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:

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Nathan Chlo
I agree with this - this is the only "new" christmas song I like compared to the classics -- I guess this explanation makes a lot of sense now.
Adrian Simone
Goddamn Ragusea's got himself some pipes!
Julien Meisenzahl
Seriously, I love Christmas songs and pieces, but here in Germany I have never heard of this song :D
rudi kurniawan
here i am. waiting for Djenty Christmas song
Some Human
help,,,,,, its june what am i doing here
Alex Welch
I love music as much as the next guy, but when I hear "music people" describing music structure and chords by using color, taste and texture words, I feel like the only sober kid at a stoner party.
Vadym Mykhaylyuk
I was looking for very homosexual pattern, and Adam is 9/10 )))
You find half-diminished chords in basically every Jazz standard that isn't a blues.
Because... aliens
There isn't as much mystery if you understand the principles of harmony, i.e. not taking chords in isolation but understanding harmonic progressions and how chords function. Calling D-F-Ab-C a dom 7 b5 or whatever isn't much help.

This chord progression goes from I (C major, the tonic), to V of IV (C7, the dominant of the subdominant), to IV (F major, the subdominant), to the "special chord", and back to the tonic, possibly via the dominant 7th (G7). It's a journey: you leave home, feel nostalgia for home, then come home again. The "special chord" conveys the nostalgia.


C, the tonic and home note, runs right through the progression, like a bridge over troubled waters, anchoring you to home. It can be heard as a tonic pedal, i.e. belonging to the first and last chords of the progression, but not part of the harmony in between. But because it does belong to C, C7 and F, It isn't really established as a tonic pedal until you get to that dissonant "special chord".

The "special chord" is ambiguous. It can be heard as an F minor chord (with the C still part of the harmony), which creates a darker tone, with the dissonant D in the bass adding some angst and tonal uncertainty: you're not quite sure what it's doing there. Or if you do hear the C as a tonic pedal, then the D-F-Ab underneath it are a diminished 7th, which functionally could be the dominant 9th of C with the root and 3rd omitted ([G]-[B]-D-F-Ab), leading back home to C, but is tonally and modally ambiguous and could go to any number of places. For example, D could fall to C#, F could fall to E, Ab (=G#) could rise to A, and the top C could rise to C#, suddenly putting you in A major. Or D could fall to C#, F and Ab(G#) could stay put and the C on top could fall to B: now you have C#7, which could next land you in F# major or minor, distant lands indeed.

So you're not sure if you are in the major or the minor, or in F or C, or where you are going. By itself, it would feel unsettled: it's the pedal C that makes it feel nostalgic. You're far away, but you're thinking of home.

Some of these songs then just go home to C major, but that's crude. It's better to let the Ab fall to G: now you have a regular dominant 7th, which resolves smoothly onto the tonic - a perfect cadence, cementing the home key. Now you're securely at home, waiting for Santa to come down the chimney.

I think pop and jazz musicians would benefit from studying classical harmony, to understand the principles of voice leading instead of thinking in terms of chords. To make sense of harmony, you have to hear it in context, horizontally as well as vertically.You have to follow the story.
E. R. E. Jones
But why am I watching this in June?
Vinícius Manhães Andrade
I always like it better as a Fm6. Don't know why.
i think the reason why it's christmassy is because it's about christmas, so you normally play it on christmas, that everytime you hear it, ofcourse it will remind you of christmas
Noah Bin Ladin
Lmao there is nothing christmassy about D half diminished. It is just standard jazz fare. Dissonant chords get used. Beethoven used it all the time
I Cant Stick To one Fandom so This is My Username
I'm watching this in June
Madison Koester
watching this in june and kinda wishing it were christmas now.
a lot of people dont know whats going on in the comments so let me some this up. In music there are 12 notes that you can move around to get a different aesthetic. Thats it. edit: mover to move
Ayla Soares
I'll stay and watch anyway though
Ethan Maruyama
The chords progression is completely wrong. Its actually GBD, GBD, CEG EbGC, GBD, GBD, CEG, EbGC, GBD, BEbF#Bb, EGB, EbGC, GBD, EG#BD, ACEG, ACEG, GBD, EbGC, EGB, CEG, DF#A. So your theory is actually wrong.
Patrick Van Der Ploeg
Just came here to say that this is complete nonsense. Aeolian modal interchange is not what makes a song sound like christmas. There are many songs written with this exact same chord progressions that don't sound christmassy at all. Just as there are many christmas songs written that do not use these chord progressions. You are looking for the wrong answers to your question and jump to a conclusion way to quickly.
but what about the def jam remix
Kevin Mickela
watching this in may makes me sad
John McKeown
feels more like an Fm6 than a Dm7b5 to me...
Narwhal Derp
I'm in a christmassy mood now and it's almost june
Kenshee Dicdican
Let it snow let it snow
Cool stuffs
Only if they included k in music, Fmaj be like - FACKKK!!!
Maragret Figures-burgh
After watching this, I'm in the Christmas spirit.... even if Christmas is a long way from now
Awesome Anna
3:26 Da Fac
Jeanne Heo
Well there's same chord in steven universe's opening song, ending song, and lots of songs from it. wow I didn't know steven universe was about christmas
Jeremiah Turnberg
well thanks it's almost June and I just into the Christmas spirit
That "special chord" also reminded me of santa baby.
Anne-Lise Dugas
Lol at the end when he says "I just do t know why!" I was like -_-
What's the name of the song played on the soundtrack starting at 0:44?
Thom Yorke Dance Guide
I'm gonna need that professor to serenade me
Vox > VICE
Charlie Tian
Stop complaining that this video says he doesn't know why. Learn music and you'll see why he makes that claim. You can't explain why music makes you feel a certain way - it is possible to have different interpretations. That is what makes it art. The title of the video says they reveal the secret chord - they never claimed to know why
Arvind Murty
Does anyone else think that the beginning 4 words have the exact same tune as A Tale as Old as Time?
Angela Moniakis
Why am I watching this in May?
Connor Hill
Chords are 2 or more notes played together, not 3. It's just that you generally see 3 notes in a chird
Tree Liner
Whoa easy with the T-Rex hands dude
Can you do a video about the origins of the Happy Birthday Song?
Funny how he accidentally calls the F major chord the dominant chord when it should be subdominant at 3:30. And the Dm7♭5 chord is actually called a half-diminished chord.
Schuyler Montgomery
Dm7b5 makes a song "Christmassy?" Seriously?
Nelly Benbradey
Dm 7flat 5
This is a haiku-No not Haikyuu you weeb In August D
totally knows what's going on
I really want to watch these videos but because this channel is so biased by liberal ideals I can't.
Lethal Kid
i like the intro ;)
angus mundin
I love this woman's voice so much! It's like auditory golden syrup !
Jalen Goode
It's such a beautiful chord... like I'm crying
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