Jump to main content

Can You Make a Happy Song Sad?

Summary

Areas of Science
Difficulty
 
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
Credits
*Note: For this science project you will need to develop your own experimental procedure. Use the information in the summary tab as a starting place. If you would like to discuss your ideas or need help troubleshooting, use the Ask An Expert forum. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions and offer guidance if you come to them with specific questions.

If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk (*) at the end of the title.

Abstract

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.

Bibliography

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

icon scientific method

Ask an Expert

Do you have specific questions about your science project? Our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.

Careers

If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:

Career Profile
Why people take certain actions can often feel like a mystery. Psychologists help solve these mysteries by investigating the physical, cognitive, emotional, or social aspects of human behavior and the human mind. Some psychologists also apply these findings in order to design better products or to help people change their behaviors. Read more
Career Profile
Anthropologists who are employed by colleges and universities usually spend much of their time in offices, classrooms, and libraries. Their working hours are flexible but often total more than 40 hours a week. Most anthropologists also do some field work. This work may take them to study sites as diverse as the Arctic to study the Inuit or Eskimos, to Africa to dig at an archaeological site or observe monkeys in their natural habitat, or into a modern city to record the behavior and attitudes… Read more

News Feed on This Topic

 
, ,

Cite This Page

General citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Can You Make a Happy Song Sad?" Science Buddies, 23 June 2020, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Music_p018/music/perception-happy-song-sad. Accessed 20 May 2022.

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2020, June 23). Can You Make a Happy Song Sad? Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Music_p018/music/perception-happy-song-sad


Last edit date: 2020-06-23
Top
Free science fair projects.