Tag Archives: major and minor

Checkout the red big car

Chatting with friends recently about our internalised register of the correct order of adjectives – ie:

1. Opinion
2. Measurements
3. Shape
4. Condition
5. Age
6. Color
7. Pattern
8. Origin
9. Material
10. Purpose

…which is why we talk about ‘the big red car’, not the red big car. Following up later online, and musing over what felt like an analogous issue we’d previously discussed – whether there’s something inherently melancholy about music played in minor chords, or whether that’s a learned association, and I came across a fascinating blog covering that and related issues. For example:

Speaking of key, some people think that songs in a minor key sound sadder than those in a major key. Is that something that infants notice?

We know that infants can discriminate major from minor chords, but we don’t know exactly when they begin to associate major keys with happy, and minor keys with sad.

Also, that association depends on what you’re used to. Musical systems differ, just as languages differ, and the structure of scales, keys, and harmony in your native musical system is largely learned through passive exposure, like language. Music in major keys is much more common in Western tonality, and music in minor keys does tend to sound more sad to Western listeners. However, in some musical systems, the minor scale is the most common, and can sound happy to listeners who are accustomed to it.”


“Speaking of cultural differences, when do these develop? Are Western babies born preferring Western music?

No, young infants are sensitive to a diversity of music. A process of “perceptual narrowing” appears to take place during the infant’s first year. Western music tends to use very simple meters, such as in a march, in which every second beat is accented. However, many cultures use more complex meters, for example, accenting every fifth or every 7th note. Young Western infants are able to detect changes in both simple and complex meters. But by 12 months, Western infants are only able to do so for the simple meters found in Western music.”

Fascinating stuff!