Everyone has certain triggers that remind us of specific things. You might smell cinnamon, nutmeg, and baked cookies and think, “Hey, it’s Christmas.” But while the sight and smell of Christmas are easy to identify, what is the sound of Christmas?
No, we’re not talking about sleigh bells, Bonny M blaring in a mall, or carolers in the park – we’re talking about something you might not have thought about before. What is it about Christmas music that makes it sound so Christmasy?
When we talk about the sound of Christmas, we specifically mean the harmonic content of the song. It’s not just about the chords that are used; it’s about how the chords interact with each other.
Before you continue with this lesson, we suggest reading our Chordal Harmonic Progression and Extended Chord Construction lessons. While these lessons are not required reading for this lesson, they will give you a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
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Would you have guessed that the sound of Christmas is a diminished chord? Popular music seldom uses a diminished chord, rather sticking to less complicated harmonic structures.
The notes in the diminished chord sound strange and almost unnatural. Many people might even claim that the chord sounds dissonant. Yet, without the diminished chord, the song would lose most of what makes it resonate with us.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should go add diminished chords to all your music and call it your “Christmas update.” One chord by itself cannot create much feeling. If you were to vamp a diminished chord for 2-minutes straight, you would not be able to call that a Christmas song. It’s how the chords in the progression resolve to the diminished chord that makes it sound like Christmas.
Would you like to learn more about music theory, and maybe write your own Christmas song one day? Then contact one of our in-store music teachers an enquire about music lessons.