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aMusicComposer

Do you believe that different keys have different emotions? Why or why not?

Yes or no?  

6 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you think there are differences between keys?

    • Yes
      2
    • No
      4


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Posted (edited)

I am interested in how different composers choose the keys for their works.

Do you do it based on the instruments (some keys are easier than others)?

Or do you try to write in a variety of keys, just to mix things up?

Or do you believe in the debated 'Key Psychology', where different keys conjure up different moods?

Some examples of this are E-flat major, often regarded as having a noble sound, and F Minor being an extremely sad key.

Do you really think there are differences between keys, or do you think that so long as they use the same basic scale or mode that they are the same?

I'm looking forward to your views on this!

(If you don't have time to write a full response, you can just fill in the poll!)

Edited by aMusicComposer
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I voted no but I have a synesthetic friend who would disagree. In a sense, the keys have different "colors" to me. D-flat major is sea green, F major is sky blue, D is bright red, for example. I don't, however, see these colors as I'm listening to pieces as they play—even "simple" pieces use so many chords that it would look like fireworks in my head. I think the colors have come about because of a visual association with a sentinel piece in that particular key. Fun to think about but not practically useful at all.

Choosing the home key (for me) depends largely on the instruments and their ranges. I can evoke any feeling or emotion using any key, so I don't buy into the key psychology stuff. Not saying it isn't true—it's just not true for me. I often modulate in unexpected ways in most of my pieces (some longer works can go through a dozen key changes) but generally find my way back to the home key. I find that how the different keys relate to one another is the most important factor in choosing the mood for the work!

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I myself have specific emotional associations with certain keys. I will separate this into a major and minor list.

Major Key Emotions:
 

  • C major - Happy boredom in most conditions
  • G major - Completed a minor task or in general, warm
  • D major - Majestic
  • A major - Bouncy, staccato reinforces it
  • E major - Triumph over something major
  • B major - Dreamy, Figuring out what to do next
  • F# major - Dreamy, Jazzy
  • C# major - Eternal
  • Db major - Dreamy
  • Ab major - Dreamy, Flying and enjoying it
  • Eb major - Sleeping in a field of flowers
  • Bb major - Moonlit night
  • F major - Flowing along a river



Minor Key emotions:
 

  • A minor - Completely neutral key, as if the sadness of D minor and the happiness of C major canceled out, and left this void of a key that is A minor
  • E minor - Lost in a maze
  • B minor - Mountain climbing, Working hard
  • F# minor - Saddest of the sharp minors
  • C# minor - Peaceful evening
  • Ab minor - Mysterious
  • G# minor - So uncommon I don't have an associated emotion unlike with C# major
  • Eb minor - Jazzy, even with a completely regular rhythm
  • Bb minor - Naturally angry, regardless of tempo or dynamic
  • F minor - The Key of Death, Unrelievably sad
  • C minor - Most variable of all the minor keys. Any emotion is easy to get across
  • G minor - If it comes after a dramatic passage, Calming down, Otherwise, variable
  • D minor - A tad sad, Uncertainty

 

The fact that C major sounds to me like happy boredom, along with the fact that a small bit of chromaticism makes me question whether or not it actually is in C major, and that C major is the most common key in all of music, is why I have it as my one and only avoid key. Now all these emotional associations are just from my experience as a pianist. I realize that different instruments playing in the same key can sound completely different in terms of emotion, even if the music that is played is exactly the same.

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It's interesting how @Tónskáld puts it.

9 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

I voted no but I have a synesthetic friend who would disagree. In a sense, the keys have different "colors" to me. D-flat major is sea green, F major is sky blue, D is bright red, for example. I don't, however, see these colors as I'm listening to pieces as they play—even "simple" pieces use so many chords that it would look like fireworks in my head. I think the colors have come about because of a visual association with a sentinel piece in that particular key. Fun to think about but not practically useful at all.

