January 24, 2013 at 10:30 am

How Major-Key Version of R.E.M.’s ‘Losing My Religion’ Was Made

A video posted by Boing Boing earlier this week captured the flighty attention of We The Internet this week, with a startling premise: It turns R.E.M.’s bleak, minor-key “Losing My Religion” into a surreal, slightly slaphappy-sounding, major-key jam cheekily titled “Recovering My Religion.”

In case you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it above — or one of the other songs that someone called “Major Scaled” has given the same treatment (so far: Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters,” The Doors’ “Riders of the Storm,” and Django Reinhardt’s “Minor Swing“).

So, how did Major Scaled, the user who uploaded the videos, achieve this particular brand of magic? He or she would not tell us.

I am not the first to suggest that he or she may have used Celemony Melodyne — the same “breakthrough” software I once used to verify a professor’s dissection of the infamous “Hard Day’s Night Chord.”

Celemony refused to comment to Evolver.fm, citing potential copyright issues, so I tried a more direct approach: replicating the technique myself.

Here’s what R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” looks like in Melodyne, zoomed all the way out:

melodyne_losing_my_religion

“Losing My Religion” is in A minor. I want to make it A Major, the same way Major Keyed did.

Luckily, I didn’t have to go through and change every relevant note manually, although you can do that too. Melodyne has a scale editor, so I simply switched the whole song to A Major and exported it, which took a few clicks and fewer minutes.

Here’s what it sounds like now:

Yes, it sounds like the Major Keyed version embedded at the top of this post. There’s a little variation, I think, which I chalk up to his or her fine-tuning of the automatically-generated mix.

I am pretty certain this is how those remixes were made. So, can you do it too? Although Celemony Melodyne costs $99 and up, depending on the version, it should be possible to automate this process of turning minor songs into major songs — you could even do it in an app, roughly (like my version), although the conversion process would take a bit longer.

We’re not trying to take anything away from what Major Scaled did here, which was to create a video that went totally viral and was about one musical mode being changed to another — probably the first time a music theory demonstration has achieved that sort of wide acclaim, and that is pretty amazing. In this case, peeking behind Oz’s curtain doesn’t ruin the effect — it just explains it.

  • http://twitter.com/cgatlanta Chris G

    Please change Starship’s “We Built This City” to a minor key masterpiece!

  • Possibly Major Scaled

    Nope. That sounds awful. You’re missing one key element (aside from the painstaking hand-tuning): the multitrack originals that arrived on the web recently, ripped out of the video game Rock Band. Having the instruments separated means Melodyne can work properly.

  • http://twitter.com/ikaraam ikaraam

    Nice plug for Melodyne – any trial versions out there that last up to a year or more?

  • zalo

    Do you know a tutorial to do this step by step ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749920175 Rolande Earl Hallett

    It sounds transposed, doesn’t quite sound right…the transposition is too robotic.

  • Jordan

    What version of Melodyne did you use?

  • Rich Layton

    Minor point, but do I still hear on one minor chord in this version?

  • Anonymous

    Yes – it would have been a major chord in the original. Minor keys still have major chords (and vice versa); they just aren’t the chord that is built on the root note of the scale.