What is a Picardy 3rd?

Alex Trebek, “The practice of ending a piece of music in a minor key on a major tonic chord”

…I am going to win one of you a Jeopardy answer someday! Remember this!

Not sure why but while studying music in college the topic of the Picardy 3rd was something that always came up in jokes and conversations between students. It may have to do with it just being a cool musical concept, it may be that is was one of the easier concepts to grasp for most music students, I’m just not sure. All I know is every time I hear it I want to do that stupid Beavis and Butthead laugh and say, “Uhhh-huhh, you said Picardy 3rd.”

It was a practice popularized in the Renaissance period 1400-1600. The origins of the name Picardy are not known for sure although some theorize it relates to the Picardy region of France.

So other than a joke between college musicians, winning Jeopardy or impressing your friends with a relatively useless piece of trivia how does this effect your life?

Well for those of you who write music try it! You will be amazed at the stark lifting statement a final major chord has on a minor keyed song. The half step raising of one note can substantially generate a physical impression on your listeners. And after all what are we trying to do as musicians…move our listeners!

Try it you’ll like it!

Here is Glenn Gould performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude in D minor BWV926 Listen for the difference between the final major chord and the rest of the piece in minor.

About mikeslayen

Guitarist/Instructor

2 Responses

  1. I remember in a piano class we were playing a lament that ended on a minor tonic chord, but the guy next to me kept playing a Picardy 3rd. His reason “everything turned out ok,” lets say the prof wasn’t happy haha

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