Major third


Major third
Major third
Inverse Minor sixth
Name
Other names -
Abbreviation M3
Size
Semitones 4
Interval class 4
Just interval 5:4
Cents
Equal temperament 400
24 equal temperament 400
Just intonation 386
Just major third.
Pythagorean major third.

In classical music from Western culture, a third is a musical interval encompassing three staff positions (see Interval (music)#Number for more details), and the major third (About this sound Play ) is one of two commonly occurring thirds. It is qualified as major because it is the largest of the two: the major third spans four semitones, the minor third three. For example, the interval from C to E is a major third, as the note E lies four semitones above C, and there are three staff positions from C to E. Diminished and augmented thirds span the same number of staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones (two and five).

The major third may be derived from the harmonic series as the interval between the fourth and fifth harmonics. The major scale is so named because of the presence of this interval between its tonic and mediant (1st and 3rd) scale degrees. The major chord also takes its name from the presence of this interval built on the chord's root (provided that the interval of a perfect fifth from the root is also present or implied).

A major third in just intonation corresponds to a pitch ratio of 5:4 (About this sound play ) (fifth harmonic in relation to the fourth) or 386.31 cents; in equal temperament, a major third is equal to four semitones, a ratio of 21/3:1 (about 1.2599) or 400 cents, 13.69 cents wider than the 5:4 ratio. The older concept of a ditone (two 9:8 major seconds) made a dissonantly wide major third with the ratio 81:64 (About this sound play ).

In equal temperament three major thirds in a row are equal to an octave (for example, C to E, E to G/A, and G/A to C). This is sometimes called the "circle of thirds". In just intonation, however, three 5:4 major thirds are less than an octave. For example, three 5:4 major thirds from C is B (C to E to G to B). The difference between this just-tuned B and C, called a diesis, is about 41 cents.

The major third is classed as an imperfect consonance and is considered one of the most consonant intervals after the unison, octave, perfect fifth, and perfect fourth. In the common practice period, thirds were considered interesting and dynamic consonances along with their inverses the sixths, but in medieval times they were considered dissonances unusable in a stable final sonority.

A diminished fourth is enharmonically equivalent to a major third (that is, it spans the same number of semitones). For example, B–D is a major third; but if the same pitches are spelled B and E, the interval is instead a diminished fourth. B–E occurs in the C harmonic minor scale. It is worth noting that in the standard tuning of a six string guitar, the interval between the 3rd and 2nd strings (G to B, respectively) is a major third, while the intervals between all other adjacent strings are a perfect fourth.


See also

References


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Major third — Major Ma jor, [L. major, compar. of magnus great: cf. F. majeur. Cf. {Master}, {Mayor}, {Magnitude}, {More}, a.] 1. Greater in number, quantity, or extent; as, the major part of the assembly; the major part of the revenue; the major part of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Major third — Third Third, n. 1. The quotient of a unit divided by three; one of three equal parts into which anything is divided. [1913 Webster] 2. The sixtieth part of a second of time. [1913 Webster] 3. (Mus.) The third tone of the scale; the mediant. [1913 …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • major third — noun (music) An interval of four semitones • • • Main Entry: ↑major …   Useful english dictionary

  • major third — noun A musical interval of the Western twelve semitone system consisting of four semitones and spanning three degrees of the diatonic scale. Major scales are so named because of the major third interval between the tonic and mediant of a major… …   Wiktionary

  • major third — /meɪdʒə ˈθɜd/ (say mayjuh therd) noun Music an interval of two whole tones …   Australian English dictionary

  • Septimal major third — Infobox Interval| main interval name = Septimal major third inverse = Septimal minor sixth complement = Septimal minor sixth other names = Supermajor third | abbreviation = M3 semitones = 4 | interval class = 4 | just interval = 9:7| cents equal… …   Wikipedia

  • Major chord — major triad Component intervals from root perfect fifth major third root …   Wikipedia

  • Major — Ma jor, [L. major, compar. of magnus great: cf. F. majeur. Cf. {Master}, {Mayor}, {Magnitude}, {More}, a.] 1. Greater in number, quantity, or extent; as, the major part of the assembly; the major part of the revenue; the major part of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Major key — Major Ma jor, [L. major, compar. of magnus great: cf. F. majeur. Cf. {Master}, {Mayor}, {Magnitude}, {More}, a.] 1. Greater in number, quantity, or extent; as, the major part of the assembly; the major part of the revenue; the major part of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Major offense — Major Ma jor, [L. major, compar. of magnus great: cf. F. majeur. Cf. {Master}, {Mayor}, {Magnitude}, {More}, a.] 1. Greater in number, quantity, or extent; as, the major part of the assembly; the major part of the revenue; the major part of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English


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