Thirds, Fifths, and Triads

We have started planting interval seeds. Last week we learned about seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths. We practiced fifths (d-s) all week.

This week we’re focusing on thirds (d-m and s-m). There are two kinds of thirds we’re going to plant in our brains: major thirds (d-m or m-d) and minor thirds (m-s or s-m).

snowman triad


And last of all we’re going to plant a triad seed in our brain. A triad is a major third (d-m) plus a minor third (m-s), which makes the fifth (d-s) that we learned last week. When the notes are stacked up on top of each other like a snowman (d-m-s), it’s a chord called a triad. We call the do of any triad the ROOT. (Great word for planting a triad in our brains, right? From seeds sprout roots! I love it!)




Here are some songs you know that will help you remember the sound of thirds in music:

Major third: “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Do a Deer” (the lines that say “a female deer”)

Minor third: “Rain, Rain” or “So Long, Farewell” (from “The Sound of Music”)

And here’s a song my daughter brought home to learn for her choir recently. In googling a video of it, I realized that this song has been sung by gospel choirs around the globe! . But the song originally was “a 1967 gospel music arrangement of an 18th-century hymn” (Wikipedia) that Edwin Hawkins wrote for his group, the Edwin Hawkins singers.

The first 4 notes are thirds–la to do is a minor third and do to mi is a major third. (“Oh, Happy Day”) (la-do-do-mi).

Here’s the same song sung by a boy in Brazil. At about 0:49, you’ll here some more familiar intervals you might recognize! What do you hear?

Here’s a song written just about major and minor thirds! It gets a little confusing until you understand that he’s singing about the middle note (mi) of the triad, and whether it’s minor or major. We’ll learn more about that another day!