Emotion Tagging?

Hi there,

As I am learning more about chord harmonies & progressions, I keep hearing people refer to certain combinations sounding “sad”, “melancholic”, or right out like from a “horror movie” (apparently the common styles I tend to gravitate toward in my sound experiments). I was wondering if there is a good source that documents which chords/progressions tend to (most commonly) evoke which sort of emotion. I understand that part of that is subjective experience, but there seems to be a societal consensus (at least within a particular culture) on how certain sound combinations tend to be perceived in terms of the mood they evoke.

Could this possibly be an opportunity for a future Scaler release, to organize/tag the library of chords/progressions with the feelings they evoke, based on common use in media/entertainment, such as movie scores?


If you look at the description of the Scales in Scaler they are already there —

Right, I forgot about that. It’s even searchable by style, which is awesome!
But not quite what I meant, or only partially there. There seems to be a quality in chords themselves, and sometimes particular progressions. Or are you saying that any chord/progression making use of a particular scale with these qualities will automatically evoke those impressions (per the style indicated)?

So for example, I searched for “exotic” and found the “C# Double Harmonic Major Scale”…

I see the major and minor chords, and a augmented and suspended, increasingly dissonant or begging to be resolved. Then the red circled one doesn’t seem to have a special music theory name but sounds the most dissonant. So this whole sequence of increasingly dissonant buildup (dramatic? horror? sadness?) and then resolving. Maybe the “Question & Answer” theme mentioned in the other thread is related to this?

It’s really a music theory and production discussion but I would say that the chord progression is the half of it. All the other embellishment that goes with it is what really creates that emotive feel.
I think listening through the cinematic chord sets and seeing how they feel different is more of what you are after (from memory) epic, sad ending, suspense etc etc.

Spectrasonics Omnisphere has a patch browser which has multiple categories like Mood, Genre, Source type and so on (Textures Soundscape / Ambient / Euphoric/), and a means for you to locally rate the usefulness to your work. Its value is rather hit or miss at the fine level, but at least with “Childlike” vs “Nightmarish” you can guess which might or might not work with your melodic ambient piece. [Omnisphere now has 14,000 presets, so even these things help].

I suspect it will be much harder with a MIDI base, because samples have characteristics largely “baked in”. Scales are complex because unless looked at the mode level, there is no ‘mood’ - the notes of C ionian are the same as A natural minor; without some harmonic context the “sadness” of the minor third doesn’t come out. Also, a note played as a ‘passing’ note might imply one mood, whilst given more prominence, another - a flat 5 might be an example - fine in a heptonic blues scale, dissonant in the ultralocrian.

It gets even more complex with sequences of chords.

I’ve had a look at this because I (foolishly) thought rather than audition a vast number of permutations of ‘songs’ sequences vs performances etc, I thought it might be possible to automate the process by trying to identify where dissonances would occur with each pairing of chord and note sequence.

I’ve given up on this, and have settled for pencil, paper and ear.

having said that, the ‘soundmatch’ function in Omnisphere finds sounds which have similar characteristics to one you like, and that’s useful.

So at the bottom of the wish list I would possibly add

{a} a means to add a user score and mark the elements you liked - a sort of ‘favourites’ but with a 0 to 5 stars,

{b} It might just be possible, if you like a particular performance, to devise a mechanism analogous to the soundmatch in Omnisphere by identifying other sequences of both notes (performances) and chord sequences (songs) which share similar distinctive elements; conceptually analogous to Ableton’s Groove Pool.

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