Pop Music Theory


Lesson 6: Half-Steps

Lesson 6: Half-Steps

To learn about chords and melodies, you will need to know scales; and to learn scales, you need to understand half-steps. You need to know the pitch names for this lesson; if you don't know them, then first go back to our pitch lessons: Pitch Names, Letters Game, and Sharps & Flats.

We use half-steps to measure pitch distance: how far one pitch is above (or below) another pitch. The half-step is the smallest possible distance between two different named pitches; it means two pitches that are right next to each other in the "pitch ladder" (see Lesson 2: Pitch & Keyboard), without any other pitches (neither black nor white) between them.

Important: Two pitches that are right next to each other on the piano often do not make a half-step. For example, the white piano keys A and B are "physically" next to each other on the piano, but they don't make a half-step, because the black key A♯/B♭ is between them in pitch.

Here are some example half-steps:

A to B♭

B to C: Some neighboring white keys do make a half-step.

C♯ to D

(By the way, "half-step" is the American term; in the U.K., a semitone is the same thing.)

When you're sure you understand half-steps, go on to Lesson 7: Whole-Steps.


Lesson 1: Introduction
Lesson 2: Pitch & Keyboard
Lesson 3: Pitch Names
Lesson 4: Letters Game
Lesson 5: Sharps & Flats
Lesson 6: Half-Steps
Lesson 7: Whole-Steps
Lesson 8: Steps Game
Lesson 9: Scales
Lesson 10: Major Scale 1-2-3