How to Write Music


12: Intervals - Steps

Appendices:


Old (2005-2010) Article Series

Lesson 12: Intervals - Steps

In music, an interval is the distance between two pitches: how high one pitch is above another. The intervals between the notes give a particular melody or chord its unique sound. We will use intervals frequently when we talk about melodies and chords, so you will need to know the intervals well, by name, without having to think about them.

Steps. Intervals are measured in steps: whole-steps and half-steps. For example, a certain interval might be measured as 6 half-steps (or 3 whole-steps; same thing).

("Whole-step" and "half-step" are American terms; the U.K. terms are "tone" and "semitone". I'll be using the American terms.)

Interval names. Although intervals are measured in steps, their names are ordinal numbers: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. An interval's name also includes a "quality" (e.g. major or minor). Here are some example interval names:
Minor 3rd (= 3 half-steps)
Major 3rd (= 4 half-steps)
Perfect 4th (= 5 half-steps)

We'll learn the numbered intervals later. Right now, we'll start with the steps.

The half-step is the smallest possible distance between two different named pitches. Here are some example half-steps on the piano keyboard:


A to B♭ (half-step)



B to C (half-step)



C♯ to D (half-step)

A whole-step is equal to two half-steps. Here are some whole-steps:


A to B (whole-step)



B♭ to C (whole-step)



C♯ to D♯ (whole-step)

Now go on and practice your half-steps and whole-steps, in Lesson 13: The Steps Game.

by Conrad Albrecht 2016. Questions, comments, ideas? Tell me on Facebook!


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