Emotional Characteristics of Musical Keys

Do Musical Keys have emotional characteristics?

One way or the other you might have heard or come across something about musical keys being associated with emotional characteristics and feelings. Well, the thing is, the association of musical keys with specific qualitative emotional characteristics was most common before the 20th century. It was actually a thing then, much like a shared culture even among the very popular musicians of that era. Although it is true that all of these characteristics are subjective, at the time then it was quite easy to see each key uniquely because of how peculiar they each sounded within unequal temperaments. After 1917 however, equal temperaments became the dominant tuning and as a result these affective emotional characteristics somehow became lost to us.


The Emotional Characteristics of Musical Keys

C major

This key is associated with a feeling of being completely pure. It is commonly referred to as the “Key of Children” and it was believed to embody feelings of earnestness, freeness from burdens, simplicity, and naivety. The theme of this key is innocence.


C minor

Now, this is the “Love-Sick” key as it is popularly believed to carry feelings of declarations of love and also the lamenting of love lost or unhappy and unsatisfying relationships. It is full of yearning and longing. Somewhat languishing. The theme of this key would be “Love Sick”


Db Major

This key is associated with a steep sloping into a den of sadness. It is characterized by a fullness of tone and euphony degenerating into a rapture of grief. It was thought of as incapable of a laugh but of a wan smile perhaps. Not capable of intense howling to express this grief but of a grimace to visualize it. This key indeed had very unusual characteristics and consequently, it was believed that only unusual feelings could be brought out from this key. The theme would have to be grief.


This key is described as “Penitent” because it carries a feeling of sorrow, regret, remorse, and even elements of self-judgment and self-punishment. An intimate conversation with God whilst feeling deeply sorry is the theme for this key.


D major

This is a key characterized by energetic shouts of triumph. This is something like a Victory key consisting of war cries and Hallelujahs. Most inviting symphonies, Holiday and Praise Songs were set to this key. The theme of this key would be “Victory”


D minor

Popularly referenced as “Feminine”, this key is also believed to convey feelings of melancholy, ruminating, overthinking, and worry. The theme of this key would be “Paranoia” or “Worry”


Eb Major

This key conveys feelings of intimate conversations and devotion to God. It also embodies feelings of love, openness, and deep affection. The theme of this key would be “Devotion”.


D# minor

A chill down the spine, imminent danger, shuddering, despair. “A sealing of doom is imminent” is all the message that this key rings. This key is also called “The Key of Ghosts”. The theme of this key would be “Spooky”



E major

Unsettled even in the midst of delight, this key is characterized by bickering, quarrelsome, boisterous, and short-fused attributes.


E minor

This key just like C major is also associated with feelings of Naivety but just like D minor, it is feminine and womanly and conveys feelings of a womanly declaration of love. Characterized by a few sighs and tears, this key is nevertheless hopeful of eventually resolving into the pure happiness of C major.



F major

Calm, chilled but complacent. Very composed and highly sociable but is like dynamite waiting to explode.



F minor

This Key is deeply melancholic and is characterized by deep depression and feelings of loss and death looming.


F# major

The theme of this key would be “Triumph” as it is characterized by conquest over hurdles, obstacles, and foes. Clarity of thought is also associated with this key.


F# minor

This key is believed to
harbor feelings of resentment, dissatisfaction, and discontentment characterized by serious and long durations of wailing and lamentation. However, it is still capable of fighting the aforementioned feelings.


G major

This key is characterized by everything chill, calm, lyrical, gentle, and peaceful with a beautiful passion.

G minor

This key is characterized by worry and a bad temper. A lot of resentments and dislike coupled with uneasiness are the characteristics of this key.


Ab Major

Popularly known as “The Key of the grave”, this key is characterized by death, eternity, judgment, and the haunting and lingering of lost souls.


Ab Minor

This key is characterized by negativity and struggling. Grumbling, wailings, moaning, and complaining are all themes of this key.


A major

The theme of this key is ” Divine Satisfaction “. It is characterized by optimism, satisfaction with life, and the belief in Heaven and reuniting with loved ones.


A Minor

This key is characterized by pious womanliness and tenderness of character. The theme of this key would be “Soothing”.


Bb Major

This key is cheerful and characterized by love, hope, optimism, aspiration for a better world, and a clear conscience.



Bb Minor

This key is changed by everything blasphemous. Turning away from the Divine with a mocking of God, it sounds like a strong belief in darkness. Preparation for suicide sounds in this key.


B major

The theme of this key is passion and Rage. It is however burdened with negative energy and always prepared for a clash.


B Minor

The theme of this key is ” Patience” as it is characterized by a calm unperturbed willingness to wait for destiny and the unraveling of fate.


References: A History of Key Characteristics 1983.
John Mattheson 1713.