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How to impart mood in music?

  1. Jul 14, 2011 #1
    I'm guessing this is a weird question to ask a bunch of math/science brained people, but I guess there may be at least a few art oriented people.

    Is there a specific way to give your music a particular mood? I'm having trouble learning how. Any and all opinions or links are appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 14, 2011 #2
    In my opinion, if there were a formula for giving music a particular mood, good music wouldn't be so rare. I don't think there's really a good answer to this question. It's kind of an ability you slowly get through experience.
  4. Jul 14, 2011 #3
    The way that feeling is imparted to music is via dynamics. That is, loudness and softeness, acceleration and deceleration, attack. The melodies and harmonies play some part in it, but I would say that how one attacks the notes has the most to do with it.

    For example, what's the difference between, say, Clair de Lune played without missing a note but not expressively, and hearing it played expressively. I think it's the difference between just good music and really wonderful music. And the difference is in how the pianist attacked certain notes and accelerated and decelerated certain passages, and the dynamics in general.

    Edit: But of course that doesn't tell you how to do it. So, I'll just have to agree with thegreenlaser that it's an ability you either develop through experience, or not. And if you have it, then, as xxChristxx indicated, we call you talented. If it doesn't come more or less naturally when you can play the notes of a piece with facility without missing, then I wouldn't know how it would be taught even though it's part of the technique of playing.

    How long have you been playing? What are you playing that you're not satisfied that your playing is expressive enough? Is it stuff that you really like? If not, maybe that's it.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  5. Jul 14, 2011 #4
    That's how it's done.
  6. Jul 14, 2011 #5
    To clarify, I'm speaking in terms of composition. I can play a simple piece with all intended emotion. It's just that when I write my own music, I can't get any emotion to come through in my music.

    Maybe, like Thomas mentioned, it is a matter of dynamics. I'm judging my music as it is synthesized by Musescore (for lack of playing ability), so it's dependent on how well I've notated the intended emotion as to whether Musescore synthesizes it with the intended emotion. I'll work on better utilizing dynamics.
  7. Jul 14, 2011 #6

    I would suggest to you, TylerH, that for the most part, the emotion expressed in the music is the emotion the composer was actually feeling when he / she composed it. Musical composition, as any art form, is greatest when it expresses something very real. If the artist merely wants to impress people with his / her artistic ability, the result is unlikely to express very much. If the artist has a burning need to express something they are actually feeling then it stands a chance of reaching people. Of course, there are examples that might not seem to fit that. Film music composers seem to have an ability to write music to order, and if you want to learn techniques I would suggest that you are unlikely to do better than to study film music – its primary purpose is to evoke specific emotions in the viewer. But perhaps the point is that to be good at writing film music you have to have lived life a bit. If I think of something specific like Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, the first movement is titled ‘The Awakening of Pleasant Feelings on Arrival in the Countryside’ and it is something that Beethoven actually felt, otherwise he could not have expressed it so superbly. I always think that an understanding of Rachmaninov’s famous second piano concerto is much enhanced by the knowledge that, not only was he a manic depressive (bi-polar as the modern term is), but that he was recovering from a nervous breakdown when he wrote it. And I think it perhaps enhances your understanding of Debussy’s music if you know that his parents were antiques dealers and Debussy spent his youth surrounded by delicate and beautiful things.
  8. Jul 14, 2011 #7
    Ok, this clarifies things a lot. It is a matter of dynamics. The problem is in translating the intended, sufficiently expressive, dynamics into instructions that cause the synthesizer to reproduce sufficiently expressive music.

    It sounds like you have a lot of trial and error tweaking to do.

    Edit: Ok, largely dynamics, but not just dynamics. Duration also has something to do with it.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  9. Jul 14, 2011 #8


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    I will give it a shot, this example is imparting a sense of tension, drama and excitement tied to edited video sequences (blended with actual video sound, so music and video audio tied hand in hand). See if it gives you the feeling I described after watching http://www.youtube.com/v/zzXoyvvLWo4?version=3&hl=en_GB".

    Second, I don't know if you are aware of Fuzzyfelts thread: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=413657". There is a vast amount of material here, if this is for an academic exercise like a paper for school, this would in invaluable material, if just for curiousity sake it is IMO really great too. People describe what kind of music or other stimulus gives them a particular feeling, in this case chills.

    Rhody... :approve:
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  10. Jul 14, 2011 #9
    Hi Tyler
    When you record your music in Musescore do you 1) play the part or do you 2) enter the notes on the staff?

    If 2), each note will fall exactly on the beat with the same length and same volume unless you manipulate it.

    You mention that you can play with feeling. I would suggest you play a simple phrase and analyze it. Some notes will be louder than others, some held longer and some will be before or after the beat. These little details can add a lot to expressiveness. Then you could manipulate the notes in Musescore to try to emulate the live playing.

    If you use method 1) and you still don't feel the mood when you record, I would suggest you record a simple phrase and repeat until you approach the mood you are trying to communicate.

    All of this would require a sound source (piano or whatever) that is capable of the types of expression you are trying to achieve.
  11. Jul 14, 2011 #10
    what thomast said. plus other things like timing as theseus mentions above. i'd add discordant chords. and rumbling bass notes impart power, high tweets may remind you of a bird in spring, etc.

    basically, just listen and see what elements impart what moods in you. then repeat.
  12. Jul 14, 2011 #11
    In my opinion every single aspect of music making actually has some kind of influence on the mood of some piece. There is harmony, melody,dynamics ,instrumentation , lyrics (if it applies), the personality of the players , the conductor, the production... Everything can be used to create some kind of mood. In the end is about using everything you can to achieve your goal.
  13. Jul 14, 2011 #12
    One aspect to impart mood is the key. I've noticed major keys (at least to the Western ear, no idea about other cultures) tend to sound "positive" in tone, whereas minor keys tend to sound "somber" or "sad".
  14. Jul 16, 2011 #13
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  15. Jul 17, 2011 #14
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  16. Jul 17, 2011 #15
    Nothing could be easier. First you transcribe the music to specially lined sheets created for the purpose, then you write in the moods in various foreign languages as follows:
    Triste - Sadly
    Dolce - Sweetly
    Addolorato - Sorrowfully (Like Triste but molto molto)
    Cum Grano Salis - With grand solace
    Forte - Militarily
    Piano - Play this part on the piano.
    Pianissimo - Keep it down would you, I'm trying to study.
    Pianississimo - Don't play this part at all.
    Fahrvergnügen - Joyfully
    La plume de ma tante est dans le jardin - Frenchly

    and the like.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011
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