Saturday, September 27, 2008

What key is this mood in?

We're throwing two new songs into our set list, which means it's time to tweak the song order a bit. There are a couple of rules to creating a good set list:
  1. Variation. It's good to change things up a little. You don't want a whole lot of fast loud songs in a row, or a bunch of slow thoughtful songs all together. Two adjacent songs shouldn't be in the same key if you can help it.

  2. Key compatibility. This one is a little harder to explain to nonmusicians without an audio demonstration, but certain keys work together better than others. If you've just played a song in G major, and your next song is in C major or F# minor, it will flow well. From C major to F# minor, on the other hand, is a little jarring.
The trick, when putting two or three hours' worth of music in order, is to follow the first rule without breaking the second -- easier said than done.

I've been aware of this on some level before, but as I construct our latest set list, it srikes me that I tend to write certain kinds of songs in certain kinds of keys. If it conveys, I don't know ... a softer emotion like contentment or wistfulness or melancholy, it's more likely to be in a key with sharps, like G, D, or A. If it's kick-ass angry or angsty, it's more likely in a key with flats, like B flat or A flat. (And if you've ever learned to read music, you know that flats and sharps are relative -- F sharp is the same as G flat -- so none of this makes any real sense.)

Do other musicians have different keys for different moods, or is it just me? And does the key a song is in make any difference whatsoever for listeners?


Jannie Funster said...

Big key of C person here. Is it just me or does it sound as pure as light from an angel's halo? And capoing it to Db is my introspective key. (A bit hard to do on piano, tho.)

To me A is racous and cheerful and for some reason I like it for 3/4 tunes.

And Bm is my spunky minor, as much a a minor can get spunky.

For me E major is total romance!

From Jannie
(whose blog now actually has comments, whee-hoo!)

cinderkeys said...

I couldn't hear any of those associations until I stopped thinking piano and started imagining them on guitar. Then they made more sense.

On piano: C is plainspoken and risks being boring. Db is cheerful, particularly if you think of it as C#. A is also happy but not so much raucous. E is also happy. Bm is pensive.

Other pianists would completely disagree with me. :)

Jannie Funster said...

Other guitarists might disagree with me too!

That's the beauty of being individuals, we all interpret and make our music according to our own innate propensities. I'm always amazed at our different styles and talents and unique viewpoints.

Oh, forgot about keys played with a lot of major sevenths. AM7 to me is blatantly joyful.

Guess what? I've decided to turn my songs into a musical called "I Need A Man." I've got eight songs entirely written and melodies for at least the other 10. I'd like to collaborate for the story-line and my previous guitar teacher recommended some one local to ask about that so I'll be meeting with him Friday. Whee-hoo! I'd love to email you an MP3 of the title track to whet your appetite. May I?

In terms of my new blog... Thanks for leaving the comment and yes, I did it, finally! I still have a long way to go, codework and such, but it's hands-down superior to what my old host could allow. ( for a blog is a joke.)

I started a Twitter account but decided it was really too much to keep up with as I'm trying to simplify life. Hope you get your stray code sorted out.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you will again.

I enjoy your blog and look forward to getting back to reading it regularly again.

cinderkeys said...

Sounds like a fun project. I'd love to hear the title track. susan(at)

I never really thought of a Twitter account as something you needed to keep up with. If you don't use it for a month you don't use it for a month. :)

Jannie Funster said...

Yeah, I'm sure Twitter is easy enough but I tend to run behind the times a lot and take a while to catch on - just like Joni Mitchell in that song about the train on Court & Spark.

I will send that "I Need A Man," Mp3 to you - you may one day sell it on eBay when I've reached world-wide notoriety for up to probably at least $2.99!

I'd like to be a Nashville writer type but the more I learn about me I see I'm probably not geared that way and my song friends say they could hear my tunes in a musical. So why buck who I am as a writer. It's all good. Luckily my hubby is a good writer with a wonderful imagination so he can help with the plot too.

Your post here reinforces my philosophy for my songs in a show form, keep it varied and interesting. Cool! Altho, in my case, a humorous musical, I think I can obviously put a whacky song in a minor key or sadness in a bright key.

(I responded to your recent comment on my Esther Von Weenerchopper post in my comments. Since I'm new to this comment thing I'm not sure if you check back on my comment to yours, or how that works.)

It is fun to get comments!

Be good!

cinderkeys said...

Thanks for sending the MP3! Yes, it definitely conveys "humorous musical" rather than something like Les Mis. I hope when you have the whole musical together, you'll put it in a place where people can find it. At least until your show starts performing off-Broadway so I can see it here in Tucson. :)

I've written a couple of songs that sound kinda like they belong in musicals. Unfortunately, they wouldn't both belong in the same musical. Also unfortunately, I have no idea how to write musicals. Maybe someday I'll find a collaborator.

Jannie Funster said...

I'm just feeling it out as I go!Onward, ho eh?

The only "failing" is not trying.