Minor – the key to my heart

Posted on 16 May, 2007. Filed under: dark ambient, dark electro, dark progressive house, dark psytrance, darkcore, darkstep, darkwave, DnB, Drum&Bass, Drum'n'Bass, Electronic Music |

I adore minor keys. They’re not discordant or jarring. They’re just… more melancholy? Darker?

I’ve been trying to quantify what it is that gets me about them. I studied music for almost a decade, but I still can’t say exactly what it is. So (as per usual) I went snooping around the net looking for someone else to say it for me.

“In the German theory by or derived from Hugo Riemann, the minor mode is considered the inverse of the major mode, an upside down major scale based on (theoretical) undertones rather than (actual) overtones (harmonics).
Minor scales are sometimes said to have a more interesting, possibly sadder sound than plain major scales. The minor mode, with its variable sixth and seventh degrees, offers nine notes, in C: C-D-Eflat-F-G-Aflat-A-Bflat-B, over the major mode’s seven, in C: C-D-E-F-G-A-B. The interval strength, or lowest possible location in the harmonic series, and thus consonance and “stability”, of minor triads is less than that of major, which interprets major as more “stable”, a major triad being found in the 4th, 5th, and 6th harmonics of a pitch, while the minor being the 10th, 12th, and 15th. This may explain the Picardy third, the use of a major tonic chord at the very end of a composition in minor, since it would be more stable and thus conclusive.”

Yes, couldn’t have put it better myself!

I will make one generalisation though. The majority of dark-genre songs (ie. dark drum’n’bass, dark breakbeat etc) are based on minor keys. The majority of happy or uplifting genre songs are based on major keys.

I’ll find some and show you soon!

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3 Responses to “Minor – the key to my heart”

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how would that apply to percussion?

i mean with dnb, the atmospherics and the melodic parts are normally what people refer to as being light or dark so i guess the whole major minor key thing applies there. but occasionally the percussion rhythm alone can achieve a ‘dark’ feel if played and processed right. but i guess alot of that is down to the filtering and processing whic i guess results in the final sound being in a certain key.

or does percussion also have major and minor keys, and the same applies?

i’m not a trained musician so apoligies for my shitty use of musical terminology 😛

Shitty shmitty! I got ya.

Traditionally, percussion is purely rhythm and a key signature doesn’t affect it. A TIME signature however will.

The only variants in percussion are the style or type of rhythm (samba, jungle, the number of beats in a bar and when they’re played) and the instrument (bongo, cymbal, block etc).

Some styles or types of rhythm are associated with different types of music (eg. a jungle rhythm with jungle music) but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s tied to one key signature (major or minor).

Any ‘dark-feeling percussion’ is, as you said, probably synthesized. You may find that if you draw out the percussion track (not rhythm) on its own, it won’t have a melodic aspect to it (which is what is associated with the key signature).

Rhythm and percussion are different. The percussion may keep the rhythm, but rhythm isn’t solely associated with percussion (a bass guitar, cello or synth may create the rhythm).

That was a kinda warbley answer.
You pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?

yup i gotcha, the time signature and the swing definately affect the light or darkness of percussion. and processing with compression and reverb would add the atmosphere and perception of darkenss or brightness.

i guess i was wondering because since i mangle sound on the computer i have the option of pitching percussion up and down without affecting the timing. so if you take the amen break and run it at 175bpm, but you pitch it up a bit it sounds lighter as opposed to if you pitched it down which would give it a more heavier feel.

so in that respect i was wondering if the whole minor keys thing could be applied because the snares within the break can be individually pitched to both add to the rhythm and provide some amount of melody. like a xylophone or glockenspiel maybe? imagine 12 snares all pitched differently, wouldnt a key signature apply?

a piano is fundamentally a percussive instrument at its core right?

i just thought it might be interesting to fiddle with something like that the next time i break a beat 😛


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