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Relation of modes and chords to genres of music/moods

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Aaron Saunders, Jul 7, 2004.

  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    What are some relations of certain modes to certain moods and genres? I recall at least two threads that discussed sinister sounding chords and how to make a bass sound "evil", etc. but nothing else (I even did a search! Go me!).

    Make your suggestions, with examples please :).

    I'll toss in my bit -- it seems anything minor with proper phrasing can sound very sad, and when played with a "droning" tone (eg, on a fretless or on upright -- especially played arco) can be very "evil" sounding, per se.
  2. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    moved for more responses
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Modal harmony is common in a number of ethnic/folk musics (like Irish, Arabic, etc.). This gives a feeling of mystery as the harmony is unsettled (lacks standard cadences, etc.).

    The use of tritones, especially diminished chords, is often associated with evil. The Church considered the tritone the "devil's interval" back in the Middle Ages and it's use was not allowed! The opening riff of the tune "Black Sabbath" is based on the tritone.

    However, it's not hard and fast. Every dom7 chord contains a tritone (between the major 3rd and minor 7th). We hear that harmony all the time and don't consider it diabolic!!!
  4. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Thanks Tim, I actually thought I was posting in GI -- unfortunately I had about 5 TB windows, all in different forums :confused: .

    Brian, what's the actual tritone in question? I seem to recall something like 1-b5-8 being called the devil-chord or something alone those lines.
  5. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    And don't forget that a style of music cannot be solely judged on note selection. Other important factors like harmony, rhythm, instrumentation and feel can't be discounted. Sometimes I fear that we subscribe to the idea that I'll magically play like this or that if I simply play this or that scale, or with this or that amp, or cable, or effects box, or whatever.
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Wasn't it Nigel Tufnel that said "D minor is the saddest of all keys"?

    sorry that's just bull****. There are plenty of (predominantly) minor key tunes that sound happy and (predominantly) major tunes that sound sad. A creative composer or improvisor can affect emotion by using ANY PART OF THE PALETTE.

    Moronic, idiotic, simplistic, ill-informed...there's a reason that THIS IS SPINAL TAP is funny.
  7. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago

    True enough, but if you WANT to sound sad, going to Dm or Gm is a pretty good place to start.

    Not that it's a drop kick, but there are definitely certain keys that shade a composition toward certain emotions. C major tends to sound straightforward and honest, even childlike. E is raucous and high-spirited. Sharps tend toward a bright outgoing feeling, flats are more subtle and introspective. It's not automatic or failsafe -- of course, it's possible to write a plaintive, lonely, self-pitying tune in A major -- but it's a leaning.

    This whole business of key emotions is kind of like predicting personalities based on where someone lives. For example, New York City residents have a reputation for being tough, hurried, and pitiless (How does a New Yorker give CPR? Leans over the victim and shouts, "GET UP BEFORE YOU F***IN' DIE!"). Of course, there are plenty of New Yorkers who are easygoing and warm, but there's a reason for the stereotype. As Fuqua said, lots of other factors play into making up the whole.
  8. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I entirely agree, and this is a good point. It's also why I stressed phrasing and a specific tone in my example in the first post, because it takes the same umbrella structure -- the minor scale -- onto two very different, very distinctive paths. I was playing around yesterday and got one of the saddest sounding things I've ever played out of a major scale, so that just goes to show...;)

    All of these suggestions are REALLY great, keep 'em coming! :D
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - as has been said - a lot of tunes in minor keys or using minor chords have a very uplifting feel.

    And a lot of the most emotional music for me is ambiguous about whether it is major or minor - so in a lot of Messiaen or Stravinsky's music, you can hear ideas played simultaneously in different keys .

    And how about Scriabin's "mystic" chord - built in fourths? :meh:
  10. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I've heard many people say things alonmg these line, but I just cant hear it!

    I understand it in concept.. each note has a distinct sound, so as you go round the Co'5ths the addition of flat notes in the key will colour a certain way, while the addition sharps will give another type of sound

    I suppose on this basis you should be able ot hear the unique sound of a key from the diatonic II-V-I... but I really cant hear anything as distinct as this myself?!
  11. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    True on the minor thing...I just mentioned it because I find it easier to get a variety of "down" sounds when playing in a minor key. I am, however, unfamiliar with the "mystic" chord, so might you elabourate on this?

    EDIT: Question to anyone in general, what are some scales and chords favoured by flamenco guitarists? A huge part of their sound is definitely from the kind of guitar, etc. but there seems to be a common thread among the note choices they make.
  12. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    A lot of what I think you're hearing in flamenco is the harmonic minor scale, played over the V chord. For example, the scale e-f-g#-a-b-c-d-e is frequently played over the classic E-F progression (DUM digga DUM digga DUM digga dump-dump etc). That f-g# thing has a very distinctive sound, and the scale I just spelled out is really "A" harmonic minor (of which E is the V chord).
  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    From fact-index.com:

    Mystic chord

    Composer and theosophist Alexander Scriabin's so called mystic chord, actually called the synthetic chord by Scriabin, consists of the pitch classes: C, F#, Bb, E, A, D. An augmented fourth, diminished fourth, augmented fourth, and two perfect fourths. It is a quartal hexachord.

    Scriabin used this chord in what George Perle calls a pre-serial manner, producing harmonys, chords, and melodies. However, unlike the twelve tone technique to which Perle refers, Scriabin did not use his synthetic chord as an ordered set.


    Go play this chord on a piano and you will recognize the sound.