PPP066: Major and Minor – The Powerful Effect Music has on Our Emotions

Home / Music Theory / PPP066: Major and Minor – The Powerful Effect Music has on Our Emotions

Music is everywhere and it has a powerful affect on our emotions

This time of year, unusual sounding music is all over shopping malls, television shows, and even commercials. Those sounds can be frightening for young children.
While I am not a child psychologist, I do want to share, mom to mom, some of my experiences working with children and music.

Parents are the filter for their children

First of all, you must decide what types of music you allow your child to hear.

Protect them from sounds and lyrics that will be too frightening for them.

Even when you share music that you feel is safe for your child to hear, they may still shudder at eerie and unusual sounds. They will take their cues from you. If you seem to enjoy the sounds and assure them they are safe, they will tend to relax and enjoy them with you. It may take some children longer than others.

You are your child’s first and primary and most important teacher.

Even beyond music, make sure your child hears you speaking positivity and blessing into them. It makes me sad to hear parents say such things as “She’s very shy” or “He’s such a brat.” about their children, or worse, in front of them! Children will rise to our expectations. If we tell our daughter she is shy, she will play that role. If we tell our son he is a brat, he will rise to that standard.
Parents need to help their children overcome fears and weaknesses, not reinforce them. Children need to hear their parents speaking well of them.

Minor Music can envoke a negative reaction in small children

Three mornings each week, I have the privilege of sharing music with preschool children at a local daycare. Since the beginning of October, I have been introducing them to minor songs. Often, a small child’s first reaction to these songs is to recoil and cover their ears and say, “This music is scary!”

I have to reassure them that they are safe and give them other words to describe the sounds they are hearing. I tell them the music sounds cold or dark or peaceful.

As they become more familiar with the songs and learn to sing them, they aren’t frightened anymore and even say they are their favorite songs.

TV Producers Expertly use Music to Shape Our Emotions

Take a look at these political ads from 2016 and focus on how each one utilizes music to help convey their message.

10. “Defenseless” B minor chord tones and short repeated notes of the strings imitate the sound of our heart racing.

9. “Role Models” This music is actually in the key of C major but the forlorn sound of the piano gives a feeling of despair. (By the way, if your piano kid wants to recreate this chord progression they need to play C – Em – Am – F.)

8. “Deplorable” B minor chord tones again. This time followed by a moving bass line with B, A, G, and F#. The sounds go lower and lower; should our emotions follow?

7. “You Make Me Feel” Key of A Major used here to make the listener feel empowered.

6. “Two Americas” Just as this ad is comparing two distinct messages, the music changes drastically to punctuate the difference.

5. “Background Checks” This ad is interesting to me because music isn’t used at all. Why do you think the ad producer made this artistic decision?

4. “These Hands” The first tones we hear are from the piano playing a G Major chord. Coupled with the images and text, this music helps to send an inspirational message. (This is another simple chord progression your piano kid can experiment with: G – C – G – D in a repeated loop, finally ending on G.)

3. “Roar” B-flat Major, the original key as recorded by Katy Perry. This uplifting, powerful song is paired with images and sounds of cheering crowds to send a clear and hopeful message.

2. “Please Elect Gerald…Please” This one is my favorite!! The music is almost undetected except for the lift plucking of the harp and higher strings. The tones we hear fall basically within the C Major scale and provide a whimsical backdrop to a clever message.

1. “Mirrors” This message is in the key of G Major but it’s use of only the G major chord and the B-flat minor chord give it an unstable foundation which causes uncertain feelings about the object of the message.

Those are my observations about these ads. I would love to hear your thoughts. Did the music give you the same feelings as it did me? Did you notice other uses of the music? Please leave a comment in the comments section.

Here is the website I mentioned on the podcast that describes emotional connections with each musical key.

Yet another interesting website about emotions and music.

Music has so much more emotion than simply saying major is happy and minor is sad.

Franz Joseph Hayden is one of my favorite composers based on the stories I read about him. The musicians who worked with him respected him greatly and called him ‘Papa Haydn’. He used music to convey all sorts of messages.

One of my favorite stories has to do with his “Surprise” symphony.  Out of frustration toward audience members who would fall asleep during his concert and snore loudly, Mr. Haydn wrote the opening peaceful strains of the symphony. Once the audience was comfortable (and most likely sleeping), he wrote a loud orchestra blast into the music. This loud sound surely jolted the snoozing listener awake and gave Haydn a little smile.


The YouTube video below gives us a great example of how music can be used to affect emotion. In this scene, the music almost becomes another character.

(Parental Guidance suggested: watch this clip yourself first to help you decide if your piano kid should see an image toward the end of the scene.)

Piano parents help their children become acquainted with new and unusual sounds. They guide their children to a broader spectrum of descriptions for their emotional connection to music.

Your young elementary child may recoil and cover their ears when they are first introduced to minor music. In a few years, your 16-year-old brooding teenager may very well embrace minor music for all the deep emotions it contains. Welcome to the wild roller coaster ride called Parenting!

Thank you for listening to the podcast and for visiting the website!

Could you take a moment to leave a review on iTunes?

Have you signed up for the PIANOVEMBER Practice Challenge yet? You can signup below.

Join the challenge

Slide5   copy

Sign up to receive practice incentive emails, family activities, and more PIANOVEMBER freebies!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.
%d bloggers like this: