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Intervals
Topic: Theory Subtopic: General Level: Beginner Number of Readers: 73401

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Intervals

A musical interval is the distance between two notes. The distance is measured in units called 'semitones'. A semitone is the smallest interval. In the sequence we learned in the lesson 'Note Names':

A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#

The interval between any two consecutive notes is a semitone. For example, the interval between A and A# is a semitone, the interval between C# and D is a semitone, and the interval between B and C is a semitone. Since there are no notes between any of these consecutive note names, this is the smallest interval, and this is why we use it to measure the other intervals.

A 'tone' is an interval that is equal to two semitones. For example, the interval between A and B is a tone, the interval between E and F# is a tone and so on.

Now we're going to mess you up. Really, there are other names for the intervals 'semitone' and 'tone', which will be presented shortly. First we have to take a look at how we name intervals. Consider the following sequence:

A B C D E F G A

Don't worry about the notes in-between for now. The interval between any two consecutive letter names is called a 'second'. So from A to B is a second. The interval between two notes with an extra one in-between is called a 'third'. So from A to C is a third. This continues as shown in this chart:

A to A(same note)	unison
A to B			second
A to C			third
A to D			fourth
A to E			fifth
A to F			sixth
A to G			seventh
A to A(higher A)	octave

Remember that this doesn't just apply for just the A note, the interval between B and D# is also a third, and the interval between C# and F# is a fourth, and so on.

Now we're going to look at the 'quality' of intervals. Not all seconds, or thirds, or fourths are the same. There are different kinds of seconds. A second can be 'major' or 'minor'. To distinguish between the two, we must count their semitones. This is why we first learned what a semitone was. Consider the following:

From A to B is a second.
There is one note in-between A and B, called either A# or Bb.
Therefore there are 2 semitones(or a tone) between the notes A and B.
Therefore it is said to be a 'major' second.

Consider also the following:

From A to Bb is a second. (because it is two consecutive letter names, even if one's a flat)
There are no notes between A and Bb.
Therefore there is 1 semitone between the notes A and Bb.
Therefore it is said to be a 'minor' second.

Is this starting to make sense? Like it said at the top of this lesson, intervals are named by the number of semitones between them. Also, getting back to what we said about the different names for 'semitone' and 'tone':

A major second is equal to a tone.
A minor second is equal to a semitone.

So those are the two names given to the same interval.

Now that you've seen that there are major, seconds and minor seconds, you're probably thinking that there are also major third and minor thirds. You're absolutely right. Consider the following:

From A to C# is a third.
There are 3 notes in-between A and C#. They are: A#, B and C.
Therefore there are 4 semitones between A and C#.
Therefore it is said to be an interval of a major third.

From A to C is a third.
There are 2 notes in-between A and C#. They are A# and B.
Therefore there are 3 semitones between A and C.
Therefore it is said to be an interval of a minor third.

You might notice something now. Minor intervals are smaller than major intervals(they contain less semitones). This of course only applies if you are talking about the same degree of interval. For example, a minor third is smaller than a major third, but a minor third is still bigger than a major second.

For now, don't worry about memorizing the number of semitones in each interval, a chart will be provided at the end of this lesson.

Moving on to the interval of a fourth, things change. There are no major or minor fourths. The qualities that can be applied to a fourth are 'perfect', 'diminished', and 'augmented'. A perfect fourth contains 5 semitones, as in C to F. An augmented fourth contains 6 semitones, as in C to F#. A diminished fourth contains 4 semitones, as in C# to F. From this, we can see that diminished intervals are smaller than perfect intervals, and perfect intervals are smaller than augmented intervals.

The qualities of 'perfect', 'diminished' and 'augmented' are only applied to fourths, fifths. Octaves and unisons have only one quality, and that is perfect.

All the intervals follow the same scheme as what we looked at in the examples, so I won't go over the rest. But I will make a chart here that tells you the number of semitones between each interval. You might notice that some have the same number of semitones, but are named different intervals. You're right. Some intervals have two names.

