This question is an exact duplicate of:

Music language be used to express anger?

Here is what I have learned the recommendations I got from

Music that Expresses Anger

  • repeated, descending figures

  • strong rhythmic drive

  • use of chromatic notes

  • use of (mostly descending) fourths, fifths, broken chords

Other ideas?

Remark: this is not a duplication. The previous questions about musical pieces and this is about musical expressions.

marked as duplicate by ex nihilo, Todd Wilcox, Dekkadeci, Dom Jul 31 at 17:08

This question was marked as an exact duplicate of an existing question.

  • 1
    @gastro you are tying to continue the line of thought from that question which was off-topic, too broad, and opinionated hence why this one is closed as a dupe. While you are not requesting examples anymore, it's still too broad and opinionated so until we resolve that this question will stay closed. – Dom Aug 1 at 13:56
  • @gastro regardless of if you asked this question previously, it would be closed for the other reasons I gave. Can we please focus on improving the question so it makes more sense for the site? I know you don't agree with the duplicate close reason, but there's still issues we need to iron out. – Dom Aug 2 at 14:00
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Doktor Mayhem Aug 2 at 15:52

That list of four items is really generic. It could describe many, many sequential passages in classical music that don't express any particular emotion.

People will want to close your question, because of the subjective nature. However, there are two harmonic examples found in textbooks that illustrate a kind of harmonic emotional "painting."

  • The diminished seventh chord can be used as a cliche to express extreme emotions like anguish or anger.

  • The whole composition Moro, lasso, al mio duolo (Carlo Gesualdo) is often cited as an example of expressing tormented emotion. It makes frequent use of chromatic mediant chords.

Also, I have a harmony textbook by Ottman - and if memory servers - it shows an example of the harmonic minor scale, with rapid 16th note figuration, from an opera by Gluck. The passage is described as expressing fury.

So, it clearly is not out of bounds to talk about emotional expression in music theory. The caution is to not look for a formula to create any particular emotion. And also there is the potential to do something cliche.

The examples above share minor-key or chromaticism as characteristics.

I would take care to differentiate anguish (sort of passive) versus anger (sort of active.) You could certainly equate passive/active to tempo and rhythm: play fast any syncopated to create an active feel.

So, chromatic, minor-key, quickly syncopated and it can get you in the emotional zone you want. But, again the caution: can the result be interpreted as wild and chaotic, or passionate, or deranged versus angry or a thousand other ways?


To state the obvious, emotion in music is personal. No musical concept will convey the same feeling to every listener. That being said, here are a few more suggestions for how you can make your music evoke anger.

When discussing emotion in music, I think it's helpful to use examples to back up claims. In my opinion, one of the best examples, at least in popular music, of anger expressed in a song is Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine. The song is both metal (a genre where anger/rage is a frequently referenced emotion) and a protest song (a song type where anger is often used). To be upfront, a lot of what I will stay comes from a video by 12tone, a Youtube music theorist and commentator.

The lessons I take from this video are as follows:

  • Employ leaps over an octave to show power.
  • Use the minor second/ninth intervals. They often signal anger.
  • Avoid being entirely in major or minor.

I also think that it may be useful for you to check out Holistic Songwriting, a songwriting coach on Youtube. Imo, here's some important advice from his Metalica video.

  • Stick to the root.
  • Avoid complex harmony.

Check out his other metal videos aswell.

From personal experience, I have a few more suggestions. They go as follows (I reference Signals Music Studio several times. Check that channel out as well.):

  • When using chromatism, look to blues scales and riffs. Focus on the minor third in a major blues riff and on the tritone in a minor one.
  • Use staccato.
  • Have a high tempo. Change it unpredictably.
  • Use complex meter. Change it aswell. Check out Polymeter (Truncated Polymeter).
  • Have long notes follows by notes in rapid succession. Do the reverse aswell.
  • Use polyrhythms.
  • 3+3+3+3+4
  • Use Phrygian and Phrygian Dominant.
  • Change keys without a smooth transition.

I find that anger exists in music when techniques that add energy or shock are utilized. I would compose with that in mind. Anyways, this is by no means an extensive list, but I hope this helps!

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