Welcome!
Just a few a ground rules first...

Promotion, advertising and link building is not permitted.

If you are keen to learn, get to grips with something with the willing help of one of the net's original musician forums
or possess a genuine willingness to contribute knowledge - you've come to the right place!

Register >

- Close -
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 36

Thread: Associations to Minor/Major tonalities

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    660

    Question Associations to Minor/Major tonalities

    I really feel I am on the appropriate forum for this one (warning; weird question follows):

    When hearing a major scale, most people associate upbeat feelings to it. The same way, most people attach melancholy or sorrow to minor scales.

    When hearing a diminished fifth interval, one tends to think of it as rather unstable.

    Whole tone/Lydian (etc.) scales is related to dreamy topics.

    Now, WHO decided that the mentioned associations go with the given scales/sounds/tonalities? When was it agreed that: "Yes, this type of sound is associated with happiness, because..." - What is it that makes it happy?

    I know this is an extremely mental question, and I'll see if it gets any replies. I might return with more accurate information/specified questions soon. I just find the subject quite interesting. WHO said that "this scale suits (insert 'state of mind' here)"? Why isn't diminished intervals considered "upbeat"?

    Very strange question - I know, I know - but I have thought about this several times.
    Last edited by Apple-Joe; 11-02-2005 at 03:31 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered Crutmauler
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Posts
    255
    The Church perhaps?

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    660
    Well, perhaps. I am the one who's asking.

  4. #4
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Posts
    6,060
    Conditioning. It has developed over many many years.
    Thatīs why some music from other parts of the world might sound really weird to someone who is only used to "western music". I mean, there are countries that have differently temperatured scales, or simply have grown used to a different "mother scale".
    I guess if you wanna go back to where the association "major-happy" started... that must have been a long time ago, and I am sure that there was no "major scale" really, back then.
    People used to sing or hum, and I guess one scale became most popular, and maybe then, the associations with it started.
    I remember reading an article in ( donīt laugh ) a magazine about flutes, and that article said that there was an ancient flute, several thousand years old, found somewhere in todays Europe.
    I donīt remember which notes you could play with it, but as far as I know, they were notes from the F major scale. Not all of them, but most of them. While I was reading, I picked up the guitar and improvised a few melodies with those selected notes. Quite interesting.
    Another thing I once discussed with a friend of mine was: what if you found someone from a tropical island, like a tribesman, who had listened only to the music of his people, using intervals that would be weird to us ( imagine theyīd use the tritone a lot, for example. Or chromatic passages. )
    What would such a person feel when heīd hear a real typical, simple, major-melody. Or a simple pop song based on the major scale

    Or...imagine youīd have someone who never ever heard music ( I guess thats impossible to accomplish, because most likely, at some point that person would have created his own music by humming or something ), and let him listen to music from, say, iran, then some pop from Europe, then some japanese stuff... which would he like, which would sound "familiar" to him ?
    Questions, o so many questions...
    Eric

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    660
    Yes. The core is really why certain sounds are associated with special moods. How it all started.

  6. #6
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Posts
    6,060
    Hmmm... I pretty much doubt there is documentation about that as I think itīs really far back in the past and I am sure it really took a long time to develop...
    Interesting thread though
    Eric

  7. #7
    Mode Rator Zatz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Posts
    1,345
    Some studies on psychoacoustics must deal with this subject. Perception of music is based on human anatomy (resonance inside ear), nature of sound (spectrum - overtones pattern associated with timbre) and mental perculiarities of a listener. The latter pretty much depend on cultural environment. All these factors combined result in evoking subjective mood.

    As to overtones series - there's an interesting experiment: you can sing the same note (pitch doesn't matter) both sadly and merrily by changing its phonetics which leads to altering its spectrum. I have a stupid key pipe melodica that sounds happily whatever you play on it (maybe due to strong first overtones). Another example - computer generated pure sine wave notes sound very empty even in the context of a harmony.

    Also, rhythm plays a great role. Whatever the scale, melody or harmony you can make a mockery of a very sad song by playing it fast, clapping your hands like mad, chuckling in between the notes and ringing a cow bell.

    And of course, the most complex images are constructed when all the components of musical texture are in action.

    Dissertation? Anyone?
    Zadd9 -> A6 -> T#9b5 -> Zmaj7

  8. #8
    Modbod UKRuss's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Funky Munky World
    Posts
    3,904
    No need, Zatzdude. You know your stuff. That was nice postin'!

  9. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    660
    Yes, very interesting post by Zatz there. However, I have a feeling it'll be more or less impossible to answer my question at any rate.

    Perhaps one may manipulate originally sad songs into happier pieces, that's fine. But how did each tonality get its associations anyway? The question is really annoying.
    Last edited by Apple-Joe; 11-03-2005 at 01:17 PM.