Interval:		# of semitones:	Symbol	Example:

perfect unison		0			p1	C to C
minor second		1			m2	C to C#
major second		2			M2	C to D
minor third		3			m3	C to Eb
major third		4			M3	C to E
diminished fourth	4			dim4	C# to F
perfect fourth		5			p4	C to F
augmented fourth	6			aug4	C to F#
diminished fifth	6			dim5	C to Gb
perfect fifth		7			p5	C to G
augmented fifth		8			aug5	C to G#
minor sixth		8			m6	C to Ab
major sixth		9			M6	C to A
minor seventh		10			m7	C to Bb
major seventh		11			M7	C to B
perfect octave		12			p8	C to C(the next highest C)

The things to remember from this lesson are:

1. An interval is the distance between two notes.
2. The distance is measured in semitones, which is the smallest unit.
3. Intervals are named first according to degree, which makes reference to the number of consecutive letter names between the two. Example: C to D is a second, C to E is a third, and so on.
4. The degree of the interval is given a quality. For 2nds, 3rds, 6ths, and 7ths, the qualities are either major or minor. For 4ths and 5ths, the qualities are diminished, perfect or augmented. For octaves and unisons, the only quality is perfect.
5. In the future, try to memorize all the intervals and the number of semitones between them. Don't do this for 10 years before moving to the next lesson, just learn a few, and keep working on it gradually.



Questions
Question posted by eli on 1999-11-16
Why do the fourth and fifth intervals have diminished, augmented and perfect. It seems as though these labels just add an extra name for the intervals of 4, 6 and 8 semitones. Thank you.
There are 1 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Danny on 2000-01-09
Feedback: Great lesson. Thanks. Picky grammar error: "...Minor intervals are smaller than major intervals(they contain less [fewer]semitones)..."
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Unknown on 2000-07-21
everytime I play guitar standing up I get an erection...rubbing the backside of guitar on my you know what...It does help my singing but really makes it hard to play barr chords...there must be help for me
There are 11 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Phil Huckeby on 2000-08-09
Ok, after going over this whole thing in my mind for a while I have come to a conclusion. This is going to take a while to sink in because your're going to think about this with a mind of stone. You have to step back and losen up your mind a little. First off you won't always the same outcome with every note. For Example in "A" the Major Third and the Diminished Fourth are shared,
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Phil Huckeby on 2000-08-09
Ok, after going over this whole thing in my mind for a while I have come to a conclusion. This is going to take a while to sink in because your're going to think about this with a mind of stone. You have to step back and losen up your mind a little. First off you won't always the same outcome with every note. For Example in "A" the Major Third and the Diminished Fourth are shared, A to C# and A to Db. C# and Db are the same note. Ok, but if you do this exersise in "C" a couple different notes are shared, the Augmented Fourth and Diminished Fifth are shared, C to F# and C to Gb. Also the Augmented Fifth and Minor Sixth are shared, C to G# and C to Ab. Again these are the same notes. And what esle is weird is that in "C" you have to go up to C# in order to make the Diminished Fourth. And in "A" you have to go up to A# to E for the Diminished Fifth and Down to Ab to E in order to make the Augmented Fifth. So what I'm trying to say is that this is more fluid than you think so don't get all twisted up in your mind like I did.
There are 1 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Tommy on 2000-09-22
I used to think of myself as a fair guitarist, but this site changed all that. Now I have years of practice ahead of me (again). BUT THE DAY WILL COME WERE I WILL BE PROCLAIMED GUITAR GOD AND RULE THE WORLD. AND ALL SHALL SPEAK THE NAME TOMMY JOANISSE IN GREAT REVERENCE, even K.Hammet, heh heh (hey, it's always best to aim high). Great lessons by the way. Thanks for all the info.
There are 1 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by bob pritchard on 2001-03-14
Are there certain chord forms for quintal chords like there are for quartal? thanks!
There are 2 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Unknown on 2002-02-12
Sorry, could you just repeat that lesson. It seems to have flown over my head at about Mach 1.
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Ian on 2002-12-12
If the interval between B and C is a Major 2nd what is the interval referred to between G# and A#?
There are 1 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by charlieb on 2003-01-17
in the example of c to csharp you call this a onr second. But a second is between notes of a different letter i.e. c to d. So this breaks that rule. correct?
There are 1 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by ekki on 2004-06-03
bisakah saya mendownload partitur guitar dari john petteruci dengan lagu metropolis part 1?
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by pete on 2004-12-05
What is a phrygial second? Thanks
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by apaw redox on 2005-04-21
bagaimana caranya untuk mengkopi scale2 / partitur disini
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by inot on 2005-09-28
i want playng guitar very good
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

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Thanks!!! http://www.insurance-top.com/company/ car site insurance. [URL=http://www.insurance-top.com]home insurance[/URL]: car site insurance, The autos insurance company, compare car insurance. Also [url=http://www.insurance-top.com]cars insurance[/url] from website .
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