The aim of this study is to manipulate musical cues systematically to determine the aspects of music that contribute to emotional expression, and whether these cues operate in additive or interactive fashion, and whether the cue levels can be characterized as linear or non-linear. An optimized factorial design was used with six primary musical cues (mode, tempo, dynamics, articulation, timbre, and register) across four different music examples. Listeners rated 200 musical examples according to four perceived emotional characters (happy, sad, peaceful, and scary). The results exhibited robust effects for all cues and the ranked importance of these was established by multiple regression. The most important cue was mode followed by tempo, register, dynamics, articulation, and timbre, although the ranking varied across the emotions. The second main result suggested that most cue levels contributed to the emotions in a linear fashion, explaining 77-89% of variance in ratings. Quadratic encoding of cues did lead to minor but significant increases of the models (0-8%). Finally, the interactions between the cues were non-existent suggesting that the cues operate mostly in an additive fashion, corroborating recent findings on emotional expression in music (Juslin and Lindström, 2010).