The Matrix of Thirds

One way to think of a major scale is to understand it as single, seven note chord. In fact, when you create a seven-note chord from the root of the major scale, you create a Maj13 chord. This chord contains all the notes of the major scale. The thing that makes it a chord is that the note are "stacked" in intervals of a third (either major or minor thirds).

Stacking all of the notes of a scale in thirds produces a rather fascinating aspect about music, that is, all chords within a single key are related. They share some of the same notes and many times a chord can be found nestled inside another chord.

The chart here lays out 12 of the major scales in rows based on the circle of fifths. The notes of each scale are arranged in thirds from left to right. The colored bar between two notes indicates if the interval between the two notes is major (red) or minor (blue).

For practice, instead of playing scales in a stepwise fashion try playing the notes of the scales in thirds. It will sound more musical. Another way to practice is to play four thirds in order, then start another series of four notes from the second note of the previous series. Example: C-E-G-B then E-G-B-D, etc. This will bring out the tonal characteristics of all of the four-note chords that make up the scale you are playing. For a minor sound, do the same but start on the root note of the minor scale. Example: A-C-E-G then C-E-G-B, etc.

I will explore this world of thirds in coming posts. Till then, practice, play, practice, play. It's all good.


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