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Can You Make a Happy Song Sad? *

Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites You should know how to convert a simple song from a major key to a minor key, or know an experienced musician or music teacher who can help you with the conversions.
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


Are there some songs that always make you feel sad when you hear them? How about "Scarborough Fair," George Gershwin's "Summertime," or the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby"? All of these songs are in a minor key. Minor keys have more intervals, or halftones, than major keys do. Some musicologists (people who study music) maintain that minor-key songs are more likely to be perceived as sad, while major-key songs are more likely to be interpreted as happy. You can research the competing explanations about why this would be true. But do you think the statement is accurate? Do songs in a minor key seem sadder than those in a major key? You can conduct your own research to find out by playing or singing the same songs (or recording and playing back later) in a major and a minor key. If you don't know how to convert a song from one type of key to another, ask a more experienced musician or a music teacher for help. Have your audience fill out a survey about how happy or sad they feel each version of the song is. For help designing your survey, read the Science Buddies guide to Designing a Survey.

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MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Can You Make a Happy Song Sad?" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 10 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Music_p018.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2014, October 10). Can You Make a Happy Song Sad?. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Music_p018.shtml

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Last edit date: 2014-10-10


This website offers an introduction to what makes a sad song seem sad:

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