I have seen a few answers to this on the web but none seemed very authoritative.

A Picardy third is the use of a major tonic chord at the end of a phrase or section in a minor key.

Is there a name for the converse: ending a section in a major key on the tonic minor?

A little more: I rather like the effect and, in my feeble attempts at composition, I hit upon this as a nice end to a movement in G major to be followed by one in G minor. So, the end of a movement but not the entire piece.

I have accepted one of the latest answers in preference to those of the previous question.

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    It's so rare, I can't think of a single piece that uses it. Some pieces go into (modulate to) the parallel minor, but that, the other way around, would not constitute a Tierce de Picardie anyway.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 16:43
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    Possible duplicate of Is there a special name for "I - V - i" or "i - V - I" Modulation?
    – jdjazz
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 17:25
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    @jdjazz I think in the letter of law, that is a duplicate. It has an accepted answer. I'm hesitating because even though the answer is accepted, it is in no way authoritative and is just the supposition or appellation conceived by the writer of the answer. I think Pat has the "real" answer below. Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 17:37
  • The picardy third typically only happens at the end of the piece.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 18:08
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    @ToddWilcox Technically, I suppose my answer is just supposition too. It’s hard to be authoritative about the (relative) non-existence of something. I have studied enough over the years that I’d be surprised to be proven wrong, but not flabbergasted. Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 18:18

5 Answers 5


I’ve always joked that it should be called a Kirky third, but only fellow Star Trek nerds get it, and it’s a terrible joke regardless.

There’s no official term for it because—unlike the Picardy third—it isn’t a generally used procedure. The original reason you hear minor-key music end with a major triad is that, in the Renaissance and Baroque, the minor triad generally wasn’t seen as harmonically stable enough to end an entire composition. You have to remember that even treating thirds in general as consonances was relatively new. They could find plenty of theoretical justification for this position based on the fact that a minor third above the fundamental isn’t found until a much higher partial in the overtone series (you have to go to at least the 19th partial to find a possible candidate). Minor triads were starting to be heard as stable enough for internal cadences, but not for final ones. One imagines that many composers wrote Picardy thirds simply because “it’s what one does at the end of a minor piece” rather than feeling any need to justify it at all.

So, although it tends to sound surprising to our ears, it would have sounded totally unremarkable during the Baroque. The opposite wasn’t done at all—and would have been heard as very strange—so no term was necessary. Although I’m sure composers have done it, especially post-modern ones, I’ve never come upon an inverse Picardy third despite studying a lot of music. If I came across one, I think “inverse Picardy third” would work nicely. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some people have tried to coin a term for it, but with such a limited supply of examples I’d be surprised if it caught on. Maybe it will become a characteristic aspect of some composers, and it will come to be named after them or their region, much like one (so far unproven) explanation for the origin of the “Picardy third” term.


I don't think so. It's rare. I can only think of one example, the theme of a British TV program from somewhere around the 70's. It featured a harpsicord - briefly trendy in pop and commercial music round that time (taking over from the ubiquitous vibraphone of the previous decade). It ended on a 'reverse tierce de Picardie'. And if I could remember what it was called, I'd tell you!

Thank you, @ken willis

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    Laurence Payne is right : he is thinking of the theme to Lord Peter Wimsey, starring Ian Carmichael (as opposed to Edward Petherbridge). The effect is produced with just one note, and not even a chord. Even stranger is the fact that it is the final note of a downward mordent - ie., E-D-Eb! Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 22:18

The Beatles used Picardy 3rds as well as the "inverse" in their works. Paul was very fond of Following up Fmaj chords With Fmin. He stated "For him its just natural"

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    I don't know whether I'd necessarily call that an example of an inverse Picardy 3rd. It's certainly a major chord to a minor chord, but it's not the tonic chord (usually that progression you mentioned goes to C major).
    – user45266
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 16:20

Mendelssohn's Andante and Rondo Capriccioso in E Major, Op. 14 begins in E major and ends in E minor. You can look up the score here.

Another example is the famous Gymnopedie #1 by Erik Satie. It begins in D major but ends in D minor.

You can also check this Wikipedia article. It lists a lot of pieces that begin in a major key and end in a minor key.

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    The Picardy third (and it’s inverse, if you find one) is all about the final chord being in a different mode than everything before it, not a shift into the parallel mode that lasts for multiple progressions. Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 0:07
  • By chance, I had just spotted the Satie example and was wondering that was an example or a rapid modulation near the end.
    – badjohn
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 11:50
  • @badjohn Modulation I think (well, many theorists prefer not to use that term for a parallel shift of mode, but whatever). D minor is established for at least the last 18 bars. Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 14:35
  • @PatMuchmore Thanks, I'll need to look again. I can see that it is not simply a switch to D minor for the last chord (hence not any sort of Picardy 3rd) but I didn't remember it being signalled quite so far ahead.
    – badjohn
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 15:39
  • Mendelssohn is almost cheating because his minors are sunnier than most folks' majors! On the other hand, the Wikipedia list's Brahms' Op 119 #4 is a sudden tonic minor with absolutely no foreshadowing. Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 13:25

The Gorillaz song "On Melancholy Hill" is probably the most famous use of it. The song is in D major with a I-I-V-V-vi-vi-IV-V-IV-V progression. The final hit of the song is a bell, which are almost universally tuned with the minor third as a harmonic, thus producing a D minor chord.

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    I don't know the song but it sounds like a nice idea.
    – badjohn
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 8:37

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