A Quick “Spooky” Music Lesson

Why do certain songs and sounds make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, while others make you want to tap your feet? It’s a fascinating question that opens much debate for music theory lovers. But for the sake of this blog post, we’ll take this simplified stance: In Western music, songs that sound happy or upbeat are usually played in a major key, while songs played in the minor key are more known for eliciting darker feelings of melancholy, sadness, unease, or even fear! Now I want to emphasize the word usually here because this is a generalization that comes with exceptions. I highly recommend you do a little research of your own if you are interested in this particular intersection of music theory and psychology.

How can you tell if a song’s key is major or minor?

You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to use your ears and kind of mentally “digest” what feeling it elicits! It’s all in the way it sounds. If a song sounds dark and gloomy, and uses mostly minor chords, there’s a good chance it’s in a minor key.  On the brighter side, if a song sounds happy, and uses mostly major chords, it’s probably in a major key! 

But what if a chord sounds both major and minor at the same time? Then it’s probably the scariest chord of them all—the “Minor Major 7th” chord. Eeeeeek!!!!!

How to play the scary chord

Ok, now that we have a little background knowledge about how the key affects the “feeling” of a song, and how you can tell the difference by paying attention to the chords—let’s get to playing! Give the video below a quick watch to follow along as I teach the creepy “Minor Major 7th” and try it for yourself! By the way… what’s your favorite spooky song or scary movie score? Let me know in the comments! Happy Friday the 13th!

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