How You Should Feel in the Key of F major (2024)

In our earlier series on C major and minor, G major and minor, and D major and minor, and A major and minor, E major and minor, B major and minor, F sharp major and minor, C sharp major and minor, A flat major and minor, E flat major and minor, and B flat major and minor, we listed Ernst Pauer’s suggestions from 1876 of pieces that fit the particular affect he assigned for a key. For the rest of the major and minor keys, he left us the attributes but not the list of pieces.

Pauer’s key characteristics for F major is that it is “at once full of peace and joy, but also expresses effectively a light, passing regret—a mournful, but not a deeply sorrowful feeling. It is, moreover, available for the expression of religious sentiment.”
One of the most apt arias for this key of such varied characteristics is Figaro’s aria ‘Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino,’ from Le Nozze di Figaro. Figaro has figured out the designs that Count Almaviva has on his wife-to-be, Susanna, and sings about how he will make all those plans come to naught. It’s a wonderful mix of the innocent dance melody at the beginning with the contrasting middle section where Figaro talks about turning all the Count’s schemes inside-out.

Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro: Act I: Se vuol ballare, Signor Contin (Michele Pertusi, Figaro; Fiorentino Maggio Musicale Orchestra; Zubin Mehta, cond.)
To pick up the ideas of peace and joy, we can turn to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. Its title, the Pastoral, isn’t all about the peace and joy of the countryside, there’s also the terrible storm in the fourth movement (F minor – a harrowing key). The fifth movement in F major, entitled ‘Shepherd’s Song: Happy and Thankful Feelings after the Storm’ carries those elements that Pauer noted: peace and joy, but with some sorrow in the lines.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, “Pastoral”: V. Shepherd’s Song: Happy and Thankful Feelings after the Storm: Allegretto (Philharmonia Orchestra; Herbert von Karajan, cond.)
Many of Beethoven’s major works were in F major. Along with Symphony No. 6, there’s also Symphony No. 8, 2 string quartets, and 2 piano sonatas, among others. If we’re looking at Beethoven, we should also look at Brahms.

Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F major from 1883 was considered by the critic Eduard Hanslick as…”the most perfect” of his symphonies. The entire symphony is built around the notes F–A-flat–F which to Brahms meant “Free but happy.” And so we hear that freedom and happiness in his opening movement, but as Pauer noted, there’s still that element of sadness here.

Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90: I. Allegro con brio – Un poco sostenuto (Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Georg Solti, cond.)
It’s not pure peace and joy, that might be too sweet, but it’s peace and joy and melancholy. The thoughtfulness that lies behind today’s happiness, perhaps.

What pieces do you think should be added here? Keep in mind that the piece should date from before 1876, when Pauer’s book was published. Another guideline might be to note the relatively small list of composers he gave as examples: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schubert Rossini, Weber, and Spohr – all stalwarts of German classicism / romanticism.

How You Should Feel in the Key of F major (2024)


How should you feel in the key of F major? ›

Pauer's key characteristics for F major is that it is “at once full of peace and joy, but also expresses effectively a light, passing regret—a mournful, but not a deeply sorrowful feeling.

How does F minor make you feel? ›

Master composer Schubert even wrote a directory to explain this, in which he proclaimed F Minor to be the sound of “Deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave.” while another classical composer, Helmholtz, described it as “harrowing and melancholy”.

How does a major make you feel? ›

What the Major Key should feel like: Playing in the major key sounds and feels light and happy. You can sense the joy in the piece you're playing. You can feel calm, excited, complacent, gentle, love, bouncy, etc.

What is do in the key of F major? ›

In solfege, which is what I'm assuming you're referring to, “do” is the tonic, or the first note of a scale. Since an F major scale begins on F, the tonic, and therefore the “do” would be F.

What is the angriest key in music? ›

Minor Key emotions:
  • Bb minor - Naturally angry, regardless of tempo or dynamic.
  • F minor - The Key of Death, Unrelievably sad.
  • C minor - Most variable of all the minor keys. ...
  • G minor - If it comes after a dramatic passage, Calming down, Otherwise, variable.
  • D minor - A tad sad, Uncertainty.
Jul 26, 2019

Is F major hard to play? ›

Playing F major can be a challenge if you haven't tried barre chords yet. While tough at first, with a little practice, your fingers will stretch and it'll become second nature.

Is F major the happiest key? ›

Many people use F major or C major to write happy music. But that could also vary as D major and G major are also popular amongst different composers.

What emotion does each key give? ›

F#m: full of resentment, discontentment, and lamentation, but with a little hope. G: happy but serious, idyllic, and poetic, evoking calm, satisfaction, tenderness, gratitude, and peace. Gm: feels like discontent, uneasiness, failure, concern, and struggling. Ab: evokes death, eternity, judgment, and darkness.

What chords give what feeling? ›

6.17. 2 Creating Emotional Chord Progressions: Chords and Associated Emotions
Chord TypeAssociated Emotions
Major (e.g., C)Happiness, cheerfulness, confidence, brightness, satisfaction
Minor (e.g., Cm)Sadness, darkness, sullenness, apprehension, melancholy, depression, mystery
8 more rows

Is major key happy or sad? ›

Music in a major key is almost universally perceived in Western culture as happy and music in a minor key as sad.

Is F sharp minor sad? ›

Many people think it is a melancholy and gloomy key. Harry Farjeon says that F sharp minor is "light red", and that it is the key Mendelssohn uses when he is being passionate. Johann Mattheson wrote that 'F♯ minor, although it leads to great distress, nevertheless is more languid and love-sick than lethal.

Why are major keys happy? ›

Well, in very simplistic terms, major scales sound happy and minor scales sound sad, because the way notes are put together gives them different tonalities, or different qualities.

Is F# major A sad key? ›

And usually when we talk about a major key, we're talking about a “cheerful” or “bright” sound, and when we talk about a minor key, we associate “sad” or “dark” with it. So F Major, like any Major key, wouldn't be a sad key.

What goes well with F? ›

Based on music theory and common chord progressions, you'll often see the F major chord played next to the C major chord, G major chord and Bb major chord. Start practice moving from an F to a C or G chord and back again.

Why is F major hard? ›

The F major chord is a particularly challenging chord to play on the guitar because it requires you to make a bar or mini-bar (we'll get into this later), which makes it hard to execute cleanly. In this guide, we'll be tackling the dreaded F major from just about every angle so you can master this unruly chord.

Are major keys happy or sad? ›

“One of the ways that composers or performers communicate … is through the use of either major chords and major scales – which are very strongly associated with creating a happy mood – and minor scales and minor chords – which are associated with a more melancholy feeling,” he said.

What is the happiest key signature? ›

Many people use F major or C major to write happy music. But that could also vary as D major and G major are also popular amongst different composers. E flat major, heroic,…

What is the most emotional key? ›

C#m: passionate and deep, evoking sorrow, grief, despair, wailing, and self-punishment. Db: evokes depression masked by an air of happiness, as well as grief and despair. D: triumphant and victorious, like war marches or holiday songs.


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