In music, what is the difference between major and minor?

C Major & Minor Music Scale

This is an extremely loaded question with mountains of information waiting to tumble down upon us. To make it easier to handle let’s narrow it down to what is the “effect” of major and minor in music, and more importantly, what is the effect on the listener.

The foundation of Western Music is the major scale and the harmonic possibilities (chords) within it. This series of notes comes to us directly from the Greek modes. If we take the note series C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C there is a half-step between E&F and B&C, all other notes are a whole step apart. The Greek modes go from A-A, B-B, etc. all the way to G-G with the half step intervals shifting position because E&F and B&C are a half step apart and all the other notes are a whole step apart regardless of where they are used or what scale they are being used in. There are 7 Greek modes: the Ionian mode is from C-C and is commonly referred to today as the Major scale and the Aeolian mode is from A-A and is commonly referred to today as the Minor scale. These 2 scales, major and minor, share the same notes, the only difference between them is where they start and stop. Another way to put it would be to say how they resolve or come to rest within the listener’s ears.

The major scale is used to denote: good, air, light, positivity. The minor scale is used to denote: evil, darkness, mystery, sadness.

When we play or compose music properly, what we are really doing is giving voice to feelings and emotions that reside within us. These feelings and emotions that are communicated are not in result of some man made system of audio processing, they are the result of the effect that these particular patterns in sound have and always have had on human beings. The study of music theory in the West has always been based on what the sound is telling us. We listen and then make up rules on music theory and harmony.

If you’re writing a happy song chances are your first chord would be C, and if you had just lost a loved one Cm.