I think I experience a different feeling to a song when it's played in a different key, which I think makes no sense, except that all frequencies will be higher or lower compared to the original key. I'm no expert when it comes to musical terms or the technical details of sound, but is there a relation, or do I falsly asume there is one? The relation between notes does not change in a different key, or does it?

To me a song written in a key containing flats is more "soft" or "gentle", songs with sharps feel more "bright". I'm not a native english speaker, so expressing the subtle differences is somewhat difficult.

  • If played on the piano or other equal tempered instrument, the number of sharps or flats should not matter, since they are the same note, as you say. Also, if you are aware of the key when listening, perhaps your feelings are influenced by your expectations, in this case the notion that flat keys are soft and sharp keys bright?
    – Johannes
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 11:33
  • Could very well be my expectation, that's why I'm looking for a technical explanation. Can you clarify what would change on non-equal tempered instruments?
    – MeanGreen
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 11:48
  • music.stackexchange.com/questions/32438/…
    – Dave
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 12:20
  • It would differ depending on instrument, of course, but say for a piano tuned to an older/non-equal temperament some keys/chords would beat more and some less, making them sound different.
    – Johannes
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 12:34

1 Answer 1


The discussion is still alive after several hundred years. There were times, were there was a sort of agreement, that a death scene has to be in this key and erotic scenes in that one and victory in another.

The chromatic argument is thin - for once orchestras as a whole and many instruments allow finer modifications of pitch. On the other hand the harmonics spectrum changes for real instruments from tone to tone. The result may well sound different.

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