Last week, NPR published a great article and podcast showcasing this very experiment, which just goes to show how simple changes in a musical score can result in a completely contrasting experience for the listener. We’ve explored the different “characters” of key signatures and how to learn music theory through colors, but this is a prime example of a shift that even listeners without any music theory training can understand. Most songs have some essence of “happy” or “sad,” and quite often, one of the underlying reasons is whether the song is in a major or minor key.
Click here to read the article or listen to the podcast below. You’ll hear snippets from reworked versions of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Summertime,” the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)” and “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. Pretty eerie, right?
So what does this mean for songwriters and composers? The power is all yours! As you’re writing, think about the response you want your listeners to have. What are the emotions behind the song that you’re hoping to influence? Craft your chords carefully, and consider how your lyrics correlate with the sound. Most of all – experiment! One simple key change can be the difference between a so-so tune and a chart-topper. A little tweak here and there, and you might find yourself with your next hit song!
- Suzy S., TakeLessons staff member and blogger
Photo by dno1967b