Guitar Aficionado

Why Do Major Chords Sound Happy?

It has a lot to do with the concept of brightness, according to guitar instructor Adam Neely.
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By Christopher Scapelliti

Have you ever wondered why major chords sound “happy” and minor chords sound “sad”?

According to guitar instructor Adam Neely, it all comes down to intervals.

“It has a lot to do with the concept of brightness—relative sizes of intervals and how we psychologically perceive larger intervals to be ‘brighter’,” he says.

In this video, Adam takes you through his theory, and it’s pretty fascinating.

“Brightness can be defined as the relative size of the intervals within a particular chord or a scale,” he explains.

“Wider intervals are perceived as being brighter than smaller intervals. So major chords with their major 3rd are brighter that minor chords with their minor third.

“Under this basic definition of brightness, augmented chords are brighter than major chords because they have a wider 5th-the augmented fifth-as compared to major chords' perfect fifth.”

Things really get interesting when Adam begins to explore the modes and their inversions. It gets a little heady—there’s some theory involved here—but Adam keeps things clear, and his music demonstrations illustrate the concepts nicely.

Check this out, and visit Adam’s YouTube page for more videos.

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