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Why does this song sound sad?


(@corbind)
Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 1744
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It's REM "Everybody Hurts." If the main arpeggiated chords are D and G the those parts should not sound sad. What am I missing here?

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/tabs/r/rem/everybody_hurts_ver3_tab.htm

"Nothing...can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts."


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(@ignar-hillstrom)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5384
 

Well, to me it don't. I guess it's just the association with the lyrics, try singing a happy-go-lucky text over it while playing it slightly faster, completely different feeling. 8)

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(@minotaur)
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Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1092
 

I think it sounds sad too. It gets me kind of emotional. It's in D, which includes Em, F#m and Bm all of which he uses. But he's also using Am & C which are not in D. So I'd say because of the preponderance of minor chords, it would have a kind of sad sound. There might be another reason though. Btw, my cat hated this song. When I played it she took off for another room.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


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(@corbind)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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Topic starter  

Well I can certainly understand the breaks and such sounding sad with minor chords. But even the intro and throughout the song the G and D chords sound sad. Later in the song I hear violins and piano in the background. Or maybe it's the vocals making it sound sad?

It's frustrating as can be because, in theory, the song should sound happy during the major chords and sad during the minors.

"Nothing...can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts."


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 Nuno
(@nuno)
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Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 3998
 

It doesn't sound sad to me but I usually don't listen the lyrics (in Spanish or in English).

I think the song modules to a couple of different keys in the middle part and it generates a special feeling.


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(@randyellefson)
Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 25
 

Songs in major keys using mostly major chords can still sound sad, and vice versa, though I have no idea why even with a degree in music. It is what it is.

Full streaming audio of my instrumental guitar albums is available at http://www.randyellefson.com, or download me playing "Dee" by Randy Rhoads at http://www.randyellefson.com/music/serenade/Dee_Randy_Ellefson.mp3


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(@corbind)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 1744
Topic starter  

Songs in major keys using mostly major chords can still sound sad, and vice versa, though I have no idea why even with a degree in music. It is what it is.

Well this alone is some sort of vindication for my funky ears. I typically have a hard time going against theory yet this bolsters (at times) going against theory.....

"Nothing...can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts."


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 Crow
(@crow)
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Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 554
 

I think Happy Major and Sad Minor are conventions we've learned after centuries of exposure to cliches. Apart from the ancient Greek modes, I can't think of a theoretical reason that major should sound "happy."

My opinion, based on absolutely zero research.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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(@chrisnw)
Active Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 8
 

Interesting topic! I read a publication that suggests it's the text leading your emotions.

It's a long and hard read, which I read it all but understand very very little.. Still interesting!
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/music/


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 10340
 

The title itself, "Everybody Hurts," doesn't exactly make you think it's going to be a shiny happy love song. It's the way Michael sings the lyrics, it's the preponderance of minor chords in the chorus, it's the slow tempo...it's the combination of all these things together that gives the song its overall sad feel. Even more so if you've seen the official video that goes with the song - it's both visually striking and quite memorable. I know whenever I hear the song I can almost see the video in my mind's eye!

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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(@chrisc)
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Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 18
 

Good question, corbind. I went to youtube to listen to the first verse, and yep, the guitar is definitely playing major chords there. But they're repetitive and slow-moving arpeggios. That communicates helplessness. What would you play if you were really depressed -- that is, until playing music lifted your spirits? :) I'd play the same crap over and over again, at a not-quick tempo, just like that guitar line (or else something overly harsh, like the intro piano in The Smith's "Last Night I Dremt Somebody Loved Me"). Add onto that the depressing piano underneath it and Stype's haunting way of singing, and you have a recipe for buzzkill.

I suppose that the feel of music is more than the chords that make it up. It's made up of additional stuff like dynamics and rhythm. I've heard covers out there that try to change the mood of the original by changing tempo and how the singer enunciates (for want of a better term). The lounge-lizard version of Oasis' Wonderwall comes to mind.


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