• Kacey Link

The Major Third—Joyful Innocence to Fate Knocking

It's been a while since I've written about ear training, so let's add another interval to the list—the major third! This is the interval that starts a major chord or arpeggio, so there are a TON of examples of it. It is 4 half steps, or one example is C–E. Personally, I think that it has a very happy, uplifting quality to it, except when Beethoven uses it in his Symphony No. 5!


Ascending Major Thirds:


Piano Sonata No. 16 in C Major, K. 545, mvt.1 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — opening notes of the RH melody, C–E–G. To me, this is the classic major third example filled with joyful innocence.



"Blister in the Sun" by Violent Femmes — opening guitar melody, G–B–C–B.



"When the Saints Go Marching In" played by Louis Armstrong — opening melody, Ab–C–Db–Eb (:21).



"Thunder" by Imagine Dragons. This has an interesting opening as the melody is actually outlining an A minor chord. The repeated melodic motive opens on C and then dips down to A and then quickly ascends back up C. The melody ends with an accent on the second half of the chord, C–E, or the ascending major third. "Just a young gun, with a quick fuse. I was uptight, wanna let loose" (:22).



"The Beautiful Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss, Jr. — the rising broken chord at the beginning of the theme, D–F#–A (1:47)



Descending Minor Thirds:


"Summertime" by George Gershwin — the opening words "Summertime" are a descending and ascending major third (E–C–E, :10). Because this piece is in a minor key, the notes have a sad, yearning quality, but the interval sung is actually major.



"Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me" traditional children's song — the opening words "Shoo Fly" G#–E. This song was actually a minstrel song in the 1860s and was sung later in the Spanish-American War to ward off the flies and mosquitos carrying yellow fever. Today it's just a popular kids song.



Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67, mvt. 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven — this iconic opening of fate knocking at the door is a descending broken minor chord, which begins with a major third, G–Eb (1:02).


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