February Challenge - Major to Minor

January 30, 2013 1:08 PM

Apropos of this recent FPP, February's challenge is to record a version of a song, changing it from a major key to a minor one, or vice versa, turning (say) a murder ballad into a jolly polka, or a sunny pop song into a grinding death metal dirge. And hopefully improve it in the process.

Tag your entries 'mefimusicchallenge' and 'majorminor'
posted by unSane (15 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Fun! Oddly enough the "song" I just posted, not knowing what the challenge for February was, contains a snippet of a jazzy minor version of Heart and Soul, something I've been noodling around with for some time.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:59 PM on January 30, 2013

I hope we'll be getting an entry from Minor Dundee. He could cover Wire's Outdoor Major.
posted by unSane at 2:08 PM on February 3, 2013

I hope you've all always wanted to know what Piano Man would sound like done in a minor key in the style of Tom Waits, because that shit is to occur.
posted by cortex at 8:31 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm turning Radiohead's High and Dry into a country footstomper in the spirit of Dolly Parton's version of MULESKINNER BLUES.
posted by unSane at 8:35 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

okay, I'm a bit musically illiterate, so how does one do such a transposition, if I can call it that?

If say, I'm going from the Amaj to Amin keys, would I simply change the chords A -> Amin, Bmin -> Bdim, C#min -> C etc... (ie. taking the corresponding number chord of new minor key)?
posted by piyushnz at 4:07 PM on February 17, 2013

No, it's generally a bit more complicated than that. It would be easiest if you posted a song you were thinking about I think and we could make some suggestions. There's no one way to do it, which is the beauty of it.
posted by unSane at 4:20 PM on February 17, 2013

I was thinking of Karma Police, which is mostly in Amaj, but changes to Bmin in the outro.
posted by piyushnz at 4:28 PM on February 17, 2013

Wow, that's a tough one. I'm not even sure where to start. This place has it in Am not A. I think maybe you'd have better luck with something that's a bit more definitively happy-major, sad-minor. But maybe someone else has some ideas.
posted by unSane at 5:26 AM on February 18, 2013

Oh, you are right - a google search tells me it is Gmaj - and perhaps I should start with something easier. Let me know if anyone has any good links on the relevant music theory.
posted by piyushnz at 10:20 AM on February 18, 2013

Well, the basic theory is that each chord gets mapped to the respective chord in the minor diatonic scale.

Imagine a song in C which is played totally on the white keys. Now drop it down two notes, ignoring the black keys completely. So C goes to A, D goes to B, E goes to C and so on.

The diatonic chords in C major are the triads on the white notes, as follows

C (C-E-G)
Dm (D-F-A)
Em (E-G-Bm)
F (F-A-C)
G (G-B-D)
Am (A-C-E)
Bdim (B-D-F)

As a first approximation, just try mapping each of these to the chord two white notes down (C->Am and so on).

This works in simple cases, more or less. For example, C-F-G becomes Am-Dm-Em, which is OK but a bit boring. Am-Dm-E7 is probably better.

Once you get into more complicated sequences, you're probably going to have to muck around with chords to get something that sounds right.

If you want to keep the song in C, you just alter the chords as I describe above, then transpose back up to C again.
posted by unSane at 12:37 PM on February 18, 2013

(that's for major to minor. Minor to major works in the same way but you start on Am and go up two white notes to C).
posted by unSane at 12:38 PM on February 18, 2013

Putting a note here: I'm working on Neil Diamond's/The Monkees' "I'm a Believer". Full dark orchestral screamer, I hope.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:14 AM on February 21, 2013

I established to myself yesterday that you could rework Tori Amos' Me And A Gun as a rollicking alt-country major key stomper and it really works pretty well sonically. And then I put the guitar down and did something else because that is also the worst thing in the entire world to do.

Other unrecorded experiments: Don't Worry Be Happy in a minor is freaky; the sad theme from the "Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen are dead, the suns are rising (setting?) over Tatooine" scene in Star Wars is unrecognizable in a major key.
posted by cortex at 8:22 AM on February 21, 2013

Well I'll be goddamned. I hadn't looked at this month's music challenge at all, but tonight I got to tinkering with a minor arrangement of a tune and decided to record and post it. Then I looked at this month's challenge.
posted by usonian at 6:45 PM on February 27, 2013

Not sure if anyone's still watching this thread, but I saw this (Hey Jude in minor key) on Boing Boing:

Apparently Oleg Berg has done several songs.

Others have apparently used tools to do mechanical conversions.

I like the mefi versions though. Definitely more interesting re-casting of the original material.
posted by sarah_pdx at 10:13 PM on April 29, 2013

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