[THEORY] Musical intervals explained

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Andrei Moraru Andrei Moraru 10 months, 3 weeks ago.

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    Andrei Moraru
    Andrei Moraru

    (Hopefuly my 37128734th try is successful…)

    Hello one and all and welcome to this new installment in the music theory series. Today we are going to talk about music intervals.

    A music interval is the difference between two notes, measured in the number of pitches that are found between the two notes (we include the two notes when computing that number). The level of abstractness in this definition will be solved by a few examples.

    C-E is a third, because between C and E, there are a total of 3 pitches: C, D and E. E-A is a fourth, because between E and A there are a total of 4 pitches: E, F, G and A. And so on.

    Music intervals also have a quality associated to them, which is based on the level of consonance the interval has (I didn’t delve too much into this topic so I don’t know a whole lot about what consonance actually is…if someone does, let me know)/ We have 5 possible qualities: perfect, major, minor, augmented and diminished, with the latter two being more specific to chromatic scales. Major and minor intervals differ from one another by the number of steps and half-steps in that interval.

    Music intervals are of two types: simple and compound. In this post, we will be talking about the first category, which consists of 8 different music intervals:

    1. prime – the distance between the note and…itself; it’s a perfect interval
    2. second – the difference between two consecutive notes; can be either major (a step distance between the notes) or minor (a half-step distance between notes); C-D is a major second, E-F is a minor second
    3. third – contains 3 tones; can be either major (2 steps) or minor (1 step and 1 half-step); C-E is a major third, D-F is a minor third
    4. fourth – contains 4 tones and is a perfect interval; C-F is a perfect fourth; a particularly…ahem, interesting variation of the fourth is the tritone (or augmented fourth); just play an F-B interval and you’ll get what I mean 🙂
    5. fifth – contains 5 tones and is a perfect interval; C-G is a perfect fifth
    6. sixth – contains 6 tones and can be major (4 steps and 1 half step) or minor (3 steps and 2 half-steps); C-A is a major sixth while E-C is a minor sixth
    7. seventh – contains 7 tones and can be major (5 steps and 1 half step) or minor (4 steps and 2 half-steps); C-B is a major seventh while D-C is a minor seventh
    8. octave – contains 8 notes and is basically the difference between a note and the same note with a higher or lower pitch: octaves are perfect

    Note that the qualities I’ve mentioned there are the typical ones for each interval. I find augmented and diminished intervals to be a bit confusing, because pitch wise they tend to overlap with other intervals.

    For example, a diminished second (which is obtained by flattening the second note of the interval) is basically a prime. An augmented second (obtained by sharpening the second note of a major second) is basically a minor third. And so on. I wouldn’t recommend looking too much into augmented/diminished intervals, except maybe for the tritone (an augmented fourth, in other words).

    Another thing to remember is that musical intervals can be either rising (when the second note has a higher pitch than the first one) or falling (when the second note has a lower pitch than the first one).

    That’s about all for today.

    Previous posts:

    Notes, pitches, semitones and octaves
    Accidentals and enharmonic-notes

    MNR Rezasa

    Thanks for the musical theory, keep sharing your knowledge about more advanced theory about music.

    Ids Schiere
    Ids Schiere

    Sorry about my post on the augmented and diminished stuff. I was kinda wrong there. But you’re right augmented doesn’t really has much use for 2nds since that makes a minor third. However, for perfect intervals it’s useful since an augmented 4th would make a flat fifth and an augmented 5th would make a sharp fifth which are actually pretty nice! A sixth becomes a little bit weird again since an augmented sixth would become a minor third and a diminished 6th becomes an augmented 5th(same with augmented 4th and diminished 5th). Basically the most important thing with intervals is to realize they are used to make chords!

    Again sorry for that forum topic I started (I wanted to delete it but I don’t know how) but I kinda did that from the top of my head which didn’t really paint the whole picture so I checked my theory book for the augmented and diminished stuff for a bit. In general you nailed it!

    Andrei Moraru
    Andrei Moraru

    No problem Ids. I welcome any and all feedback be it right or wrong, because there may be times when I mess up due to a variety of reasons.

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