The nightmare of traditional interval names
In preparing all the posts about intervals I have not been able to get rid of the feeling that I’m banging my head against a concrete wall. I think the traditional naming system we still use, based on seven degrees for each scales, is hopeless confusing and illogical. I loathe it. I loathe dealing with it, and I loathe teaching it. And I don’t use it myself. Ever.
Here is an overview of the traditional system, based on half steps from a starting note, with the beginning number showing movement from a fixed place.
0, no distance, a unison if two people are playing the same note
1, m2 or aug 1 (augmented unison)
2, M2 or dim 3
3, m3 or aug 2
4, M3 or dim 4
5, P4, aug 3
6, aug4, dim 5
7, P5, dim 6
8, m6, aug 5
9, M6, dim 7
10, m7, aug6
12, 8th or octave
Immediately we see that each distance or interval has two standard names, except for M7 and 8th. The names reflect different ways to write them on a staff. We also see that these traditional measurements always count the starting note, which to me is insane. When do we ever take three steps and count them are four because we count our starting place, before we have moved, as the first step?
And, by the way, for additional headaches, things can get even worse on paper. What about C# Gb? C to G is a 5th, so that would be a doubly diminished 5th. Can it happen on paper? Yes. But does it need such a confusing name? Does anyone care? After all, it’s just a P4 in a horribly confusing and hard to read form.
I know that the pages I’ve created showing how to play chords and how to form them from intervals are solid. But I don’t like the interval names themselves. I think the whole system is horrendous, and I’m thinking of abandoning it totally.
Consider this: CEA is a minor chord. CE is a M3, and CA is a M6. Both intervals are major.
ACF is a major chord. AC is a m3, and AF is a m6. Two minor intervals in a major chord. I don’t know how to fix this. The whole system is schizophrenic and is giving me a headache.