Chord Progressions... saddest? happiest? most hopeful?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Sunstone Recordings, Feb 3, 2008.


  1. Sunstone Recordings

    Sunstone Recordings Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,983
    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD
    I'm extending my chord vocabulary and I'm wondering what chords you feel have the ________ emotional response...

    saddest? happiest? most hopeful? angriest? most suspenseful?


    I understand that minor/diminished chords can be pretty sad, and majors can be pretty happy. I'm basically just interested in learning how music brings certain emotions about. Thanks for your input!

    -Ryan
     
  2. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

    Messages:
    16,691
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2007
    Location:
    Close to the burn zone
    Perhaps you should start with the melody since that will decide the
    chords which decides scale possabilities.

    Melody #1 sad, happy
     
  3. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

    Messages:
    8,879
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Location:
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer
    I guess I'll be the first to tell you that Dminor is the saddest of all keys. :drool


    Seriously, it doesn't work like that. Of course something in a major key is going to feel happier than something in a minor key, but as far as individual chords are concerned it's not as black and white. For instance, a diminished chord is a very tense sound. Play it out of context and it's a dark, ominous sound. But in the right context it can have a very different effect, you can even get it to sound sweet.

    My advice is to think of songs that make you feel one of these ways, and figure out why. Like Clifford said, there's more to it than the chords and the melody is very important.
     
  4. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

    Messages:
    8,879
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Location:
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer

    That's cool, I'm not trying to sell it to you.
     
  5. Sunstone Recordings

    Sunstone Recordings Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,983
    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD
    not one progression comes to mind for any of those adjectives?
     
  6. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

    Messages:
    8,879
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Location:
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer
    Why don't you name a song that makes you feel one of those, and we'll help you figure out why.
     
  7. willhutch

    willhutch Member

    Messages:
    1,802
    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2006
    Progressions that have a strong modal identity have a definite vibe to them.

    Examples:

    A Aeolian examples:
    Am, G, F, Em
    Am, Dm, Am, Em or E7
    Dark and sad sounding

    D Dorian:
    Dm, G7
    mellow

    G Mixolydian:
    G, F, D
    Happy, humorous sound

    C Ionian:
    C, A, F, G
    C, Dm, F, G
    Consonant sounding

    I could go on with the other modes (phrygian, lydian and locrian). Those modes are not as stable sounding as the ones I listed. The resolution back to the tonic is not as strong. It would be a good exercise for the OP (respectfully) to make up some vamps based on the phrygian, lydian and locrian modes to get a sense of their unique feel.

    But the magic happens when chords are brought together in context. Chrds that are unstable by themselves often sound very sweet in context. Altered dominants resolving a 4th up and diminished passing chords are examples of this.
     
  8. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

    Messages:
    16,691
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2007
    Location:
    Close to the burn zone
    Think of all that music written for those old WB cartoons

    Talk about emoting, the music was everything.

    Elmor Fudd would disagree.
     
  9. Sunstone Recordings

    Sunstone Recordings Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,983
    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD

    I'd say the end of "God only Knows" by the beach boys has this eternal inner radiance effect on me... its like joyful, sad, but happy all at once.
     
  10. Swain

    Swain Member

    Messages:
    2,412
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2005
    Location:
    N. Little Rock, AR.
    Here's a hopeful one:

    I ii iii IV

    It'll be very hopeful, that you'll resolve it at some point!
     
  11. cram

    cram Member

    Messages:
    13,261
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2006
    Location:
    Southern NH
    "Reflective Blues"

    The feeling I get from these two tunes is that sort of feeling. I hope that articulates it well enough... I've heard it in other tunes, but originally with the first mention:

    ABros - Mellissa
    Kings of Leon - Day old Blue (from Aha Shake Heartbreak)

    They both have the E and B strings ringing throughout (5th interval with E as the root) and have triads of Emaj F#Min, AbMin being played in between the open strings...

    I believe both songs have melodies based on Emaj scale from the root.

    My daughter sings the "woo hoo" part of the vocal melody if it comes on in the car. Then promptly shouts "AGAIN" when it finishes...
     
  12. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

    Messages:
    8,879
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Location:
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer
    OK- I guess we'll start there. You picked a heck of a song to start out with, maybe one of the most complex pop songs you could name.

    First off the chords are;

    A | E | F#min | E |

    I'd say we're in the key of A, and we have

    I | V | vi | V

    If you play those on thier own they don't really sound that sad. Maybe a hint of it on the F#min, but it's not as strong as the recording. But if we add what the bass is doing, we start to get the melancholy feeling. The bass is following the changes except for the E chord, where it plays an Ab. So we have this for the chords:

    A | E/Ab | F#min | E/Ab |

    This descending/ascending bass movement really adds the more melancholy sound. Just play it on it's own:

    A Ab F# Ab A Ab F# Ab...


    Next, add the melody:

    Code:
    C#  B C#  B    E    C#  A  Ab  E   F#  Ab
    God only knows what I'd be without you ooo
    
    There's a couple things here. It starts out striped down, with the 2 vocalist saying that line in a round, bass, strings and minimal percussion, but it quickly fills in. The other singers start their backing/counter melodies and repeat them over and over. That gives it a really haunting quality (especially that really high vocal). All these lines have that motion of descending, then ascending, which leads to that melancholy feeling as well. Anytime you can have something with that sort of cascading sound, that sort of thing really has an effect on people, especially when it descends.

