Music Intervals Are The Most Basic Building Blocks of Music

Music intervals are essentially the distance between a pair of notes. They are essentially notes that go up or down in whole steps or half steps (a half step being the smallest possible distance to travel between two notes). They are the blueprint behind all music and some may think of a melody to be any number of notes, but it is actually a series of intervals as most music consists of numerous intervals, large and small, harmonic or melodic. Harmonic means that the two keys are performed together at the same time, while melodic means the second tone comes after the first – either upwards or downwards. Intervals constitute the basis for all music, and studying to identify intervals is one of the many piano lessons which gives one a better ear.

Piano intervals are the most fundamental form of music, since melodies are made up of varying intervals between pitches as the distances between the sounds of the two notes. Intervals are described as second, third, fourth and fifth rather than two, three, four and five. These intervals have given names in addition to a numerical value of the distance between the notes. For example, DE is a major 2nd, the DF is a minor 3rd, DG is perfect 4th, DA is a perfect 5th, DB is a major 6th, DC minor 7 and, finally, the DD is a full octave. Any interval can be augmented, but all intervals (except to the unison which is basically the same note like CC) can be diminished. Only 2nd, 3rds, 6ths, and 7ths can be major or minor. Intervals that create some distress are the major 7th and minor 7th (also called a flatted 7th). Intervals that are unison, fourths, fifths, or octaves in size might be perfect (P), diminished (d)`or augmented (A). They can never be minor or major.

Once You Have the Basic Intervals Mastered – the Advanced Ones Will Seem Easier

One way to get really good at recognizing intervals is to assign memorable movie soundtracks to each interval. And that is an exercise I would like you to do for the rest of the days. Play each interval below loudly then softly, repeat them at least 10 times at various speeds and at different registers of the piano keyboard and try to think of a mood or even movie that it comes from. We have done the first few for you and we have skipped the unison interval because that is basically just the same note.

“Minor Second” (Example notes: C – D flat) (Or, an example in piano tabs notation: c4 C4) – Frightening, Ominous like from the movie ‘Jaws’.

“Major Second” (C – D) (c7 d7) – When played quickly in the high register it sounds like ‘Tweety bird’.

“Minor Third” (C – E flat) (c4 D4) – Sad when played slowly like the opening of ‘Greensleeves’.

“Major Third” (C – E) (c4 e4)

“Perfect Fourth” (C – F) (c4 f4) – Remember that the ‘fanfare-like’ intervals (fourths, fifths and octaves) can only be ‘perfect’ and not ‘major or minor’.

“Perfect Fifth” (C – G) (c4 f4) – Hint: “Star Wars”

“Minor Sixth” (C – A flat) (c4 G4) – Hint: “Love Story”

“Major Sixth” (C – A) (c4 a5)

“Minor Seventh” (C – B flat) (c4 A5)

“Major Seventh” (C – B) (c4 b5) – Hint: Ouch! This one is dissonant when played together at the same time.

“Perfect Octave” (C – C) (c4 c5)

Get more advanced intervals on the advanced piano intervals page.

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