• An Insight On How To Build Chords With The Major Third Interval

    in Beginners,Chords & Progressions,Piano,Theory

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    If you’re interested in learning how to build chords with intervals, this lesson is for you.

    A vast majority of musicians pay so much mind to scales, chords, chord progressions, and songs, however, when it comes to intervals, they think there’s practically nothing to learn.

    According to Jermaine Griggs “intervals are the building blocks of chords.” Irrespective of the how little people think of intervals (and I know you don’t belong to that class or creed), it doesn’t alter their musical worth.

    Intervals are valuable because they can evolve into chords and the goal of this lesson is to show you step-by-step, how you can transfigure the major third interval.

    An Overview Of Intervals

    There are so many ways that an interval can be defined. However, this definition below is my favorite…

    An interval according to Jermaine Griggs “…is the relationship between two notes that are played/heard [together or separately] in terms of the distance between them.”

    “From this definition, there are keywords that I wish to explain briefly before we proceed…”

    The first keyword we’re looking at is “two.” This explains why intervals are basically concerned with two notes. Think of the following note combinations as intervals…

    C and Ab:

    D and F:

    Gb and B:

    It’s not possible for an interval to have as much as three notes because the relationship between three or more notes produces chords (we’ll talk about this later.)

    The second keyword here is “relationship.” Although intervals may be used to depict distance between notes, it’s important for you to know that the relationship between the notes counts as well.

    The interval between C and E:

    …is a third because it encompasses three adjacent notes – C, D, and E:

    …however, two notes are treated in relationship with the C major scale:

    …and are therefore considered to be a major third.

    The use of the term major here to qualify the interval between C and E:

    …is based on their relationship founded in the key of C major.

    The last keyword here is “together or separately.” An interval can be played or heard together or separately.

    From our understanding of the difference between melody and harmony, we can say that an interval where both notes are played together is a harmonic interval; while an interval where both notes are played separately is a melodic interval.

    I can go on and on to explain intervals. However, I’ll stop here for now because we need to talk about the major third interval, which is our focus in this lesson.

    A Short Note On The Major Third Interval

    The major third interval is formed by the relationship between the first and the third tones of any given major scale.  The major third interval can be formed by the relationship between the first and third tones of the C major scale:

    …which are C and E:

    Here are major third intervals in all twelve keys…

    C major third interval:

    Db major third interval:

    D major third interval:

    Eb major third interval:

    E major third interval:

    F major third interval:

    Gb major third interval:

    G major third interval:

    Ab major third interval:

    A major third interval:

    Bb major third interval:

    B major third interval:

    A Short Note On Chords

    Intervals are the building blocks of chords. In this segment, our focus is on the formation chords using the major third interval. But before we proceed, I’ll like you to take a look at chords.

    “What Are Chords?”

    A chord is a collection of three or more related notes.

    In a nutshell, beyond the realm of intervals lies the realm of chords. Moving from the relationship between two notes to the relationship between three notes or more is just a graduation from intervals into chords.

    However, before you graduate, you must not despise the relationship between the notes of a chord. The notes of a chord are related in two ways: scale relationship and intervallic relationship.

    “In this lesson, we’ll be focusing on the intervallic relationship between the notes of a chord…”

    Intervallic Relationship Between Chord Tones

    There’s an intervallic relationship between the notes of a chord, which can be in second, third, fourth, and fifth intervals. However, we’ll limit the intervallic relationship between the notes of a chord to third intervals.

    Here are the four known classes of third intervals:

    • The major third
    • The minor third
    • The augmented third
    • The diminished third

    The augmented and diminished intervals are considered to be harsh and unpleasant and that’s why they are not used in chord formation. Consequently, chords are formed using major and minor third intervals.

    We’re already done with the major third interval in an earlier segment, therefore, let’s take a look at minor third intervals.

    The minor third interval is smaller than the major third interval by a half step. Using C-E:

    …a major third interval, a minor third interval can be derived by shrinking C-E:

    …by a half step into C-Eb:

    Check out the minor third interval in all twelve keys…

    C minor third interval:

    C# minor third interval:

    D minor third interval:

    Eb minor third interval:

    E minor third interval:

    F minor third interval:

    F# minor third interval:

    G minor third interval:

    G# minor third interval:

    A minor third interval:

    Bb minor third interval:

    B minor third interval:

    Chord Formation Using The Major Third Interval

    The major third interval is very vital in the formation of chords. In this segment, I’ll be showing you two approaches to chord formation using the major third interval.

    1st Chord Formation Approach

    The first approach to the formation of a chord using the major third interval is by the addition of another note that is a minor third interval above the given major third interval.

    “Here’s how it works…”

    Given a C major third interval:

    The given major third interval can be transformed into a chord by the addition of a note that is a minor third above C-E (the given major interval).

    A minor third above C-E:

    …is G:

    Altogether, C-E and G:

    …produces the C major triad.

    “Here are other examples…”

    Example #1

    Given D-F#:

    …the addition of another note that is a minor third above D-F# (which is A):

    …produces the D major triad:

    Example #2

    Given Ab-C:

    …the addition of another note that is a minor third above Ab-C (which is Eb):

    …produces the Ab major triad:

    Example #3

    Given B-D#:

    …the addition of another note that is a minor third above B-D# (which is F#):

    …produces the B major triad:

    2nd Chord Formation Approach

    There’s a second approach to the formation of a chord using the major third interval. In this¬† approach, a note that is a minor third below the given major third interval is added.

    “Let me show you step-by-step how it works…”

    Given an F major third interval:

    …the given major third interval can be transformed into a chord by the addition of a note that is a minor third below F-A.

    A minor third below F-A:

    …is D:

    Altogether, D-F and A:

    …produces the D minor triad.

    “Let’s take one two more examples…”

    Example #1

    Given E-G#:

    …the addition of another note that is a minor third below E-G# (which is C#):

    …produces the C# minor triad:

    Example #2

    Given Bb-D:

    …the addition of another note that is a minor third below Bb-D (which is G):

    …produces the Bb minor triad.

    Final Words

    There are two classes of triads that can be formed from the major third interval:

    • The major triad
    • The minor triad

    …and this depends on the chord formation approach used. In subsequent lessons, we’ll look at other ways of applying the major third interval.

    See you in the next lesson.

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Jaime

    Hi, Chuku:
    Something important. Can you review this post, please, because -to my modest knowledge- there are some mistakes in what is written versus what one see in this very basic lesson on major and minor intervals.
    I will appreciate your assistance and, if possible, publish it again as a new blogpost.
    Thanks a lot and God bless you.
    Jaime

    Reply

    2 Chuku Onyemachi

    Thanks, I really appreciate the feedback.

    Reply

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