 02:32 PM
To answer the question, why music can trigger emotions, you should know the Strebetendenz-Theory. It says listening music we identify with a will against the changing of dissonant overtone-intervals. On this way you can derive the emotional colors of musical chords and find the first method to explain, why music touches us emotionally. Many tests have proven that this method works. If you want to read more you should get the essay "Vibrating Molecules and the Secret of their Feelings" by searchin "willimek chords emotions" in google.

Enjoy reading
Bernd Willimek

Willimek
10-15-2013, 03:19 PM
Music and Emotions

The most difficult problem in answering the question of how music creates emotions is likely to be the fact that assignments of musical elements and emotions can never be defined clearly. The solution of this problem is the Theory of Musical Equilibration. It says that music can't convey any emotion at all, but merely volitional processes, with which the music listener identifies. Then in the process of identifying the volitional processes are colored with emotions. The same happens when we watch an exciting film and identify with the volitional processes of our favorite figures. Here, too, just the process of identification generates emotions.

Because this detour of emotions via volitional processes was not detected, also all music psychological and neurological experiments, to answer the question of the origin of the emotions in the music, failed.

But how music can convey volitional processes? These volitional processes have something to do with the phenomena which early music theorists called "lead", "leading tone" or "striving effects". If we reverse this musical phenomena in imagination into its opposite (not the sound wants to change - but I want that the sound stays unchanged), then we have found the contents of will, the music listener identifies with. In practice, everything becomes a bit more complicated, so that even more sophisticated volitional processes can be represented musically.

Further information is available via the free download of the e-book "Music and Emotion - the Research on Musical Equilibration:

www.willimekmusic.de/music-and-emotions.pdf

Enjoy reading

Bernd Willimek

Ken Valentino
11-09-2013, 07:02 AM
I loved the descriptions JohnR. I just feel that sometimes the original question opens a can of worms. "If there is a guide that we can refer to that can describe a feeling by its chord?"

Yes your ear. Done

That being said the whole point is to organize, understand and accurately label sounds. The main bad habit is to mislabel, which happens when the real reference point is not the labeled one.

Color of Music
11-09-2013, 09:49 AM
I loved the descriptions JohnR. I just feel that sometimes the original question opens a can of worms. "If there is a guide that we can refer to that can describe a feeling by its chord?"

Yes your ear. Done

That being said the whole point is to organize, understand and accurately label sounds. The main bad habit is to mislabel, which happens when the real reference point is not the labeled one.

Is this the whole Ear vs. Eye thing or something else? Make no mistake whle the ear can sometimes be wrong, the eye sn't always necessarily right (or perhaps I'm just splitting 'note hairs' here - ie: flags)

Ken Valentino
11-09-2013, 10:23 PM
If a note sounds different then I need to label it different. If a 3 sounds harsh and tense then I don't call it a 3.

totomitak
01-18-2014, 10:08 PM
Hi,
playing is my hobby and I also figure out that chords or combinations create different feelings. Recently several new for me chords amazed me with the feelings they produce.
First one is from a russian child song "Ulybka" - here are the chords: http://www.amdm.ru/akkordi/raznie_pesni/23534/ylibka/ When you play the refrain after Cm comes Fm6 and this sounds freezing cold, lonely, rainy and desperate.
Second one is from Guantanamera: http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/c/celia_cruz/guantanamera_crd.htm
At the end of part one, there are Am7 Bm7 Am7 and they sound just sexy. Later I found the same sequence in music to erotic movies.
I found Dom7 relaxing, pleaseing and satisfying. This is why many songs have it at the end.
Another russian child song - The song of the Red Redinghood from the movie: http://www.gitaristu.ru/accords/letter/rus_k/kim_yulii/pesnya_krasnoi_shapochki has plenly of different chords all put together making wonderful feelings coctail: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkPRSpGmPjU (0:24): G Gmaj7 G6 D9 D Am G5+ B Em G Am C6 Am B7 B5+ B B9- Em Am D7 G