JEFFREY CHAPPELL - PIANIST
HOW TO AVOID DOUBLING THE THIRD OF A CHORD
Dear Mr. Chappell:
When you are writing for four parts, how bad are doubled thirds really? Even though the rule books say you should avoid them, I really don’t hear the weakness of the doubled thirds.
They’re not so ‘bad’, they are just officially the third choice in order of preference for doubling a chord tone, according to the textbooks. The idea is that you should, if possible, double the root, or if that isn’t possible, double the fifth, and then if that isn’t possible, go ahead and double the third.
Of course, this implies some sort of inferiority (but not incorrectness) on the part of the doubled third. You might say it has more of a mellow effect, so whoever made the rules didn’t want mellow. The first chord of Faure’s Prelude from the ‘Pelleas and Melisande’ Suite is, from bottom to top, G-D-B-B, and it is incredibly gorgeous. And he was no ignoramus when it came to harmonizing.