Focusing on the Elements of Music - Minor Keys

This blog post is the fourth in a series all about utilizing the elements of music in music therapy sessions or music classes, check out the previous posts on rhythm, dynamics, and tempo right here! The elements of music series will continue with a focus on minor keys!

Minor keys are usually pretty recognizable by the way they make a song sound sad, angry, or spooky, but are not nearly as common in music as major keys are, and very rare in children’s music. 

Because of the rarity of minor keys in music written for children, they often have a strong reaction when they hear them. They may be confused or interested, but hearing a minor key almost always garners a reaction! 

Some of the goals addressed in these songs:

  • Increase directional awareness
  • Increase ability to follow directions
  • Improve fine and gross motor skills
  • Increase sustained attention
  • Increase impulse control

“I Hear A Train” has become one of my favorite rhythm stick songs! The theme of trains is a favorite with my kiddos, and the interesting melody sustains their interest. The song starts out in a minor key, and as the train comes closer, it switches to a major key.

In the minor section, the train is far away, and I play my guitar slowly and quietly, and the children follow, but when the switch happens, and we change to major chords, the music gets louder. 

For added fun, I vary the tempo of the major section, between moderate to fast, but always return to the slow tempo for the minor section, bringing further attention to the musical shift.

“Tam Tam Boo” packs a double punch in my music therapy sessions and music classes. Between the rarely used tambourine and the minor sound, it is always a fun and motivating song. “Tam Tam Boo” is a fairly straightforward instrument song, with playing in different directions, but the interesting melody is so different and attention-grabbing. 

I like to use this song with preschoolers, as even small tambourines can be quite large for small children to handle, and due to the needs of preschoolers, I typically add a few more challenging verses to push them out of their comfort zone.

Minor keys are different and often a new experience for children. I like to expose children to the wonders and variety of music, and minor keys will surely bring wonder and variety to your music therapy sessions or music classes!

Let me know in the comments below: how do you emphasize minor keys or modes in your sessions or classes?

 You can listen to all of these songs in their entirety right here. Lyrics, chords, mp3s, and instrumental tracks for these original songs are available for download. As is the case for all Listen & Learn Music creations, we invite you to adapt these songs as needed to best serve your students and/or clients.