Intervals Explained

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An interval is the distance between two notes, and it is indicated by ordinal numbers (2nd, 5th , 7th) except when describing the unison (identity of pitch) and the octave (two notes 12 semitones apart).

Intervals of a 2nd ,3rd ,6th ,7th are called major.

Intervals of a 4th ,5th and octave are called perfect.

If a major interval is raised by a half step it is called augmented. If a major interval is lowered by a half step it is called minor. If lowered by two half steps, diminished.

If a perfect interval is raised by a half step it is called augmented. If a perfect interval is lowered by a half step it is called diminished (note the difference).

There are two basic ways to calculate an interval,  that will lead to the same result.

1. Calculating by the number of half steps between the two notes:

N.of halfsteps

1

2

3

4

5

6

6

also

7

8

8

also

9

10

10

also

11

12

Interval

m2

M2

m3

M3

P4

4aug

5dim

P5

5aug

m6

M6

6aug

m7

M7

P8

Example

C

Db

C D

C

Eb

C

E

C

F

C

F#

C

Gb

C

G

C

G#

C

Ab

C

A

C

A#

C

Bb

C

B

C2

C3

where m=minor, M=major, P=perfect, dim=diminished, aug=augmented.

2. Finding  the interval from the major scale. All the intervals from the tonic of a major scale to any other note of that scale are major or perfect (i.e. between C and D=major2nd,  C e E=major3rd, C e F=perfect4rth, and so on…). Of course you need to know your major scales!!

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. I think intervals are the base of understanding music theory, all you have to do is knowing the major scale and its intervals, so while learning guitar scales you just see what intervals differ from the major scale and change them (minors, diminished…etc), great post.

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