The Study of Musical Intervals Part 3: The 3rd Interval

The Minor 3rd.

This is a continuation of past 2 blogs on intervals.
You can check those blogs here:

The Study of Musical Intervals Part 1
The Study of Musical Intervals Part 2: The 2nd Interval

This week we will discuss the 3rd intervals.

The minor 3rd interval is a half step larger than the major 2nd.
This is a 3rd interval because there are 3 letter names involved from the lower to the higher note.

The interval distance between the notes is 1 and a ½ steps, which ads up to 3 frets from note to note.
As always: this intervallic distance corresponds to the same number of keys on a piano.

m3 staff

Just to avoid all confusion I want to reiterate following: this is NOT a 3rd interval because there are 3 frets/keys distance involved.
This is a 3rd interval because there are 3 letter names involved.

A major scale has FOUR minor 3rd intervals:

This interval occurs in all the locations where the 3-4 and 7-8 half steps are involved over 3 notes.

  1. On the 2nd scale degree (In the key of C this is D-F, which has the E-F half step involved)
  2. On the 3rd scale degree (In the key of C this is E-G, which has the E-F half step involved)
  3. On the 6th scale degree (In the key of C this is A-C, which has the B-C half step involved)
  4. On the 7th scale degree (In the key of C this is B-D, which has the B-C half step involved)

Fingerings.

Following example shows how you play a minor 3rd interval on 2 adjacent strings. This fingering is the same on all string sets EXCEPT strings 2 and 3.

m3 all

Following guitar neck shows the fingering for minor 3rds on the G and B strings.

m3 gb

Important!

Within the structure of a major scale;
The above fingerings are played on following scale degrees:

  1. The 2nd note in the scale. (In a C major scale: D – F)
  2. The 3rd note in the scale. (In a C major scale: E – G)
  3. The 6th note in the scale (In a C major scale: A – C)
  4. The 7th note in the scale (In a C major scale: B – D)

The Major 3rd.

The major 3rd interval is a half step larger than the minor 3rd.
This is a 3rd interval because there are 3 letter names involved from the lower to the higher note.

maj3 staff

The interval distance between the notes is 2 whole steps, which ads up to 4 frets from note to note.
As always: this intervallic distance corresponds to the same number of keys on a piano.

A major scale has THREE major 3rd intervals:

This interval occurs in the 3 locations where there is no half step involved over 3 notes.
You already know from single-string soloing, that this is where you have the 3-note-over-5-fret stretches.

  1. On the 1st scale degree (In the key of C this is C-E)
  2. On the 4th scale degree (In the key of C this is F-A)
  3. On the 5th scale degree (In the key of C this is G-B)

Fingerings.

Following example shows how you play a major 3rd interval on 2 adjacent strings. This fingering is the same on all string sets EXCEPT strings 2 and 3.

maj3 all

Following guitar neck shows the fingering for major 3rds on the G and B strings.

maj3 gb

Important!

Within the structure of a major scale;
The above fingerings are played on following scale degrees on the lower of the 2 strings:

  1. The 1st note in the scale.
  2. The 4th note in the scale.
  3. The 5th note in the scale.

To simplify the thought processes for improvising with 3rd intervals, consider following approach:

    o The major 3rd intervals are on 1, 4 and 5. Only 3 pieces of information. Focus on these 3 notes and…
    o EVERYWHERE ELSE: use the other (minor 3rd) fingering.

How To Practice This?

Solo over C major songs with 3rd intervals, 1 string set at a time.
If your lowest note of the 2 notes you’re playing is C, F or G (1st, 4th and 5th note in the scale), you will use a major 3rd fingering on that note.
If the note you’re on is one of the other 4 notes (D, E, A, B) in a C major scale, you will use the minor 3rd fingering.

Practice 3 minutes soloing on every string set. This adds up to a 15 minute daily drill.
Check last week’s blog if you need help or if you need to see a video of this soloing with intervals exercise in action.
This is explained with a video here: The Study of Musical Intervals Part 2: The 2nd Interval
The video shows this with 2nd intervals, but the principle is the same: you improvise making up harmonized melodies on the spot, staying on 1 string set only, moving horizontally from note to note.

Next week we’ll cover a different topic to give you more time to work on all the interval information we covered in past blogs.
In 2 weeks we’ll have a look at 4th intervals.

Be on the look out for more blogs about everything guitar, music, songwriting and music education.

Meanwhile: give this blog a rating and give me your feedback in the comments section below. I believe everything can always be improved, and I gladly would implement your suggestions and ideas in this blog or the next.



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