Music Intervals

Home

Half-steps

The smallest distance between two notes is a half-step (HS), also called a semi-tone. A half-step is the distance from one note to the next adjacent note either ascending or descending. From A to A# is a half-step ascending. From F to E is a half-step descending. See the diagram below.

music half-steps

On the guitar, a half-step is one fret either up or down from any starting fret. For example, play the third string fourth fret B note. A half-step ascending is the third string fifth fret C note and a half-step descending is the third string third fret Bb note.

Whole-steps

A whole-step (WS), also called a whole-tone, consists of two consecutive half-steps. From A to A# is a half step and from A# to B is a half step. Therefore, since a whole-step is two consecutive half-steps, from A to B is a whole-step. See the diagram below.

music whole-step

On the guitar, a whole-step is two frets either up or down from any starting fret. For example, play the third string, fourth fret B note. A whole-step ascending is the third string sixth fret C# note and a whole-step descending is the third string second fret A note.

Introduction to Intervals

Half-steps and whole-steps are used to measure the distance between two notes. Each interval is two notes a specific number of half-steps apart. The first note is called the root note (the principal note) and is usually the note with the lower pitch. The second note (the auxiliary note) is given the name of the interval. For example, in a major second interval the first note is called the root and the second note is called a major second above (for ascending) or below (for descending) the root.

Intervals can be played either harmonically or melodically. Harmony is two or more notes played simultaneously (the notes sound together at the same time). Melody is notes played one then the other. Chords are an example of harmony and scales are an example of melody.

Intervals are described as either consonant or dissonant. An interval is consonant if the tones agree with one another. That is, our ears tell us the tones sound pleasing when played in harmony. An interval is dissonant if the tones disagree or sound unpleasing to our ears when played in harmony.

Octaves, fourths, and fifths are examples of consonant intervals. Seconds, Sevenths, and all augmented and diminished intervals are examples of dissonant intervals.

Here are a few tips for memorizing interval relationships:

  • Minor intervals always have one less half-step then major intervals.
  • Augmented means to increase the number of half-steps between two notes by one.
  • Diminished means to decrease the number of half-steps between two notes by one.
  • Major thirds and diminished fourths have the same number of half-steps.
  • Augmented fourths and diminished fifths have the same number of half-steps.
  • Augmented fifths and minor sixths have the same number of half-steps.

Intervals are the building blocks of chords and form the foundation of all musical relationships.

Music Intervals

Top Home