Teach Yourself Music Theory – 5.) General Guide To Intervals

An interval is the distance between two different pitches/notes. The two different notes can either occur at the same time (called a harmonic interval) or consecutively one after another (called a melodic interval).

The smallest, and most basic, interval used in Western music is the semitone/half-step. A semitone is the distance traveled from one key on a piano to the next adjacent key. Combining two semitones together make a whole-step. Half- and whole-steps make up a lot of the fundamentals understanding different aspects of music.

Now, what do we call intervals that aren’t two notes right next to each other? Below is a graph that I’ll explain:

The first process of finding the name of any interval is counting how many semitones it is made of. Start with the lowest note of the pair and count on the keyboard how many semitones are traveled to reach the higher pitch. From there, look at the letter names. How far apart are they? Remember: the letter names go in a repeating ascending order of – A B C D E F G A B C D … From there, you can find on the graph above what to name the interval.

So, say you went from middle C to G3. G3 is lower than middle C (otherwise known as: C4), so let’s count up from there. Middle C is five semitones above G3. Counting letter names we get: G A B C , which means a distance of three letter names were traveled. From all this information, we can conclude that this is a perfect fourth of P4 in abbreviation.

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Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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