@Tónskáld 

Your main point seems to be that you feel the emotions from a observant perspective, where from playing other pieces in the key you pick up a general mood from them. You also say that the instrumentalists are the main factors in deciding the mood. Do you think that music which modulates often (or even atonal music) would either be full of conflicting emotions, or even void? It's possible that only the main key centre affects the mood.

@caters

You say that each different key has a different mood for you, and you list them all. I would agree with many of the emotions that you have put on the key. Do you think, like Tónskáld, that it is experience of playing pieces that can lead you to define a key with an emotion? 

You also, importantly to the main point of this discussion, say that you avoid certain keys due to the associated mood. If you were to write something in a different key and then transpose it, do yo think it would have a different mood?

 

Thanks for responding.

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I have to see a score in order to see the "color." Just listening to music I've never looked at doesn't bring about any colors. Prime example: I've always loved Rachmaninoff's 4th piano concerto. It's harmonically rich and exotic, with so much uncertainty and rhythmic uneasiness that it keeps you on the edge of your seat. I see and hear so much emotion in that piece, I would guess it's in a "rich" key, like D-flat or E major. I learned just recently that it's in one of the "barest" keys of all: G minor (resolves to G major at the finale).

I did not say (or did not mean to say) that instrumentalists mainly decide the mood. They help me decide the key. As to all the intricacies of emotion in music... who knows? Atonal music does elicit an emotion with me: disgust. But the music that moves me the most are those unresolved chords that crescendo into resolution. The greater the release of tension, the more emotional the passage. And if it modulates to a different key... turn on the waterworks!

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I always think that they do, until I really start thinking about what I'm feeling. Like, in my head I'll modulate Shostakovich's second piano concerto into E-flat or something, but then realize that nothing's really changed, at least in terms of how it was stylistically written, especially if I accept that the new key is "correct".

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My answer is no.

Taking one or another key depends on the instruments to use, and the range or tesitura of the piece (the botom notes in the piano for example).

To my taste, emotions come up because of contrast between tension and rest. Tonal music and functionality is just one way of making that contrast, but there are many other. That's how emotions are peinted in atonality or impressionism, etc... Most times, I find purely tonal music boring.

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On 7/26/2019 at 3:08 AM, aMusicComposer said:

It's interesting how @Tónskáld puts it.

@Tónskáld 

Your main point seems to be that you feel the emotions from a observant perspective, where from playing other pieces in the key you pick up a general mood from them. You also say that the instrumentalists are the main factors in deciding the mood. Do you think that music which modulates often (or even atonal music) would either be full of conflicting emotions, or even void? It's possible that only the main key centre affects the mood.

@caters

You say that each different key has a different mood for you, and you list them all. I would agree with many of the emotions that you have put on the key. Do you think, like Tónskáld, that it is experience of playing pieces that can lead you to define a key with an emotion? 

You also, importantly to the main point of this discussion, say that you avoid certain keys due to the associated mood. If you were to write something in a different key and then transpose it, do yo think it would have a different mood?

 

Thanks for responding.

 

I definitely think that playing pieces is at least part of what lead me to define the emotion for some keys(such as for example the most variable key being C minor) but I also think that my own improvisations are also part of it. For example, when I improvise in F minor, I find that it always sounds very sad, like it is The Key of Death. But when I play for example Piano Sonata in F minor op. 2 no. 1, it doesn't sound sad, rather it sounds dramatic. Chopin's F minor Ballade also doesn't sound sad to me.

And yes, I do experience a change of mood with transposition.

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It's almost impossible to imagine that a person without perfect pitch would be capable of associating different keys with different moods. How would they do it? For my part, I do have perfect pitch, and, as a result, different keys do have sometimes strikingly different qualities to my ear. D minor reminds me of medieval fantasy, for example, and evokes an approximately brownish yellow color, whereas B minor is blue and somewhat dark and imaginative in tone. 

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