The secret chord that makes Christmas music sound so Christmassy

mariah careyall i want for christmas is youchristmas musicirving berlinbing crosbywhite christmaslet it snowbaby please come homecharlie brown christmasrudolph the red nosed reindeermusic theorychordspiano lessonchristmas sheet musicvox

Hint: Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" uses it. 

For more about the secret chord, read more from Adam Ragusea here:

Subscribe to our channel! is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out to get up to speed on everything from Kurdistan to the Kim Kardashian app. 

Check out our full video catalog:
Follow Vox on Twitter:
Or on Facebook:

Emily C.
Part writing with these types of chords (V7, V7 half diminished, V7 diminished, subdominant, dominant) with four voices in Bach style is the absolute worst. Parallel octaves and fifths everywhere
Teddy Graham
Please don't be misinformed, that chord(D, F, Ab, C) is half-diminished, not diminished..
Jeffrey H
the major 6 chord also is christmassy.
Darien Hilmerson
I hate "All I Want For Christmas Is You"... It's overplayed so much, I find it SO annoying
Koolaidanman Koolaidanman
A musician engineer. One of the most brilliant and talented careers yet one of the most under appreciated
it's the chord that gives the also sprach Zarathustra (Richard Strauss) intro that zing too
Jayden Meads
I'm so triggered. you said Christmas and your America
Abel Stearns
Also it's what makes the Mickey Mouse Club song sound like the Micke Mouse Club song.
Great content, except for that guy singing
FlowerThePrincess !
I miss Christmas ;-; Everyone's always happy and festive!
BlueCat6123 Gaming
I hear that same chord in symphonic drumstep
Sweet Christmas! So it's all in the transition to diminishing chord.
COUGH COUGH here's an Adam Neely video that might help y'all.

FIRSTLY, talking about chord names is a meta-discussion, as are note names. Words are not musical notes, just convenient handles for talking about musical notes, or flavor, or colors for that matter.

SECONDLY, I'm not quibbling with your identification of the "mystery chord" (D, F, Ab, C) as Dm7b5. It is a correct identification, but not the only one. There are at least two other reasonable names for the same group of notes. Not only are chord names a meta-discussion, but also "jazzy" incorporates the notion of "ambiguous."

ALTERNATIVE INTERPRETATION: The chord has four notes: F, Ab, C, and D (Yes, I changed the naming order of notes!), you may consider the same chord an (inverted) Fm6.

ALTERNATIVE INTERPRETATION: (Background) Jazz guitar players often leave out notes when voicing chords because either (a) some other musician in the combo is likely to be playing the note a guitar player leaves out, or (b) it is likely people in the audience hear a note the musician only suggests. The notes most often left out are the root (1) and the fifth. (Interpretation) Add a Bb to the "mystery chord" and you have (Bb)-D-F-Ab-C, in other words, Bb9, so you may consider the"mystery chord" a "rootless Bb9."

ALL THREE chord names seem correct to me.

If you are confused, remember we are using words to talk about how music sounds! The best we do so is to make it easy for people to wrap their minds around playing the music. Better to stop talking and make music!!!!
Saying a diminished ninth chord is Christmassy is like saying turkey is Christmassy. They're both found in other places too. Still, appreciated the lesson on non-diatonic harmony.
Peace Ninja
Sam Collins
best christmas album ever: "Christmas with The Rat Pack". The best recreations of the best christmas songs.
Lauren Watts
Pool communication astronomer habitat immediately dozen vanish respectively spend.
Alex Willems
Half diminished seventh chord on ii borrowed from the parallel minor. Everybody knows that one!
Olly Muxworthy Music
I'd argue that a much christmassier chord would be chord VII (so a B or B7 chord in the key of C) - used a lot more in earlier Christmas arrangements, though Mariah doesn't use it!
Tyler Durden
All i want for Christmas is ASS.
sorry but at 1:23 i was just looking at the lifted dodge outside.
Madame Reader
it is the only song by that lady that i can listen to.
Menachem Mendelbaum
Not mariah carey herself, her producers
Somebody needs a lesson in music theory... absolute bullshit.
Arlindo Aesthetic Bodybuilder
lot of publishing money
American Nationalist
Love Christmas! Can't wait for Christmas season 2017!
Mark Shortall
It would still sound 100% like a Christmas song if that chord wasn't in it
Geraint Scott
This is so, so ridiculously wrong
Random question, but what special sound effect is being used to fade the songs out during 1:41-1:43 and 1:51-1:53?
Henry aguilar
oh well i guess she forgot her taken cords on new years
Tom and Hubert
Can someone make a meme out of 3:27 please?
Bjorn Pijnacker
Hey lets make a video explaining some music theory. Hmm who should we consult...? YES, a journalist...
Tom Gay
Adam Neely called your bs
Gabriel Esparza
Vox, can we please get more of these song breakdowns!
Scott Baum
Does Paul McCartney's "simply having a wonderful Christmas time" follow this? I noticed they didn't mention it in the video, including the timeline of successful original songs.
Matthew “Atari” Eargle
Those sweet, sweet jazz chords.
Marley robertson
The reason this chord progression becomes Christmassy ( to some anyway, not sure that everyone would agree), is because you've heard it done in some Christmas song that are played at Christmas. If you quite having Christmas in December and did it in June instead, after 4 years the typical weather in your area at that time would become Christmassy. Funny how that works.
Nate g the pigeon lord
4 cords?

