Songs in the Key of Gambling – how music in Vegas helps you spend money!

Ground floor panorama of New York New York hotel, Las Vegas

We all love a gamble. Don’t we?

Well a recent visit to Las Vegas revealed a few very cunning tricks that hotels, casinos and the makers of slot machines build into their venues. They have very subtle ways of making you part with your money.

This includes bright lighting, extra oxygen and free drinks and food if you’re sitting at a machine…but when it comes to the music their tactics are a little more devious.

The hotel in which we were staying, New York New York, has a massive wall of noise on its ground floor. And all of it is in a major key. Bright, treble rich colours are not just visual but they can be musical as well. Apart from the bass generated by the night DJ’s thumping trance tunes, there was almost nothing audible in the lower end of the scale.

Instead all the melodies and harmonies can be heard up top, with brightly voiced sounds that come across as electronically modified glockenspiels, clarinets, harps, flutes and organs.

I am fortunate enough to be blessed with perfect pitch, so it was almost an assault on the senses when walking out the lift to be blasted with a wall of pure C major. It seemed almost every machine was in this key, the notes all piling together to make a big, big sound of consonant and utterly positive harmony. The effect on the brain was striking, and this was even without reckoning on the songs played over the PA system or thumping out of the 9 bars and 12 restaurants in the hotel.

Again, these were almost all major key classics – Katy Perry’s Firework (in the key of A flat major), P!nk’s Try (E flat major), pretty much everything in the Avicii back catalogue (Wake Me Up is a classic in D major!) and, perhaps inevitably, a fair bit by Taylor Swift (Bad Blood being in G major).

When all these musical constituents were heard together this made a potent mix, the musical part of a carefully constructed environment for gambling. Thankfully we didn’t lose our shirts!

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