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Q: Music in a minor key ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Music in a minor key
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Music
Asked by: vhyman-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 07 Jun 2004 13:57 PDT
Expires: 07 Jul 2004 13:57 PDT
Question ID: 357758
I am looking for popular public domain music in a minor key.  The
title and composer of the piece will suffice, I do not need a link to
the sheet music.  By popular I mean something that is generally well
known in North America, the level of difficulty (to play) is not an
issue.  I need at least 5 pieces for the question to be considered
Subject: Re: Music in a minor key
Answered By: efn-ga on 07 Jun 2004 22:38 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi vhyman-ga,

You have two good suggestions in the Comments, and I have come up with ten more:

"Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from the Nutcracker Suite (Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky)

"Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill" (Irish-American, published 1888, authorship uncertain)

"Go Down, Moses" (American spiritual)

"Greensleeves" (English folk song, words attributed to Henry VIII)

"Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" (Irish folk song)/"When Johnny Comes
Marching Home" (Same tune, words attributed to Patrick Sarsfield

"Song of the Volga Boatmen" (Russian folk song)

Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, first movement (Ludwig van Beethoven)

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Johann Sebastian Bach)

"Wayfaring Stranger" (American folk song)

"What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?" (Sea shanty)

I hope these are as well known to you and your audience as they are to me.

You might also consider the Christmas carol "We Three Kings," where
the verse is in a minor key and the refrain is in the relative major

Another also-ran, where I don't know the music well enough to be sure
that it stays in a minor key:

"In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 (Edvard Grieg)

Additional Links

The PD Info web site lists titles of many public domain songs, most of
which are not well known.

A page on "Greensleeves"

Liner notes on the history of "Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill"

Search Strategy

I got some from old songbooks, some from searching my memory, some
from the PD Info site, and some from searches like:

"best-known" "classical melodies"

Since the PD Info site says songs published in 1922 or earlier are in
the public domain, I looked at some lists of songs published around
1916-1921, but didn't find any that I would consider both well-known
today and in a minor key.

I hope this list meets your needs.  If it's off-target, please ask for
a clarification and I'll see what I can find that is closer to what
you seek.



Request for Answer Clarification by vhyman-ga on 08 Jun 2004 07:27 PDT
This answer is pretty much what I am looking for.  When I wrote
popular public domain what I meant was "popular" as opposed to
"spiritual" or "classical" - I should have been more clear.  In any
event, I am happy to pay for this answer.  If you can think of any
more "popular" or folk type songs, that would be appreciated.  Just to
set you on the right track, "Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill" and "Wayfaring
Stranger" are bang on.

Clarification of Answer by efn-ga on 08 Jun 2004 19:30 PDT
Thanks for the feedback.  I have found a few more.  They are getting
more obscure, though.

"The Cat Came Back" (Harry S. Miller)

"The Parting Glass" (Irish or possibly Scottish)

"Scarborough Fair"

"The Wraggle-Taggle Gypsies" (Child ballad #200)

I hope this helps.

vhyman-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Thanks - the info that you provided has been helpful.

Subject: Re: Music in a minor key
From: pinkfreud-ga on 07 Jun 2004 14:42 PDT
I've always found it odd that the rather cheery Christmas carol "God
Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" is written in a minor key. I'm sure it's in
the public domain.
Subject: Re: Music in a minor key
From: crythias-ga on 07 Jun 2004 17:04 PDT
Start with classical music... The standards of Bach, Beethoven,
Chopin, etc... are generally PD and globally well known. Alternatives
are also many Church Hymns. 75+ years old is adequate for most music
to no longer be under copyright.
Subject: Re: Music in a minor key
From: misterbig-ga on 07 Jun 2004 17:26 PDT
St.James Infirmary
A lot of blues are wriiten in a minor key.
Subject: Re: Music in a minor key
From: baritoneuk-ga on 11 Jun 2004 06:33 PDT
Greensleeves is actually not in the minor key- it is in the dorion
mode.  Major and Minor keys are types of 'modes'  Different modes have
different combinations of intervals (normally tones and semitones)
Hense: (T= Tone, S= Semitone A=Augmented tone)
1) Major Mode: TTSTTTS (eg C major- CDEFGABC)
2) Minor (Melodic): TSTTTTS (eg A Minor- ABCDEF#G#A)
3) Minor (Harmonic): TSTTTTA(eg A Minor- ABCDEFG#A)

I wont go into the detail but here are other modes:
Church Modes: (Authentic)
Dorion, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian
Church Modes: (Derived)
Hypodorian, Aeolian, Hypophrygian, Hypolydian, Hypomixolydian

Messian used other modes (of limited transposition)
Subject: Re: Music in a minor key
From: gcgrimshaw-ga on 14 Jun 2004 14:13 PDT
Scarborough Fair was suggested as a popular song in a minor key.  The
tune, however, is in the dorian mode--think playing the piano in the
key of D but only using the white notes.

*See baritoneuk's comment regarding the tune Greensleeves.

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