Pop Music Theory


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.


1: Introduction
2: Pitch & Keyboard
3: Pitch Names
4: Letters Game
5: Sharps & Flats
6: Half-Steps
7: Whole-Steps
8: Steps Game
9: Scales
10: Major Scale 1-2-3
11: Major 1-2-3 Games
12: Major Scale 1-5
13: Major 1-5 Games
14: Chords: Major Triads
15: Major Triad Games
16: Minor Triads
17: Minor Triad Games
18: Major Scale 1-8
19: Major Scale Games
20: What Next
21: Keys
22: Pitch & Frequency

© 2017 Conrad Albrecht. All rights reserved.