Teach Yourself Music Theory – 28.) Interval Characteristics

Previously, we have talked about naming and grouping intervals.

Another characteristic we can classify intervals by is if they sound “good” or “bad” to the ear.

Now, this topic is VERY subjective. However, in theory, we have rules to classify the intervals.

An interval (melodic or harmonic) that generally sounds pleasing to the ear and stable is called consonant. Any interval that doesn’t sound “right,” has a need to resolve, classes sonically, or is outside diatonic tonality* is called dissonant.

Within consonance, there are perfect consonances that feature the perfect intervals, and there imperfect consonances that feature everything else.

If this sounds confusing, do not worry. These are labels to help understand the sonic quality of intervals as well as their stability/resolving motion.

Perfect Consonances

  • P1 or Unison
  • P5
  • P8

Imperfect Consonances

  • m3
  • M3
  • m6
  • M6

Dissonances

  • m2
  • M2
  • Tritone
  • m7
  • M7
  • Any diminished interval
  • Any augmented interval

Noticed how the P4 wasn’t included in any of these lists. That is because in the pre-historic times before the Renaissance the P4 was considered a perfect consonance. Then into the Renaissance era, the P4 was regarded as a dissonance. Now, scholars have evaluated the P4 interval again and pretty much made it a wild card.

Listen to the intervals and see if you agree with their classification.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

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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