“Happy” and “Sad” Keys

25 Jan 2015

It’s self-evident to most people that there are songs that sound “happy” and others that sound “sad.”  

This can be a function of key, which involves the importance and relationships between the notes in any given piece of music.  Songs in major keys tend to sound “happy” while those in minor keys are perceived as “sad” or “tense.  Here are some examples:

  • “Stairway to Heaven,” Led Zeppelin:  A minor
  • “Hey Jude,” The Beatles:  F major
  • “Wonderwall,” Oasis:  F-sharp minor
  • “Purple Haze,” Jimi Hendrix:  G major, F major
  • “Enter Sandman,” Metallica:  Starts in E minor
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