Minor Third (m3)

You know the minor third interval: it is the interval of the phrase “sometimes I wish upon a star” in “Over the Rainbow”. It is also the first interval of the Star Spangled banner when you sing “O-oh..” even before you get to “..say can you see…”.

On a keyboard, you will find the minor third by counting 4 keys (both white and black keys): the interval between the two extremities of your 4-count represents a “minor third” (see below video).

Practicing the minor third in singing the mass, using the Roman Missal, is best done with the Gospel tone. In the video below, you can hear the minor third interval sung exclusively from 0’9″ to 1’00”. It is the interval used.

(NOTE: disregard the first 9 seconds of the video, the interval used is a fifth. We’ll study it later…)

  • after the second reading : “the word of the \m3 Lord” .
    • [ \m3 represents when the voice moves down by a minor 3rd. /m3 will represent a move up ]
  • Before the Gospel:
    • The Lord \m3 be /m3 with you”
    • “And with \m3 your /m3 spirit “
    • “A reading from the holy Gospel according \m3 to /m3 Mark-Matthew-Luke-John”
    • “Glory to you \m3 O /m3 Lord”
  • and After the Gospel:
    • “The Gospel of \m3 the /m3 Lord”
    • “Praise to you Lord Je- \m3 -sus /m3 Christ”

If you watched the two videos above, you now can sing a minor third out of nowhere, or rather from deep inside your memory. Now let us put our new knowledge in a larger perspective, and learn two more intervals: the minor second (also called half-step) and the major second (also called full-step).

The minor third (m3) is the sum, or combination, of a minor second (m2) and a major second (M2) put together. The beginning of “Joy to the World” will help us identify the difference between m2 and M2, and their relation to m3.

If you sing “Joy to the World…” then “Joy-to” is a m2 interval, “to-the” is a M2 interval, and if you were to skip directly from “Joy” to “the”, skipping the “to”, you’d end up with a m3 interval.

An equivalency between Joy-to-the-world-the-Lord-is-come with DO-SI-LA-SO-FA-MI-RE-DO is below:

If you sing “JOY TO THE” slowly and carefully, you will notice that the “JOY TO” interval (m2) is narrower than the “TO THE” interval (M2). m2 is called a “half step”, while M2 is called a “full step”.

If you have not felt that yet, try again…. and again… Memorizing that difference between half-step and full-step, with both your body and your mind, is something you will use for the rest of your life. Worth a few more minutes…

In the Roman Missal, we can find a direct application of the relationship between m3, m2 and M2 in the singing of the Doxology and great Amen. Please listen to this video recording, and see how it can be broken down with the two illustrations lower:

Below are shown the intervals between each note (nothing is indicated when the note does not change). Only the three intervals we discussed on this page m3, m2 and M2 are used:

…But these 3 intervals and the DO-SI-LA sequence not only give us the relationship between each note, but with this Doxology, the “general musical direction” of this prayer is DO-SI-LA. How so? We identify for each of the four phrases a RECITING TONE, which is the tone that repeats the most often, the tones that “dominates” the phrase. We thus identify the following RECITING TONES :

  • Through him and with him and in him = DO
  • O God almighty Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit = DO
  • all glory and honor is yours, = SI
  • for ever and ever. Amen = LA

The singer thus must have each m3, m2 and M2 intervals in memory, but it is also helpful to have in memory the “general direction” of the sung prayer, which in this case, is DO-SI-LA (same tone as “Joy-to-the”)

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