Major and Minor Tonality: How to Set the Mood of Your Music

Have you ever wondered how music can affect your mood? How can a specific song make you want to go to the beach? How can some music calm you down or get you excited? One of the biggest contributing factors is Tonality. Let’s learn about the two most common Tonalities: Major and Minor.

Music is part of our everyday life, and it has the power to influence our mood and feelings. Even without words, our ears hear the intended emotion of a song, partly due to how it’s composed.

The chords you choose, determine a song’s harmony. And that harmony, in turn, influences the mood and vibe of a song. Thus, knowing chords is vital for any musician – understand chords, and you’ll start to gain the ability to control the mood your music conveys.

A chord is created by playing two or more pitches at the same time. And our ears have been conditioned over many years to accept an equally spread out sequence of chromatic pitches, which can be represented by the following numbers: 1, ♭2, 2, ♭3, 3, 4, ♭5, 5, ♭6, 6, ♭7, and 7. By choosing specific pitch groupings, we create a tonality, which in turn affects our song’s mood. While there are several types of tonalities, they are all based on the two most popular tonalities: major and minor.

The major tonality creates a brighter mood. Pitches 1 and 3, which are five chromatic pitches apart, make up the major tonality. However, if you lower pitch 3 down to ♭3, the tonality changes to Minor, which can make your song’s mood darker.

Of course, a song’s sound design is just as influential as its tonality. And, there are many tonalities available to help bring forward different emotions and feelings. But learning the major and minor tonalities is a significant first step towards influencing how your music will affect the listener.

Thanks for reading! Try a fully interactive version of this lesson, that includes a video and interactive ear training challenge in our online DAW, as part of Building Blocks. Building Blocks is an online music production and composition training course that will teach you how to write music in a DAW.