    So as much as the chords/harmony has to do with it, so does the arranging. Arrangement is very important and often over looked, and it's also hard to talk about. The Beach Boys and The Beatles were masters of arranging, and one reason why their music stands out so far above their peers. Those guys were great at not just writing good music, but knowing what instruments/sounds to use for maximum effectiveness. For instance- take the percussion in that tune. Those little wood blocks and the reverb, that makes me think of strolling an empty downtown street late at night alone after a couple drinks with a girl, with a nice little buzz on. You're sad because you're alone, but you've just had a great time and you're a little buzzed, and you sort of realize the lyric. To me the lyric isn't something that's sung to someome else but more to yourself- you sort of realize it. It's easily the type of song one might have in their heads at a moment like that. So it all adds to the vibe of the tune. I'm sure that wasn't a conscious decision by Brian, but when you are really feeling what you're writing everything starts to click and things occur to you that may not make sense at the time, but you know they're right. Why? Because you've put in the time listening and deconstructing other people's stuff, and it's all floating around in the back of your mind somewhere waiting to jump out. And even if what you figure out has nothing to do with what the songwriters intended, it doesn't matter. It's what you take from it that's important. In fact often it's good if you're taking something that wasn't intended, as then that can lead you to something new of your own.

    So I hope this helps you, but what I really hope you'll take from this is that it's not as easy as "this chord sounds sad, so I'll use it". The best way to learn this stuff is to do a lot of listening, and when you hear something that jumps out at you, sit down and figure it out. You should have all these little things you've figured out floating around in the back of our head, and when you're writing and you want to go a particular way throw them in there. This is what most of us spend our lifetime's working on.
     
  13. cram

    cram Member

    Messages:
    13,261
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2006
    Location:
    Southern NH
    Excellent and concise breakdown of the tune. thanks for the contribution.
     
  14. Mike T

    Mike T Member

    Messages:
    897
    Joined:
    May 8, 2007
    If memory serves this is Mick Goodrick's idea of brightest to darkest:
    (George Russell also sees Lydian as the brightest)

    Lydian
    Ionian
    Mixolydian
    Dorian
    Aeolean
    Phrygian
    Locrian
     
  15. bynt

    bynt Member

    Messages:
    2,103
    Joined:
    May 18, 2006
    Location:
    Flagstaff, Arizona
    Well I can tell you about sad bastard music. My wife swears I can't write a happy song. If you're looking for somber, a really good experiment is a watlz in G.

    Start with G (I), really slow, move to Am (ii), then to C (IV). That's a good starting "riff". do that for a few bars. Then after you're tired of that from the IV, move to D (V), back to C (two or three times) and then resolve with a crashing Em(vi). I've probably started a hundred songs with a variation of that in mind. Ray Lamontagne's first album is a great example of really powerful stuff with basic straight Ionian chord progressions.

    I find that while melody obviously imparts a HUGE amount of infleuence in a song, tempo has a lot to say as well. First thing that comes to mind is "Helpless" (Neil Young). The chords are just D, A, G, all major but that is one sad song in part because of the vocal melody but also because of the slow timing. Just a great, somber song.
    Hope this helps.
     
  16. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

    Messages:
    8,879
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Location:
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer


    :BEER
     
  17. Sid

    Sid Member

    Messages:
    3,432
    Joined:
    May 14, 2006
    Location:
    Jersey City
    Its not just the chords that decide the mood....there is a lot more that goes on behind it...check out frank gambales modes no mystery video.....ull know what im talking about....most chord progressions require good emphasis and phrasing....along with the right notes and shapes...some of my favourite progressions:
    bridge of sighs
    lazarus-porcupine tree
    trains-"
    chords of life-satriani
    sevens-guthrie govan
    opeth-everything on the damnation album,face of melinda,drapery falls...
    jeff buckley-some great progression on his grace album
     
  18. cram

    cram Member

    Messages:
    13,261
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2006
    Location:
    Southern NH
    Found the feb 08 acoustic guitar magazine today and thought of this thread:

    Huge history of writing guitar oriented music for film/tv. There's an article highlighting him in the back of the mag.

    http://www.wgsnuffywalden.com/indexc.html
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006336/

    I figure this guy could whip out a melody and chord progression just by looking at the expression on someone's face.

    I liked the article and reference because this is not someone I'd seek out or normally hear and know *who* it was.
     
  19. vhollund

    vhollund Member

    Messages:
    3,499
    Joined:
    May 30, 2004
    Playing a D in 2nd fret kind of gets me happy

    G is more , "yeah we're cool man!"

    Am is like "oh no not that again but play it a little and Ill get used to it anyway"

    C is like G but less cool
     
  20. 1LastTrainHopper

    1LastTrainHopper Member

    Messages:
    1
    Joined:
    May 13, 2012
    Location:
    Nashville, Tn. They call it music city ,but its mo

    I just made a profile on this website to tell you thanks for busting the block I was feeling on my chord progressions. Is there a text book or guide you can point me too?
     

Share This Page