Victor Asack
so basically mariah carey ripped off other songs
F diminished on octave 5 or 6 sounds like windows error notifacation. i dont know how high though im using a small keyboard XD
Mint Willow
wtf is with people kissing the editor's ass all the time? i mean, yeah the editing is good, i have no problems with the video editing, but i think it's literally become a meme to leave a comment just going nuts over the editing in these videos. theres no way that its just a coincidence that the top comment is always something about the editing being good.
Manuel Campins
This guy studied music and composition?
I didn't feel anything this christmas.. this made me feel just a little Christmas spirit
Riverfall M
or maybe people just like the song
Paul Cuffari
Most of Christmas music that we hear is straight ahead or big band JAZZ. The common music consumer doesn't listen to those types of music. That's what can make the environment in which you reside in feel Christmassy due to the annual reintroduction to America's only true CREATIVE artform. Christmas music is JAZZ! Not or chord... or even a progression. The only musical or 'harmonic' thing is bells, chimes, or sleigh bells. Any musician knows that. How can a journalist be the most informed person that can expound on this topic? Great editing though vox.
David Novák
Please, don't make videos about something you don't understand... The chord you are describing could be also (and it makes more sence to me), named Fmi6/Fb (thats the subdominant function with minor third in base - as it is in the song All i want for chirstmas). Fmi6 has the same notes as yours Dmi7b5... Playing minor third in subdominant chord is actually really common event outside the christmas song. The same chord occures in When I was your man - Bruno mars, or Jason Mraz's Live High (and many many others) and none of them sounds christmassy... What really gives song the christmas kind of feel is much complicated than using one chord...
Related Videos
Thumbnail: Mariah Carey Performs "All I Want For Christmas Is You” | Divas Holiday
Thumbnail: Republicans have one major problem on Obamacare
Thumbnail: Rapping, deconstructed: The best rhymers of all time
Thumbnail: Proof of evolution that you can find on your body
Thumbnail: Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You
Thumbnail: How the inventor of Mario designs a game
Thumbnail: Hans Zimmer - Interstellar - Main Theme (Piano Version) + Sheet Music
Thumbnail: How cars went from boxy to curvy
Thumbnail: How Vladimir Putin won Republicans' approval
Thumbnail: Mariah Carey: All I Want For Christmas Is You (Duet with Michael Bublé)
Thumbnail: What makes a truly great logo
Thumbnail: The Secret Chord You Never Thought of Using!
Thumbnail: The science is in: Exercise isn’t the best way to lose weight
Thumbnail: The hidden war over grocery shelf space
Thumbnail: Would you use time travel to kill baby Hitler?
Thumbnail: [OFFICIAL VIDEO] Hallelujah - Pentatonix
Thumbnail: Traditional Christmas Songs Playlist 2016
Thumbnail: Dwayne Johnson - You're Welcome (From "Moana")
Thumbnail: 'All I Want for Christmas' Carpool Karaoke
Thumbnail: Silent Night by Chewbacca
Thumbnail: Jimmy Fallon, Paul McCartney and "Sing" Cast Perform "Wonderful Christmastime" (A Cappella)
Thumbnail: Why all world maps are wrong
Thumbnail: Hallelujah – Pentatonix (From A Pentatonix Christmas Special)
Thumbnail: How America became a superpower
Thumbnail: How David Blaine barfs frogs
Thumbnail: Instrumental Christmas Music: Christmas Piano Music & Traditional Christmas Songs Playlist
Thumbnail: 1 Hour of Christmas Music | Instrumental Christmas Songs Playlist | Piano, Violin & Orchestra
Thumbnail: Fake news wasn’t the biggest media problem of 2016
Thumbnail: The US nuclear arsenal is a gigantic accident waiting to happen
Thumbnail: Kanye deconstructed: The human voice as the ultimate instrument
Thumbnail: The fall of Aleppo, explained
Thumbnail: How this guy found 83 messages in bottles
Thumbnail: How China is changing Hollywood
Thumbnail: How one of America’s least healthy counties got so sick
Thumbnail: South Sudan may be heading towards genocide
Thumbnail: How the Republican Party went from Lincoln to Trump
Thumbnail: Why cities should plant more trees
Thumbnail: How the screens inside movies build fictional worlds
Thumbnail: How the Mona Lisa became so overrated
Thumbnail: Top 30 Songs Of Christmas 2016 || Best Songs Of Merry Christmas
Thumbnail: How you could get away with murder in Yellowstone’s “Zone of Death"
Thumbnail: 7 ways a trip to Mars could kill you
Thumbnail: Why rappers love Grey Poupon
Thumbnail: Homer Simpson: An economic analysis
Thumbnail: What does the Bible say about the first Christmas?
Thumbnail: Tired of being bullied, this “MuslimGirl” found a way for Muslim women to talk back
Thumbnail: The US may be aiding war crimes in Yemen
Thumbnail: 2016, in 5 minutes
Thumbnail: Christmas Classic Songs (4 Hours of Non Stop Music) - Music Legends Book
Thumbnail: Barack Obama vs. Donald Trump: inaugural crowds | Vox