The Secret to Sounding Sad in Major - Mediant Chord

When writing in major keys, one quick method to introducing sorrow in to your music is by using the diatonic iii chord, also called the mediant chord. This video will demonstrate several examples of songs and pieces that are written using the mediant chord, as well as advice on how to write progressions that are sad and woeful. 


Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors. However, I do hope you find it helpful. Be sure to check out The Ultimate Modal Poster!

Every day thousands of musicians struggle to write emotional and Melancholy music, but they feel stuck trapped thinking that major is just too happy and minor is just too evil.


There's the mediant chord just one application of the mediant cord can instantly add sorrow and whist to an otherwise cheerful major key start a conversation with your like teacher today and asked if the mediant chord is right for you.

I keep getting this question pop up on my comments. How do I get my major chord progressions to sound less cheesy and more emotional and the secret is you can actually not even leave the major scale and still sound very very emotional and I just want to show you five four or five examples in this video of how we can use this one to three change to get that effect. We're looking for. So let's figure out the theory it's very simple. I'm just going to figure out the D major scale. All right, that's whole whole half whole whole whole half starting on D and it gives me the notes D E F sharp g a b c sharp. Sharp and D. I give each one of those notes its own cord. I give the first one D major the second one A minor chord. The third one is going to be a minor for the fourth one will be major and the fifth one will be major the sixth one will be minor and then the 7th note will get a diminished chord.

Now the secret here we're talking about is going from the one chord to the three chord.

You can hear how sad that is that's called our mediant cord right there and I don't hear people at talking enough about how depressing of a chord change that is it is in my opinion the Satis cord you can go to in the key of D without leaving the key. I don't think anything else is a sad is going to that F sharp minor. I want to give you an example in the key of D. Hey There Delilah by the Plain White T's starts off on a D major and then right away right to that F sharp minor and for a song like Hey There Delilah, you're not supposed to feel happy. You know, it's not supposed to it's also what not supposed to be evil. It's just supposed to be this really kind of depressing dark.

Camaros damp kind of feeling and that 1 2 3 change is absolutely perfect right there.

Imagine if I had done any of the other minor chords, imagine if I went from the one to the to court the two chords minor right, but it's not going to give me that same feeling if I did doesn't really work that well, even if I went to the 6 chord, which is pretty common Hey There Delilah, what's it like in New York City?

It doesn't give me that real tear-jerking really heartbreaking a fact Hey There Delilah. What's it like in New York City?

And yeah, the Melody has something to do with that. But I really think the heart of it is that chord change the 1 to the 3 a good example of this being used in the film score department is from the television show Lost which had a great score through and through the composer. I think his name was Michael giacchino. I don't know how to pronounce it but he wrote a song called life and death and this was the song that would play over the beach scenes during lost and it was essentially just a 1 2 3 if I played it on the guitar, it sounds something like this.

Subtle, right. I've got B flat major.

To D Minor but it's very sad. It's got that now eventually he makes his way to the four chord.

And then back to the one so there's a lot of emotion going on here.

And we're just in bread-and-butter B-flat major here.

Nothing fancy just really focusing on going from that one chord to that 3/4.

I think I'll uh, I just love that. It's a great sound now, I literally stole that exact same chord progression. I mean almost the same rhythmic Cadence has and everything when I had to do film score for myself I was Musical director for a cartoon here on YouTube called Minecraft the new adventures and we had a comical death scene, but I wanted to amp up the emotion a little bit for what our character died. His name was milky dad.

And I ended up using this same chord progression and even changing that for as well to introduce some of that that sorrow for our characters final scene.

It's bad here take this apple. No, no, you keep it. I'm cashing in my chips fellas.

Just wanted to apologize for playing you guys like an arcade claw machine. Now. We can take this a step further we can get things even darker and depressing by surrounding things with even more minor chords. So if we're really trying to avoid being bright at all, then what we can do is start on our one chord and just surround ourselves with as many of the diatonic minor chords as possible a good example of this is Bruno Mars It Will Rain we go from the one to the three the one of the three and that gives us that heartbreaking feel but then we just dumped right into the two chord which is sad and then we go straight to the 6 chord, which is a Works ad chord then back to the two chord and then finally to the five, I believe. Yeah the five which takes us back to the one so I'm gonna try and sing over this but I really want you to follow what these chords are doing and think about how really sad of a chord progression that says even though we're in bread-and-butter D Major and really the secret here in my opinion is to avoid staying too much on the 4 and the 5 chord only introduce them when you need and really focus on that three-chord surrounding yourself with all that minor chords gives you a nice progression, so it sounds like this You ever leave me baby leave some Morphine at my door because it would take a whole lot of medication to realize what we used to have. We don't have it anymore right back pretty cool stuff. I love that chord progression. I wish I could sing like Bruno the last example, I want to give you here today is from the Beatles A Day in the Life once the chord progression starts.

And that's our one two, three chains G major.

I read the news today right to our 6 quart and this song in particular I think is a funny example because it really doesn't feel like the key of G major or the key of E minor really feels like both of them here. But if we think of ourselves as being in the key of G, then our first change their go straight to be minor there's our three chord and then we surround ourselves with another minor chord in the key really helps dark and things down. Go to our four chord for a little optimism and then right back to our 1r6 court, but it's inverted and then we have our 2 chord.

So lots of minor chords in the key of G surrounding us to kind of give us that dark depressing feel and I would think that that's a good description for the verses of A Day in the Life. Those are not cheery. Those are not optimistic sections, but they're still just the major scale and that's really when writing music is all about for me is finding out. What emotion do I want you to feel as the listener? And then kind of figuring out how am I going to get that that emotion into your head? Am I going to do it through the rhythms? Am I going to do it through the notes I'm playing is the cord itself going to convey that emotion to you or is it going to be something completely different the way I'm singing or the way the instruments are being played but there's a million ways to make the listener feel a certain way. And in my opinion having this foundational understanding of the basic chords of major is going to take you miles further than any other knowledge because there's so much emotion wrapped up in those chords. So understanding what each One of those chords does how does the four chord feel? How does the five chord feel today? We just learned how the three chord feels, but I recommend you kind of go through this with each one of them and try to know each one of those chords like they're your friend and really know their characteristics.

So if you enjoyed this video, and if you enjoyed videos like this, please like subscribe and check out my patreon page. I could really use your support on there to continue these lessons going forward.

Thanks for watching.


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