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Thread: chord(progression)s for a certain mood

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    balladeer page's Avatar
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    chord(progression)s for a certain mood

    So I'm trying to pick my own chords and progressions to create a certain mood for my songs to tell my story/ies.
    Can you tell me, except from chosing a minor or major key, what chords and what progressions could create a certain mood? Any mood would be okay, since I need to learn which goes with which.

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    musician Jeff Smith's Avatar
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    The most practical way of approaching this would be to listen to other music, determine the mood, and look at what chords or progressions were used to create that feel. It won't take long before you find stuff that is similar to the mood you're looking to create. While we all want our songs to be personal and unique, the same compositional elements get used over and over again, because they do the job so well. I'm a strong believer in the advice attributed to Igor Stravisky. "Good composers borrow, great composers steal." Since you determine what you steal, it is still very personal and unique, because it was your choices.

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    Guitarist/Oudist/Composer jazz oud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Smith View Post
    Since you determine what you steal, it is still very personal and unique, because it was your choices.
    I first heard this sentiment expressed by Mark Turner, and it always struck me as a very significant observation.

    I also think of this whenever someone asks "what should I transcribe?"
    Since I think that they should transcribe whatever moves them, not me.

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    Why should people be moved in the same way by a particular chord or progression? This would bring us to the pretty naïve idea that major equals happy and minor equals sad. Isn't music a bit more complex than that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by page View Post
    So I'm trying to pick my own chords and progressions to create a certain mood for my songs to tell my story/ies.
    Can you tell me, except from chosing a minor or major key, what chords and what progressions could create a certain mood? Any mood would be okay, since I need to learn which goes with which.
    Hi Page,

    Keep in mind that the mood created by a song has a lot to do with tempo and rhythm. Think of the many standards that were originally written as ballads but are often played as up-tempo swing (for example, Autumn Leaves). The exact same song, with the exact same chord progressions, is going to create a very different mood at 60 bpm vs. 120 bpm vs. 200 bpm, etc., straight-time feel vs. swing feel vs. bossa, etc.

  6. #6
    balladeer page's Avatar
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    Thank you all for the replies.

    Hi Jeff,
    I’m still a beginner at transcribing, I’m working on developing that skill. So far I’ve only transcribed melodies, no harmonies yet. I do not have any transcribe software to help me with that, so I do everything with my own ears. The melody alone is a challenge already, I still need to learn so much. I understand what you mean to say, although I just meant to ask whether there are specific chords or chord progressions for a specific mood. Like you can create/build a tension using a specific order of chords or something. Looking at other songs with the same mood is a great idea, just to learn from it, to see/hear how it was done. I feel like my songs are very much me and although I realize I do get influenced by other music and I’m not the first to feel a certain way, I try to stay as close to myself as I can and create the mood I feel with my own words and melody.

    Hi jazz oud,
    So far I have done so. I’ve picked the songs that move me, that I actually would want to sing myself. Right now, I’m still working on a song by Alan Hampton and Gretchen Parlato which has a remarkable time signature 11/8. It took me a while to understand how it fits. In my latest song there seems to be a part that has an 8/8 feel which I felt was rather odd, still I can't come up with another since this seems the only time that fits the feel. So my song is partly in 4/4 and partly in 8/8.

    Hi Tom,
    I think you are right about that. People can react and feel different things by hearing the same. I’m just looking for what I feel would create the mood I am looking for. Other people can interpret my story/my music as they would feel or like it. The good thing about music is that we all can have our own thoughts, feelings with it. Of course I did write lyrics so people might have some idea what I’ve meant with it, but still you can interpret it your own way.

    Hi Mike,
    yes I realize that. I at least have a tempo in mind when I compose a melody, sometimes a rhythm too.
    Like I’ve said I just wondered whether there are chords/progressions with certain mood specifics. I think I remember a thread about endings and Jerry did post one with an elegant mood or something he said, something like that.
    I've sang Autumn Leaves as a ballad as well as up tempo. I still really like the original and I often use the French chorus, simply because it is beautiful in my opinion.

    Thanks again, all of you!

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    Registered User jazzman1945's Avatar
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    Page, You are trying to break between harmony and music - but it's impossible! All interconnected with each other for the expression of mood : rhythm, articulation,dynamics, tessitura, texture, melody, intervals, mode, pitch of the tonic, and many more another elements.

    Harmony is part of the emotional picture, try to start from here. Song of the sad - so sad rhythm, articulation of a sad, sad, tessitura, dynamics sad, etc.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfkzNNaXFyo&feature=fvst.

