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Major vs Minor – does it really make a difference?

Feb. 11, 2020

Many studies have focused on the effects of tempo and the differences between foreground and background music, but little research has looked into the key of the music or the introduction of minor chords into a predominantly major key track.

Many studies have focused on the effects of tempo and the differences between foreground and background music, but little research has looked into the key of the music or the introduction of minor chords into a predominantly major key track.

If you’re listening to music and things feel happy and mellow, you’re probably listening to a piece that uses predominantly major chords. The introduction of minor chords generally makes the piece more haunting and moody or sad. Take Ella Fitzgerald’s “Every Time we Say Goodbye” – the key changes with the words “how strange the change from major to minor” to evoke the sadness of leaving or departure. And it’s no coincidence that musicians refer to the ‘minor fall’ or the ‘major lift’ when referring to key changes.

A recent study (Knoferle, et al. 2011) indicates that the general Milliman effect, where slow tempo can have a positive effect on actual sales was negated for music with a key change. Music in a major key did not vary in effectiveness by tempo while music in a minor key was significantly more effective when accompanied by a slow tempo. This study indicates that the minor–slow condition yields 12% greater sales than the minor–fast condition.

Though practitioners have relied on tempo to design in-store music, little attention has been paid to the mode of musical selections and much less (if any) consideration to the interaction between musical mode and tempo.

Specifically, increased sophistication in designing more effective in-store music is suggested by the mode - tempo interaction. From a practitioner’s perspective, the findings suggest that retailers can improve effectiveness of in-store music by using slow music in a minor mode rather than other combinations of tempo and mode.

And that practitioners should consider the structural elements of mode and tempo in conjunction or the desired effect (i.e., increased sales) of atmospheric music could be under realised or, taken to the extreme, if the mode and tempo interaction is ignored, it may have a detrimental effect on the bottom line.

“This confirms the need for musicians to be involved in the selection of background music to create the desired retail atmospherics,” says Raigardas Tautkus, musician, composer and co-founder of Shakespeare Music.

Shakespeare Music has been customising playlists since 2012 and has amassed considerable experience and expertise. Please contact us if you would like to see how music mode and tempo can be used to boost your own business.

 

Research Reference

“It is all in the mix: The interactive effect of music tempo

and mode on in-store sales”

Klemens M. Knoferle & Eric R. Spangenberg &

Andreas Herrmann & Jan R. Landwehr

# Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

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