Relative Moods

So after discussing the musical direction of Breath of Life with the Lead Developer again I decided I needed to do some serious research into... well into something...

I didn't really know exactly what it was I was looking for, essentially I wanted to research composition techniques involving the use of the relative major scale of a given minor key. Of course I found numerous examples of the opposite, blues guitarists have been playing playing the pentatonic minor scale over major chord progressions for years. Only after researching carefully did I start to paint a picture for myself and it all started with the blues.

After doing some research I realized that although named mostly for its lyrical content, the blues's name is also influenced by the way the music sounds and I would attribute this largely to its use of the minor pentatonic scale, specifically when played over a major chord progression. One of the most common blues progressions is the I - IV - V which basically takes the listener through all the major chords in a given key, this gives the rhythm and harmony a happy or major feel. When the lead guitar comes playing the minor pentatonic however, it shifts the mood to something between happy and sad. It's my belief that this mixture is why the blues sounds so distinctly "blue".

It's not exactly depressing like a typical minor scale can sound, it's just a little sad. I think Freddie King performing this Blues Band shuffle below is a perfect example of this effect, just listen to how upbeat a minor scale can sound.

Freddie King - Blues Band Shuffle

After finding nothing concrete to read on the topic of major scales over minor chord progressions I decided to do what any self respecting creative should do and I started experimenting. Here's what I came up with:

To elaborate, I'll call the sections in order, sections A, B and C. The bass note and the chords stay the same for each segment, each chord is in first inversion meaning the root note is the bass note and the sequence is D minor, C major, Bb major, A minor. The key is D minor which is the relative minor of F major, this determined what notes I used for the melody (if you can call it that):

A - This is the minor on minor version, so the melody is the first four notes in D minor, I think this has a kind of epic and sad characteristic. It definitely has the strongest sound of all the sections.

B - This is the major on minor version and I have to say I'm more than a little intrigued with what I've discovered here. The sound is still relatively sad but I think this major melody line has twisted it a little bit into a hopeful sadness. You can almost hear a sense of oncoming triumph.

C - This is an alternative to the major on minor version. Without getting to music theory heavy, I changed the notes so they ended nicely on the dominant note which added a sense of urgency to the hopefulness.

The entire point of this research endeavor was to come up with a way to compose a dynamic evolving track for Breath of Life that would start sad (minor) and then add in layer of hope for the player as they came closer to their end goal. I think what I've created here with the B and C sections has given me a solid framework for composing Breath of Life's dynamic soundtrack.

Thanks for reading as always and I hope to update you all soon with what I've created!


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