A&O – MEDIA – MUSIC and the Emotional Effects of Chords


Music and The Emotional Effects of Chords

Well I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

from “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen

The emotional effects of color are familiar (Color Psychology: The Emotional Effects of Colors)[i], but the effects of musical chords are less so—so take a look at Table 52 from How Music Really Works by Wayne Chase [ii]

TABLE 52  Emotional Effects of Chords


Chord Type 

Associated Emotions


(e.g., C)

Happiness, cheerfulness, confidence, brightness, satisfaction


(e.g., Cm)

Sadness, darkness, sullenness, apprehension, melancholy, depression, mystery


(e.g., C7)

Funkiness, soulfulness, moderate edginess

Major Seventh

(e.g., CM7)

Romance, softness, jazziness, serenity, tranquillity, exhilaration

Minor Seventh

(e.g., Cm7)

Mellowness, moodiness, jazziness


(e.g., C9)

Openness, optimism


(e.g., Cº)

Fear, shock, spookiness, suspense

Suspended Fourth

(e.g., Csus4)

Delightful tension

Seventh, Minor Ninth

(e.g., C79)

Creepiness, ominousness, fear, darkness

Added Ninth

(e. g., Cadd9)

Steeliness, austerity


excerpt from How Music REALLY Works!, 2nd Ed.  On-line book at http://www.howmusicreallyworks.com/Index.html