  10. #10
    Registered User tara_bara's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    adelaide, australia
    Posts
    153
    maybe its a mixture of conditioning and pshycoaccoustics!!!
    ahhhh.....id say that it started years back (ha sorry bout my rash generalizations- not meant to be "wasting time"!!!) with the church and word painting etc, lots of people just kindof thought of all these crazy ideas and they all just accumulated into this 'language' if you like...
    just an idea!!!
    dunno if you will ever find a real answer tho....
    doctors examined my head, and found nothing.... surprise surprise!!
    -t

  11. #11
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    1,123
    well, back in my journey towards trying to learn perfect pitch I tried to talk to as many people that had aquired this skill over their lifetime and all of them said the same things about the same notes: F# is bright and twangy, Eb is soft and mellow, etc etc. Nobody heard them any differently...of course we're just talking about 12 tone systems, seeing as this can't be applied to any of the people from India that absolutely blow my mind with stuff I know I'll never begin to comprehend.

    This same principle can be said in regards to certain keys. I can't here keys as a whole, but apparently Eb major is a very rustic sounding key. If I remember correctly Beethoven called B minor his black key...and of course we all know that D minor is the saddest key of them all. Seeing as we are dealing with very abstract principles I don't have any problem saying that these are pretty much absolutes...everyone hears them the same, whether they want to or not. If you don't believe me you can certainly test them yourself. I once had a teacher say to me something along the lines of "be careful when you transpose because if you take an Ellington piece and put it in some weird key, it may not really sound like an Ellington piece anymore, melody and chords are the same, but something's a bit different."

    So, in my oppinion, if certain notes and keys as a whole have certain textures it pretty much goes without say that everyone who grew up with the same 12 tone system pretty much all hear a major scale the same way...Ok, let's not get TOO philosophical with that statement, and whether anything two people experience is really the same. Maybe it's instinct bread into us, or maybe it's some kind of absolute, but no matter who you are, a minor second certainly doesnt have the open dry sound that a perfect 5th does. Why does everyone naturally harmonize in 3rds and 6ths regardless of whether they know what they are doing, rather then in 2nds and 7ths? I'd say because we all hear a natural harmony line pretty much the same as everyone else.

    as for the phonetics bit, that is very interesting. I realized a couple weeks ago that when I sing a major scale I stress the 'ee' of three, where as if I take the same note, say F, and make it the b3rd of d minor, I automatically soften the 'ee' sound of three when I sing a b3rd and the whole note changes colour even though it's still an F.
    Last edited by silent-storm; 11-04-2005 at 03:43 AM.

  12. #12
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    660
    Quote Originally Posted by silent-storm
    Maybe it's instinct bread into us, or maybe it's some kind of absolute, but no matter who you are, a minor second certainly doesnt have the open dry sound that a perfect 5th does. Why does everyone naturally harmonize in 3rds and 6ths regardless of whether they know what they are doing, rather then in 2nds and 7ths? I'd say because we all hear a natural harmony line pretty much the same as everyone else.
    Yes, and why did we start noticing the "natural harmony"? Why did we think of exactly -it- as good sounding?

  13. #13
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Posts
    6,060
    Talked about it last night with a friend whoīs a music teacher as well. She pointed out that little kids often react to intervals etc. differently. And it reminded me that I made similar experiences.
    I have some very young students, and I teach them intervals... memorizing the sound of them by having them associate them with melodies they know.
    And at some point, I show them intervals like the tritone or a minor second ( playing both a note and the minor second of it simultaneously ). IMO, most of them ( all of them ? ) react to them differently than older students do.
    For example, I played a series of major chords for a student, and then I ended that by playing a diminished chord. I asked him whether anything stood out to him. He said he didnīt notice anything. So I played the diminished chord to him and asked him to describe it. He said it sounded a bit different than the major chords. I asked whether it sounded unpleasant or weird to him, and he said it didnīt.
    So I played a long melody using the major scale, focussing on a pleasant, major-y sound. And ended it by ending on the tritone of the root. No reaction at all... ( where older students, and I mean older, not better... could be older students during their first lesson, would go "Yikes" or "That note was wrong ) so I wonder whether the conditioning I mentioned isnīt a rather important aspect...
    Eric

  14. #14
    Registered User Madaxeman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Montana
    Posts
    544
    This is a good thread. I am going to guess, in our modern age of TV, movies, and radio, etc...that we hear music so often in so many places, that norms have become standardized and heavilly reinforced. Horror movies use disonant tones and minor keys, and dramatic moments use pretty cliche tones to create an effect. Maybe it is a "which came first...the chicken or the egg question" as in, did the tones naturally create this feeling, or did we gradually reinforce them throughout society because they were used a certain way repeatedly. Some of the earliest civilizations used music for rituals and spiritual ceremonies. Each group of people no doubt built upon what they experienced from other cultures that were integrated or conquered, so I suppose it grew from there.
    Just another morbid thought...would a C major sound happy if you listened to it while watching an execution?

  15. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    660
    OK - great, let the discussion continue. Very interesting reading.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •