In the music theory of Western culture, a minor third is a musical interval that encompasses three half steps, or semitones. Staff notation represents the minor third as encompassing three staff positions (see: interval number). The minor third is one of two commonly occurring thirds. It is called minor because it is the smaller of the two: the major third spans an additional semitone. For example, the interval from A to C is a minor third, as the note C lies three semitones above A, and (coincidentally) there are three staff positions from A to C. Diminished and augmented thirds span the same number of staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones (two and five). The minor third is a skip melodically.
|Just interval||6:5, 19:16, 32:27|
|24 equal temperament||300|
|Just intonation||316, 298, 294|
The minor third is commonly used to express sadness in music, and research shows that this mirrors its use in speech, as a tone similar to a minor third is produced during sad speech. It is also a quartal (based on an ascendance of one or more perfect fourths) tertian interval, as opposed to the major third's quintality. The minor third is also obtainable in reference to a fundamental note from the undertone series, while the major third is obtainable as such from the overtone series. (See Otonality and Utonality.)
The minor scale is so named because of the presence of this interval between its tonic and mediant (1st and 3rd) scale degrees. Minor chords too take their 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 minor third, in just intonation, corresponds to a pitch ratio of 6:5 (
Other pitch ratios are given related names, the septimal minor third with ratio 7:6 and the tridecimal minor third with ratio 13:11 in particular.
The sopranino saxophone and E♭ clarinet sound in the concert pitch ( C ) a minor third higher than the written pitch; therefore, to get the sounding pitch one must transpose the written pitch up a minor third. Instruments in A – most commonly the A clarinet, sound a minor third lower than the written pitch.
Pythagorean minor third
In music theory, a semiditone (or Pythagorean minor third) is the interval 32:27 (approximately 294.13 cents). It is the minor third in Pythagorean tuning. The 32:27 Pythagorean minor third arises in the C major scale between D and F.
- Haluska, Jan (2003). The Mathematical Theory of Tone Systems, p.xxiv. ISBN 0-8247-4714-3. 19th harmonic, overtone minor tone.
- Curtis ME, Bharucha JJ (June 2010). "The minor third communicates sadness in speech, mirroring its use in music". Emotion. 10 (3): 335–48. doi:10.1037/a0017928. PMID 20515223.
- Dowsett, Peter (2015). Audio Production Tips: Getting the Sound Right at the Source, p.3.6.3. CRC. ISBN 9781317614203. "The minor third, however, does not appear in the harmonic series until the nineteenth harmmonic. Your ear almost expects to hear the major third ([on A:] C♯), and when that is replaced with a more distantly related note, this makes the listener feel more 'unpleasant', 'tense', or 'sad'."
- Alexander J. Ellis (translating Hermann Helmholtz): On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music, page 455. Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1954. "16:19...The 19th harmonic, ex. 297.513 [cents]". Later reprintings: ISBN 1-150-36602-8 or ISBN 1-143-49451-2.
- Prout, Ebenezer (December 1, 1908). "In the Forecourts of Instrumentation", The Monthly Musical Record. p.268.
- John Fonville. "Ben Johnston's Extended Just Intonation- A Guide for Interpreters", p.124, Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Summer, 1991), pp. 106-137.
- Paul, Oscar (1885). A manual of harmony for use in music-schools and seminaries and for self-instruction, p.165. Theodore Baker, trans. G. Schirmer.