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6: Half-Steps & Whole-Steps

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Lesson 6: Half-Steps & Whole-Steps

This lesson teaches: half-steps and whole-steps, the basic units of pitch distance. You'll need them to understand scales, chords, and melodies.

Before taking this lesson, you should know: the pitch names (Lesson 5: Sharps & Flats).


Pitch distance means: how far one pitch is above (or below) another pitch. We measure pitch distance in half-steps. A half-step is the distance between two pitches that are right next to each other, with no other pitch between them, including the sharps/flats ("black" pitches).

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 "next to each other", 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: Neighboring white keys do make a half-step if there's no black key between them.

C♯ to D

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


A whole-step is a pitch distance equal to two half-steps. For example:
  • Consider the 3 pitches C-C♯-D.
  • C to C♯ is a half-step; C♯ to D is also a half-step.
  • So, C to D is a whole-step.

Here are some more example whole-steps:

A to B

B♭ to C

C♯ to D♯

Practice half-steps and whole-steps in Lesson 7: Steps Game.


1: Introduction
2: Practicing Songwriting
3: Pitch Names
4: Letters Game
5: Sharps & Flats
6: Half-Steps & Whole-Steps
7: Steps Game
8: Scales
9: Major Scale 1-2-3
10: Major 1-2-3 Games
11: Major Scale 1-5
12: Major 1-5 Games
13: Chords: Major Triads
14: Major Triad Games
15: Minor Triads
16: Minor Triad Games
17: Major Scale 1-8
18: Major Scale Games
19: Keys
20: Roman Numeral Chords
21: Scales Above 8
22: Diatonic Triads
23: Using Diatonics
24: Tonic Function
25: Subdominant & Dominant
26: Diatonic Function Analysis
27: Natural Minor Scale
28: Natural Minor Games
29: Minor Key Triads
30: 7th Chords
31: 7ths Games
32: Suspended-4th Chords
33: Time: Beats & Measures
34: Starting a Song: Hook Chords
35: Melody: Chord Tones
36: Treble Staff
37: Treble Staff Game
38: Note Lengths
39: Tied & Dotted Notes
40: Rhythm: Rests
41: Key Signatures
42: Syncopation
43: Pentatonic Scales
44: Hook Melodies
45: Hook to Chorus: Rolling Stone
46: Melody Rhythm: Rolling Stone
47: Non-Root-Bass Chords
48: Embellishing Tones
49: Diatonic 7ths
50: Pitch & Frequency

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