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Music Theory Intervals

Music Theory Intervals is part 24b in a 31 part series on musical notation and basic music theory. An interval is the distance between two points. A music interval is the distance between two pitches.

Chords are built based on the musical intervals between the pitches (or notes). Below we have all of the possible music intervals within an octave.

NOTE: We are using C to make things easier to visualize. Also, the small symbol that looks like a "b" is called a flat. It means you move down one semitone. This is an accidental and is explained fully in part 26 and 27, the Chromatic Scale.

I will explain what all of this means below!

Music Theory Intervals

*Remember, a semitone is a half step.

See that "C" on the ledger line above? We're going to compare all of these intervals to C.

U - a unison or "one sound" or "same sound". This is a C to the same C.
m2 - a minor 2nd one semitone in distance. This is C to Db.
M2 - a Major 2nd two semitones apart. This is C to D.
m3 - a minor 3rd three semitones apart. This is C to Eb.
M3 - a Major 3rd four semitones apart. This is C to E.
P4 - a Perfect 4th five semitones apart. This C to F.

TT - a TRITONE (also called an augmented 4th or diminished 5th) 6 semitones apart. This is the most dissonant interval in music. It used to be called The Devil's Interval. This is C to Gb.

P5 - a Perfect 5th seven semitones apart. This is C to G.
m6 - a minor 6th eight semitones apart. This is C to Ab.
M6 - a Major 6th nine semitones apart. This is C to A.
m7 - a minor 7th ten semitones apart. This is C to Bb.
M7 - a Major 7th eleven semitones apart. This C to B.
P8 - an Octave twelve semitones apart. This is C to C.


Below is a different view from a piano, again using C as our base note. All notes above the C are being measured by their distance from the bottom C.

NOTE: The decimals to the right under the term JUST INTONATION, have to do with the ratio that measures the cycles per second of vibrations for each interval. For a detailed and interesting explanation of the physics involved visit: Just Intonation

Although this is subjective, all music theory intervals (or just intervals) have a certain color or feeling associated with them. Sit at a piano and play through these music theory intervals and see if you agree with the following graphic.


These are the basic music theory intervals, however we can expand. If I keep my bottom pitch at C and go up beyond an octave, I can have larger intervals.

NOTE: Technically these are different but they are also just an octave up from the intervals we have already discussed.

These are often called chord tensions. The most popular are the 9s, 11s and 13s.

m9 is an octave above a m2
M9 is an octave above a M2
m10 is an octave above a M3 (although this is also called a #9)
M10 is an octave above a M3
P11 is an octave above a P4
P12 is an octave above a P5
m13 is an octave above a m6 (also called a flat 13)
M13 is an octave above a M6
m14 is an octave above a m7
M14 is an octave above a M7
P15 is an octave above an octave

If you float between this page and part 26 and 27, the Chromatic Scale, you will make sense of musical intervals and the chromatic scale.




Continue to Part 25, C Major Chord and Chord Theory

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Return to Musical Notation and Basic Music Theory

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