All about Intervals

WEDNESDAY, October 9, 2019

This is “the rest of the story”.

I have tried many ways to explain intervals in detail, but I think the best way to learn them is to read them and see how they work. So spend some time reading the music carefully. There are PDF files for:

  • Unisons
  • 2nds
  • 3rds
  • 4ths
  • Tritones
  • 5ths
  • 6ths
  • 7ths
  • Octaves

Each file shows all the different problems we have with written intervals, which often do not match at all with what we see in our hands and hear with our ears. Every musician on the planet who writes music knows these interval names with complete clarity. Teaching them to students is incredibly difficult. I do not know how I learned them myself. It happened a long time ago. But keep in mind that for each interval the names I have suggested are the best, and the alt names are not needed for playing or hearing music.

Unisons…

A unison is only one pitch played or sung at the same time by two or more people, or the same pitch played in two different places at the same time on a keyboard instrument with more than one manual. Picture an organist playing the same C in two places at the same time.

Steps…

There are half steps/semi tones and whole steps/whole tones, both of which are usually called seconds. The bigger 2nd is major, the smaller one is minor. Then there are alt interval names for these intervals when they are written in scores. Alt names have nothing to do with what we see in your hands or what we hear.

Thirds…

There are two kinds of thirds, big and small. The bigger 3rd is major, the smaller one is minor. In general we link the major 3rd to the bottom two notes of a major chord, and we link the minor 3rd to the bottom two notes of a minor chord. Then there are alt interval names for these intervals when they are written in scores. Alt names have nothing to do with what we see in your hands or what we hear.

Fourths…

There is only one kind of fourth, also called a perfect fourth. In general we link the perfect 4th to the top of inverted major and minor chords. There are no alt names for this interval.

Tritones…

A 4th sThe tritone has two other names, and we can’t quite call them alt names because both are used with equal frequency, But these two names have nothing to do with what we see in your hands or what we hear, and they are NOT 5ths.

Fifths…

There is only one kind of fifth, also called a perfect fifth. In general we link the perfect 5th to outside of root position major and minor chords. There are no alt names for this interval.

Sixths…

There are two kinds of sixths, big and small. The bigger 6th is major, the smaller one is minor. In general we link the major 6th to augmented chords and we link the minor 6th to the fully diminished chord. Then there are alt interval names for these intervals when they are written in scores. Alt names have nothing to do with what we see in your hands or what we hear.

Sevenths…

There are two kinds of sevenths, big and small. The bigger 7th is major, the smaller one is minor. In general we link the major 7th to the major 7ths chord and the link the minor 7th to the dominant 7th chord. Then there are alt interval names for these intervals when they are written in scores. Alt names have nothing to do with what we see in your hands or what we hear.

Octaves…

An octave sounds so much a unison that many people can’t hear the difference. In physics an octave means that the upper note is double the frequency of the lower note. But you just have to hear it. There are no alt names for this interval.

 

 

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