    Now, against this background, place your chords, feel their character, and each chord has a different character in another octave or another inversion. For example most tragic triad - a minor thirds in the bass. but to this bass note should be able to approach from the previous - hence the bass melody is important too.
    Chords can be quiet, or dissonant, even the most quiet chords sound in the lower register dissonant. Dissonances create a tension - hence their professional nickname.Simple fifths can be tragic - in the appropriate tempo and register:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyFyAqLtHq8

    The stronger You will feel an emotion, it will be easier to find a harmony to it - because Chopin was also a full emotional and exalted.
    http://www.jazzideas.com

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  8. #8
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    Hi jazzman,
    I'm not trying to break anything. I just need to learn more about the mood of chords so I'll know which one to pick. I do understand all connect.
    Thanks for the examples. I'm not really familiar with how to use bass notes in a harmony yet.
    I'm someone who feels a lot, and strongly; one major reason I write and compose just for expressing the emotion I have inside. It is a need I have intuitively. I always start from an emotion. It's in the words and I compose my melody fom that. I want to learn how to support my melody with the right harmonies, so that is my reason trying to find out about which chords bring what mood.

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    Quote Originally Posted by page View Post
    I just wondered whether there are chords/progressions with certain mood specifics.
    Page, for the most part I'd say no. It depends too much on musical context to say that a particular chord, or a particular progression, can be reliably counted on to evoke a particular mood.

    I guess if I had to pick a progression that I normally associate with a particular mood, the progression would be what's called the descending minor line cliche and the mood would be "poignant".

    Cm - Cm(maj7) - Cm7 - Cm6

    Often played with the descending line in the bass, so:

    Cm/C - Cm/B - Cm/Bb - Cm/A

    You can hear this (or variations on it) in such tunes as My Funny Valentine, In a Sentimental Mood, A Taste of Honey, This Masquerade, What Are You Doing For the Rest of Your Life, Time in a Bottle, Michelle.

    * * * *

    By the way, I'm reminded of an interesting study on the use of a couple of particular chords in film scores to signify "anguish" ...
    www.tagg.org/articles/xpdfs/jochen0411.pdf

    The three tonal elements recurring in the four tunes heard by respondents as connoting ‘anguish’, but absent in the six other tunes giving rise to no such connotations, were: (1) the ‘minor add 9’ sonority (abbreviated madd9); (2) the half-diminished chord, i.e. ‘minor seven flat five’ (m7b5) and its inversion as ‘minor six’ (m6, i.e. a minor triad with added major sixth); (3) a ‘tortuous tune’, i.e. a melody characterised by disjunct profile and/or emphasised melodic dissonance.

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    balladeer page's Avatar
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    Ok, thanks Mike. I will check the descending line in those tunes. I've saved the article and will try to find out what you've meant by the quote. Thanks!

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    musician Jeff Smith's Avatar
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    I was thinking more along the lines of looking at standards and popular tunes, which already have established moods, then checking the chords and progressions from a fakebook, songbook, or lead sheets which are easily obtainable. I wasn't suggesting trying to do it all by ear. Your ear has to define which songs speak to your personal feelings in regard to mood. Happy, joyful, funny, mysterious, lonely, melancholy, sad, pained, etc.

    Most of us who compose have to make a study of other composers to see how they use all the musical devices available, to see what might work for us.

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    Ah ok, I should have known you meant it that way. Sorry for misunderstanding. I just look up so much to you guys that I'd expect you meant to just hear what chords are played.
    I understand it takes study of composers, I wouldn't dare to call myself one yet although I'd like to become a song writer some day. I'm slowly learning about chords and trying to recognize what I've learned.
    The song I'm working on now I first had in mind as a tango. I've been looking for styles in band in a box since I need to hear how the melody would fit the chords and I've noticed a rhumba would actually fit better to the mood I'm looking for.
    I'll be checking out standards for their specific moods, a great idea! Thank you so much!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom K View Post
    Why should people be moved in the same way by a particular chord or progression? This would bring us to the pretty naïve idea that major equals happy and minor equals sad. Isn't music a bit more complex than that?
    naive idea?
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/...-c-2010-06-17/

  14. #14
    balladeer page's Avatar
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    That's a great article escher, thanks! I have to think about speech level singing here which is connected to this. I've learned this with my last coach who is a jazz singer. She wanted me to sing the way I would speak, with the natural emotion and tone and duration of words and phrases as in a real life reaction/situation. She said that this way I'd sound more true and I think she's right. Feel the emotion and express it in the music.

    I didn't know that about the minor third in speech but it does make sense to me. There is a melody in every sentence we speak, so yes I can understand this.
    While composing a melody to my lyrics I've tried to use the melody of the phrase that was already there. Jerry described to me that's how he does it and for me it is a way to make my story more believable. The emphasis on certain syllables and melody-tone of the words need to be there in the music too. I think it is fun to discover this, since I really like the story telling. Music is always a story to me.

    I do think Tom is right that everyone can have his or her own emotion with it though, like in reading a book. Everyone creates his/her own image in his/her head with the same story. That is the good thing about it, eventhough the general mood can be the same, we can fill in our own details.

  15. #15
    Registered User jazzman1945's Avatar
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    About the article: What is news? Page ,You do not need to look for scientific ideas because of the ocean, they have You at hand - in Utrecht:

    http://pascal.kgw.tu-berlin.de/gnom/...om-PROSTEM.pdf

    Also: before Eleanor Rigby mentioned a march by Chopin initially sitting on the minor third.

    About Sprechstimme: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprechgesang
    http://www.jazzideas.com

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    We shouldn't wait for favors from the Theory, take them from it is our goal!

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