I know that whenever anybody talks about happy/sad it gets downvoted. But please hear me out.

I think that major/minor is so prevalent because as humans we tend to always be in a shifting state of happiness and sadness. The shift between minor and major creates dissonance/consonance or tension/release like a person's fluctuating emotions. Therefore understanding it helps with composition and improv.

So I was wondering if we saw the major scale as a human being, is his counter sad side (think yin/yang) considered the relative or parallel minor? I was wondering if there's any kind of music theory that touched on this topic.

closed as primarily opinion-based by David Bowling, Shevliaskovic, Tim H, Carl Witthoft, Todd Wilcox May 20 at 14:59

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    In Music Stack Exchange, I don't know why seemingly the only emotion associated with minor keys is sadness. Can't minor-key music be angry instead? – Dekkadeci May 20 at 8:08
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    This is largely dependent on culture, and there might be even some level of "inheritance" when it comes to musical perceptions, as our species got more and more used to dissonance as time went on (compare Mozart's works to something like, I don't know, The Dillinger Escape Plan). There are a lot of cultural differences when it comes to major/minor as well, with some folk music utilising minor scales in seemingly "happy" compositions, so I don't think there is a clear distinction. – Pyromonk May 20 at 8:58
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    @Dekkadeci - minor music can be construed as angry, majestic, serious, melancholy, whistful, and loads of other adjectives, too... Sad seems to have taken the mantle, though. – Tim May 20 at 9:45
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    In my musical experience, there is absolutely no correlation between minor being sad and major being happy. Some of the saddest songs I know are in major keys. Regarding minor keys, @Dekkadeci is right that sadness isn't even remotely the main emotion that they tend to invoke. "Whole Lotta Love" is in a minor key and is not at all what I would call "sad". More like "lusty". – Todd Wilcox May 20 at 15:00
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    I'm not sure what answer one could possibly give other than "no, I don't think any established music theory says this". A very deep insight, for sure, but seems rather unanswerable. +1, but VTC. – user45266 May 20 at 15:03

I would say "no."

If our starting point is music is an abstract art, then the relative and parallel minor are just that: different but related keys.

As a representative art music can portray emotions, but there are many elements to exploit. Mode is one, but there are others. Elements like slower tempo, dissonance, and delayed resolution could be tried.

You can sort of test the idea: play in minor, straight forward cadential harmony with active harmonic rhythm, at a fast tempo. It will probably sound dramatic, exciting, other descriptions, but probably not sad. I think the tempo and rhythmic factors will be the main reason.

There isn't a formula. Try things out. Just don't over emphasize the emotional aspect of mode over other elements.

  • Simply "no" sounds like an understatement. When I'm Sixty Four by The Beatles plays in a jovial major, and the bridge/chorus goes to its relative minor when they want to create a foreboding effect "you'll be older too". But my question was mainly about the parallel versus the relative. I noticed that modal mixture also can bring that effect. – foreyez May 20 at 15:00
  • in My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music, the song constantly goes from happiness/sadness using both parallel and relative keys. "When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling SAD". youtube.com/watch?v=bY2TikZY3tY – foreyez May 20 at 15:19
  • It's funny, despite the theme of My Favorite Things I don't think the music feels sad. Something similar could be said about Sad Songs by Elton John. The sadness theme is in the lyrics, but IMO not in the music. In both songs, the music seems to be more about the "uplift message" about how to not feel sad. – Michael Curtis May 20 at 15:32
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    I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams is a nice counter example. Sadness, definitely in the lyrics. The straight forward major key doesn't undermine the emotion. – Michael Curtis May 20 at 15:39

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