The Music Theory Advantage TM
Created by
Max Maxwell
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<<=PREV  DO NOT begin step two until you have mastered step one!  NEXT=>>

Step Two: Memorize the intervals between adjacent pairs
of notes in the Cycle of Thirds

Between each pair of adjacent notes in the Cycle of Thirds is a pitch difference of either a minor 3rd or a Major 3rd. All intervals are made up of different numbers of half-steps. A half-step is the smallest unit of measure of pitch difference in our musical system. On the piano keyboard a half-step is the pitch difference between two adjacent keys on the piano keyboard. When counting half-steps above a particular key, you always start on the next key. For example, a half-step above "A" on the far left of the illustration below is the adjacent black key. A Major 3rd has four half-steps. A minor 3rd has three half-steps. In the illustration below, you can see that each pair of adjacent notes in the Cycle of Thirds are either three or four half steps apart. Remember, three half-steps is a minor 3rd, four half-steps is a Major 3rd. In the illustration below, the larger numbers on the grey keys represent the total number of half steps from the previous grey key.

Moving right on the keyboard (and the cycle) moves toward higher pitches.
Moving left moves toward lower pitches.

The Cycle of Thirds

Memorize the intervals between adjacent notes!

A to C

minor 3rd

C to E Major 3rd
E to G minor 3rd
G to B Major 3rd
B to D minor 3rd
D to F minor 3rd
F to A Major 3rd

M = Major   m = minor
m3 C M3 E m3 G M3 B m3 D m3 F M3 A



If you need help memorizing the third types for
each adjacent pair of notes in the cycle of thirds,
click the clink below:

Memory Aid for Third Types

You must memorize the third type for each pair of adjacent notes in the cube very well! Master it! If you think A to C, you should be able to immediately say "minor 3rd." If you think G to B, you should immediately be able to say, "Major 3rd.". If, moving backward (Down) in the cycle, you think D to B, you should be able to immediately say, "minor 3rd." Before moving on, you should be able to quickly and easily name the correct interval of a 3rd that exist between any two adjacent notes in the cycle of thirds. Technically they are not notes, but pitch classes. I am still just going to call them notes. You should also name any one note in the cycle, then move right or left in your mind to the next note and name the interval. For example, if you think of "G", then move up to "B" and say "Major 3rd." Then move from G down to E (the next pitch down the cycle) and say "minor 3rd." Remember that the pairs as given on this page are from the starting note and moving to a higher pitch (moving to the right on the keyboard). Just memorize the order of pairs as presented on this page. When moving down, from G down to E for example, this exact pair order was not presented on this page. Just reverse the order to get an up moving pair. Thus, G down to E (moving left on the keyboard and down in pitch) is reversed to become E up to G (moving right on the keyboard and up in pitch). EG is minor. This will tell you the interval type for G down to E (minor). The ability to recite the Cycle of Thirds (step one) and the ability to name the correct 3rd between two adjacent notes (step two) are the most basic and important steps! Do whatever you need to do to memorize this. Make flash cards, or just keep reciting the answers from memory and refer to the chart on this screen only when needed.


<<=PREV  I have mastered step one and two. I want to move on to step three!  NEXT=>>

Copyright 2008-2011 Kenneth J. Maxwell Jr.