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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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 2.) Understanding Dynamics

When you are listening to your favorite music on your device, you increase the volume if it needs to be loud – and vice verse, decrease the volume when it needs to be quiet.

In music notation, there are dynamics, which are symbols used to indicate to the performer how loud or soft to play. Below on the grand staff, or the treble and bass clef connected by a curly brace, you will notice letters underneath the notes. Those are the dynamic symbol abbreviations used to tell how loud/soft an instrument is to play until the next dynamic is mentioned. Typically, they are to always go below the staff (or in the middle of a grand staff); but for situations involving vocalists or for separating the upper stave of the grand staff, they should be put above.

The most commonly used dynamics symbol abbreviations (going from softest to loudest) are: pianissimo (pp), piano (p), mezzo piano (mp), mezzo forte (mf) forte (f), fortissimo (f). Piano meaning “soft,” and forte meaning “strong.”

In the rare case you need to go beyond and hit the extreme ends of volume, add an “issi” to it and another letter. Ex.: pianississimo (ppp)

If you want to notate a gradual change in the volume, try using these shapes:

A cone/hairpin with the open end on the right is a crescendo that tells the performer to get louder. If it was facing the opposite direction of ” > ” instead of ” < ” then is it a diminuendo/decrescendo that tells the performer to gradually decrease in sound.

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