You probably think you know what
minor mean. You might think that
sad. Or you might think that
written in a major key and
written in a minor key. And you’d be right, for the most part. But the whole truth is both simpler and more complicated than that.
You knew that already, right? You’d rather have a minor catastrophe than a major catastrophe. But you might have forgotten how it applies to music.
A major 3rd is bigger than a minor 3rd (C-E is a bigger distance than C-Eb). Similarly, a major 7th is bigger than a minor 7th (C-B is a bigger distance than C-Bb).
Major just means
bigger. So why do we forget this?
Well, consider a major triad. A major triad is not actually bigger than a minor triad. The 3rd of a major triad is bigger than the 3rd of a minor triad, so we call it a
major triad as a kind of shorthand, but what we really mean is
a triad with a major 3rd and a perfect 5th.
Similarly, a major scale is not bigger than a minor scale, we just call it that because the 3rd is bigger.
And when we talk about a
major symphony, what we really mean is a symphony that’s primarily based on a scale that has a major 3rd.
We talk about chords, scales and symphonies more than we talk about intervals, and because
major ones sound
minor ones we can even think that
happy. But it doesn’t.