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Is major scale masculine and minor feminine? (Read 1909 times)

Offline piulento

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Is major scale masculine and minor feminine?
« on: March 11, 2016, 08:17:21 PM »
I've been thinking about this a lot lately.
In the past, I've heard numerous times the statement that the major scale is more masculine, whereas the minor scale is more feminine. Even though it was popular belief in Europe since about the 18th century, I never really agreed with it.
I think the main reason people often think so it because they think major pieces tend to be more extroverted (something more related to men) and minor pieces tend to be more introverted (something more related to women). But that's not really how things are. I can think of plenty of major pieces that are very calm and temperate (feminine), and also many minor pieces that are bold and manly. Here are two famous examples:



Here's a (mostly) calm and minor piece written by Chopin (which is generally considered quite a feminine composer). That said, you'd expect it to be extremely feminine - but it isn't.



Here's a major piece written by Liszt (generally thought of as a very masculine composer) which isn't manly at all.
And it's not just two examples that don't reflect common music - there is a huge number of pieces that don't correspond to the minor-major assumption. I think it's just a cultural thing to think major and minor have a related gender.
So the real question is - what makes us thinks of certain pieces as masculine or feminine? It doesn't seem to be the scale, so what is it?
I'd have to say it's the general atmosphere of the piece. If we take the two examples I gave:
1. The piece by Chopin, although minor and calm, is still a march. Whenever we listen to it, we automatically have a masculine-military image in our head.
2. The piece by Liszt (at least for me) kind of sounds like an emotional aria for a soprano female voice. The texture is mostly harp-like, which is also generally a more feminine instrument.
So I guess the "gender" of a piece isn't something that is easily defined by things like the scale, but is actually based on a mixture of aspects that give a general picture - it could be a texture, a rhythmic concept (in cases of pieces like marches), etc...

Would love to hear your opinion on the subject :)

Offline mjames

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Re: Is major scale masculine and minor feminine?
«Reply #1 on: March 11, 2016, 08:53:10 PM »
Eh no...

Offline Bob

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Re: Is major scale masculine and minor feminine?
«Reply #2 on: March 12, 2016, 01:57:04 AM »
Yeah, I've never heard that before.  I'd almost say the opposite sounds a little more likely.  Still a big stretch, like saying minor sounds blue and major is red.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline outin

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Re: Is major scale masculine and minor feminine?
«Reply #3 on: March 12, 2016, 06:45:08 AM »
I think it's just as silly as saying major scale is happy and minor scale is sad. When in fact minor scale is beautiful and major scale is mostly annoying...

Offline mjames

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Re: Is major scale masculine and minor feminine?
«Reply #4 on: March 12, 2016, 08:28:39 AM »
I think it's just as silly as saying major scale is happy and minor scale is sad. When in fact minor scale is beautiful and major scale is mostly annoying...

this coming from a lover of chopi and scarlatti???? :O

Offline outin

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Re: Is major scale masculine and minor feminine?
«Reply #5 on: March 12, 2016, 08:33:47 AM »
this coming from a lover of chopi and scarlatti???? :O

??? They both used the minor scales exquisitely.

But they also knew how to use the major ones in a pleasant way :)

Offline mjames

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Re: Is major scale masculine and minor feminine?
«Reply #6 on: March 14, 2016, 10:04:58 AM »
i know
i play a lot of chopin...well you already know that.

um, I'm sort of looking into Chopin's op. 62 and I'm sort of figuring out how he makes major scales sound awesome (you know, dark, melancholic etc). there's quite a bit of chromaticism and he constantly modulates to minor keys. Might that be the reason why we both like his major key music...

I should start learning theory so that I can understand music better <.<

Offline outin

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Re: Is major scale masculine and minor feminine?
«Reply #7 on: March 14, 2016, 10:27:47 AM »
i know
i play a lot of chopin...well you already know that.

um, I'm sort of looking into Chopin's op. 62 and I'm sort of figuring out how he makes major scales sound awesome (you know, dark, melancholic etc). there's quite a bit of chromaticism and he constantly modulates to minor keys. Might that be the reason why we both like his major key music...

I should start learning theory so that I can understand music better <.<

I think you nailed it, chromatisism and modulations into minor are also what Scarlatti's uses in his major sonatas...

Offline briansaddleback

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Re: Is major scale masculine and minor feminine?
«Reply #8 on: March 22, 2016, 12:32:54 AM »
I see it from the husband's perspective:


Major scale is feminine. I want her to be happy.

Minor scale is male. I will work hard to be the blast shield for her.
Work in progress:

Rondo Alla Turca

Offline adodd81802

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Re: Is major scale masculine and minor feminine?
«Reply #9 on: March 22, 2016, 02:04:15 PM »
i know
i play a lot of chopin...well you already know that.

um, I'm sort of looking into Chopin's op. 62 and I'm sort of figuring out how he makes major scales sound awesome (you know, dark, melancholic etc). there's quite a bit of chromaticism and he constantly modulates to minor keys. Might that be the reason why we both like his major key music...

I should start learning theory so that I can understand music better <.<

I agree with this, and particularly with Chopin you start to expect it as well. The "oh this part's nice, when does it get evil and sinister"

He never fails to meet those expectations.

I too, need to learn more theory. So far though you seem to have often been accurate with your statements.
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