C-Sharp (aka D-flat): A Key of Many Moods

As I’ve related in earlier posts, C-sharp/D-flat is my favorite key to hear music played in. Since I am a sound-color synesthete with perfect pitch, I experience C-sharp as sparkling crystals on deep violet backgrounds, and the feeling of velvet. It feels like HOME. Strange word to describe a musical key, I know, but it just feels stable, strong, resonant…beautiful. F-sharp is a nice place to visit, a vacation home, perhaps, but C-sharp is truly home.

C-Sharp: Expressive and Flexible

I also find C-sharp to be a wonderful key for exploring and expressing all different types of moods, more so than any other key. I’m a composer (have been since sixth grade), and I’ve loved using C-sharp major and minor for many of my songs, because it just seemed to fit them. For me, the keys of F and B-flat seem stuck in celebratory modes, while G and E are for country songs, and C is so ubiquitous as to be too simple. (Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and every perception, but I’m speaking rather generally.) C-sharp, by contrast, seems to be endlessly flexible in every emotional direction, which delights me.

(This preference of one key over another may seem to many like a preference of spaghetti over linguine–isn’t it all still music, just as spaghetti and linguine are both still pasta? Well, like the kids who insist that the two types of pasta just TASTE different, I insist that a song played in a different key lends the song a whole new “vibe,” an entirely different feeling. When radio stations play songs a half-step higher to speed up the song slightly, it changes the song, however subtly.)

Examples of Musical Moods in C-Sharp

When I was considering all my favorite aspects of C-sharp for this blog post, I listened through my iTunes playlist of “C-sharp Major and Minor” songs (yep, I’ve set aside an entire playlist for it). As I listened, it occurred to me–it seems I’m not alone in perceiving C-sharp as a flexible and beautiful key, at least among composers and musical artists! Take the following list, compiled of several of my favorite songs in C-sharp major of minor, that describe vastly differing moods and sounds:

Anger: “Harder to Breathe” – Maroon 5

Joy: “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” – Stevie Wonder

Drama: “Hindi Sad Diamonds” from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack

Love: “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera – Sarah Brightman & Steve Barton

Pleading: “Goin’ Crazy” – Natalie

Tranquility: “Rainsong (Fortune’s Lullaby)” – George Winston

Fear/Anxiety: “Somebody’s Watching Me” – Rockwell

Passion/Drive: “Fantaisie Impromptu” – Frederic Chopin

Desire: “Whine Up (feat. Elephant Man)” – Kat DeLuna

There’s a fairly wide range of genres and subject matters in that list, and that’s just taken from my personal song collection. Who knows how many other composers have found C-sharp to be as lovely a key as I do?

5 thoughts on “C-Sharp (aka D-flat): A Key of Many Moods”

  1. I too have perfect pitch (but not synesthesia–that sounds awesome!!!) and D-flat/C-sharp is my favorite key too! I have looked at a lot of forums on the subject of favorite musical key and indeed D-flat seems to be the most popular choice amongst the people of the internet (major, anyways…) Perhaps there is actually something that sounds objectively better about it?? Who knows.

    What do you think of B-flat minor? I find it quite dark like C-sharp minor, but less passionate and more mysterious. I imagine your brain would have roughly the same visual reaction to B-flat minor as to D-flat major, since they use basically the same notes. Or does your visual reaction depend more on what the tonic note is and less on the key signature?

    I’m glad you included Fantaisie Impromptu in your list–I love Chopin’s music deeply. Having listened to nearly his entire body of work, I am almost certain that he strongly preferred D-flat major/C-sharp minor over any other key, just as we do–many (I might even argue a majority) of his greatest and most beautiful pieces are written in this key (Waltz in C# minor Op. 64, Nocturne no. 2 in Db major Op. 27, and Nocturne no. 20 in C# minor, just to name a few!) It’s like he reserved the key’s use for only his best musical ideas. Even his Mazurka no. 2 in C major manages to modulate to Db major within the first 60 seconds! He clearly liked returning to this key.

    An exception (although it, too, contains a luxurious midsection in the relative major) is his Nocturne no. 1 in B-flat minor, which is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever listened to, and which started my appreciation of B-flat minor. I strongly recommend you listen to it if you haven’t yet, as it is simply heavenly!

    …Sorry this comment turned out so long, but I truly find this key stuff fascinating and sadly have very few people who care to discuss it with me in everyday life. Love your blog! Cheers!


  2. I like B-flat minor pretty well–in my head, B-flat is bright teal blue with a “shadowed” effect (imagine a gradient effect going from left to right with almost-black on the left side and the bright blue on the right). The “shadow” appears more with B-flat minor than major. D-flat major, however, shows up as midnight purple with silver sparkles (and an occasional green stripe zipping through courtesy of the F third). Not sure what causes the difference, unless it is merely the reaction to the tonic note of each key.

    I agree with you that Chopin must have loved D-flat, too–we’re in good company there! D-flat has always felt like “home,” as long as I’ve been listening to music, so it’s awesome to hear songs performed in it. (I love it especially when the radio’s sped-up turntable turns an “ordinary” C-major or C-minor song into a fantastic C-sharp major/minor song–it’s like a remix without all the hassle!)

    Thank you for your awesome comment! Glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks about music like this!

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