# Intervals

• Aug 1, 2021 - 01:56

I'm trying to further understand the minor intervals at present.
In chordal playing we use 125 - C Db G for the minor chord and 135 for the major chord - CEG. How does that work for B C and E F?
I'm trying to put notes in my workbook on examples. But I'd like to understand better. I understand this is needed for ear training.
Cheers Michelle

C major chord is C - E - G.
C minor chord is C - E♭ - G.

Write out any major scale (Do Re Mi Fa etc.) and combining the first, third and fifth notes of that scale will produce the major chord (triad).
Making the third flat will produce a minor chord.

As mentioned, minor is 1 b3 5, not 1 2 5. And if it were 1 to 5, that would be C D G - numbers in this context always refer to degrees of the major scale built on the root, and 2 in a C major scale is D, not Db.

So to create major and minor triads on B, start by making a major scale on B, then take 1 3 5 from that scale for B major, 1 b3 5 for B minor. And so on for any other key.

I highly recommend my Basic Music Theory course for much more information on this type of thing:

https://school.masteringmusescore.com/p/basic-theory

Here is one of the relevant handouts from that course:

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Just some examples I'm given in a test I need clarified. Thanks
Are these all based on triad chords or chords with 4 notes? G with a major 7 is GBDF#
Crikey why do they make it so difficult!!!
So a P5 from C is CEG being the G note?
CEGA is maj 7
A with a minor 3rd is AC# and the 5th being E making Aminor.
So as long as I know my chords on piano I can work out intervals.

Attachment Size
Interval questions.docx 23.86 KB

You don’t need to know chords to learn intervals - intervals are only two notes. Just know your major scales. p5 above a note is the fifth note of a major scale, simple as that. A major third above D is the third note of a D major scale, which is F#, not F. But sixth note of G scale is E, so G up to E is a major sixth, simple as that, no semitone counting or chords involved in any way whatsoever. If you know your major scales, you know everything you need to compute intervals.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Yet in his examples we don't know what key we are in. It might be C major. But it doesn't make any difference if he just counts semitones. If it's just intervals he needs to find.

Counting semitones as the starting point doesn't help. Counting note names is the way to go. C to F# is some sort of 4th as we have C D E F = four note names between the notes C and F#. C to G flat is some sort of 5th as we have C D E F G = five note names between between C and G flat. But both F# and G flat are the same number of semitones from C.

Having identified the interval as some sort of 4th or 5th we then need to look at what sort of 4th or 5th it is. F# is a semitone higher than the F nat. you would have in the scale of C major, therefore it is an augmented 4th. G flat is a semitone lower than the G nat. you would have in the scale of C major, therefore it is.a diminished 5th.

So, the process goes: count the note names in the interval. Think of this as the interval's "family name". Then compare with the notes in a major scale and see how the major scale note has been modified (or not) to make the interval. Think of this as the interval's "given name" within that family.

It just depends on what you are trying to do. Both methods can work. If you play any random note on the piano and you want to play a minor third up from it, all you need to know is how many semitones up you need go. You don't need to know note names, scales or key signatures. Should you know all those things? Of course. But everyone learns and remembers things best differently.

It’s not a question of remembering things - the point is counting semitones simply doesn’t work. It can’t tell you the difference between a minor seventh and an augmented sixth, or a diminished fifth and augmented fourth, or minor third and augmented second, etc. and these differences matter when learning music theory and how to compose music and how to notate it so it can be sightread without error.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Actually, it does work. Accidentals tell you if the interval is augmented or diminished. Is it faster than counting note names. Probably not. That doesn't mean it might not be useful for someone who thinks a little differently. Faster? I am told that if I would only learn shortcut note entry, then I could input music faster. Because faster is better. Faster for me would be being able to put a note on any beat in an empty measure. Not having to wade through the drum palette. Being able to click on the last measure of a piece, hit 'R" and be able to add extra measures. These are not complaints. They are observations. Faster is geared towards keyboard entry. Why would anyone use a mouse? Not the subject of this thread, so never mind.

"Accidentals tell you whether an interval is diminished or augmented".

What is the interval between B and F? No accidentals there but it is surely a diminished fifth. B C D E F = five note names, therefore it's a fifth. It's diminished because in the scale of B major (or minor) the fifth note would be F#. F is a semitone lower, hence the fifth is of the diminished variety. (A bit crunchy but could nicely resolve to a major third C to E.)

The interval from B to F is more likely to occur in the key of C - no flats or sharps - than in the key of B. So you don't see a natural sign. You have to go off the pitches themselves, not the presence of notated accidentals. And of course, even in the key of B, F natural to B has a natural and is augmented, not diminished. And B to G natural has a natural sign but is minor, not diminished. A# to G natural has a natural sign and is diminished. Bb to G natural has a natural sign and is major. So we quickly see that some combinations involving naturals are major, others minor, others diminished, others augmented. No doubt, it's possible to develop a highly sophisticated multi-level table showing all the possible combinations of semitone counts plus which accidentals on which notes result in each interval type. The point is, the original statement that "it doesn't make any difference if he just counts semitones" is just plain factually incorrect - there's way more one needs above and beyond a simplistic table of semitones to interval names.

The point is semitones alone don’t tell the whole story. Even if you spend the time to count semitones and find there are eight of them between notes, you still don’t know what to call the interval until you do an additional calculation based on the actual spelling of the notes There are indeed multiple ways to do that calculation, but you can’t escape the need for doing it.

If the goal is simply to pass a test, then you can pick the method that works for you to pass that test, which could involve memorizing numeric tables with no connection to the actual music, but it could also include simply asking someone else or using a MuseScore plugin or other app.

If, however, the goal is to actually understand the role of intervals in music and to make use of this understanding to compose music within the conventions of Western harmony and to make sure your notation is correct and readable, though, you’ll want a method that is more consistent with that goal. That’s the advantage of relating to scales - something you also need to understand at this same level and for the same reasons.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

'If, however, the goal is to actually understand the role of intervals in music and to make use of this understanding to compose music within the conventions of Western harmony and to make sure your notation is correct and readable, though, you’ll want a method that is more consistent with that goal. That’s the advantage of relating to scales - something you also need to understand at this same level and for the same reasons.'

This is exactly what I want. I do the tests to see what I know and if I understand. And to calculate at different starting points. This is where the scale understanding comes into play. So very much Thanks so much.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

You and I both know that "music theory" was developed to explain the conventions of Western music. Not to dictate them. There are plenty of examples where a well known conventional composer stepped outside the boundaries, and is still considered conventional. It has nothing to do with breaking the rules, since in many cases the rules didn't exist yet.

One of the main ways to compose music is to write a melody first and then harmonize it. The pieces I write have melodies, but I never write full melody first. And I never put together a chord progression first. I might write a measure or two of a melody, then I put a base line to it. Then I go on. This way melody and harmony are based on, and depend on, and grow out of, each other. Western conventions are ingrained deeply in my head. I write what sounds correct to me. Not what the theory says should be the next chord. I have a music education degree so I know the theory. I can't say that I have ever purposely written a diminished interval. I may have because it was the result of some other thing I was doing. Much to my annoyance, after 50 years, I can still sing the circle of fifths in major and minor.

Nothing you say about the origins or purpose of theory in any suggests understanding it isn’t important if one wishes to work within the conventions of Western music. No, you don’t have to write tonal music. But if you wish to, and wish it to be heard as good, it’s definitely a great starting point.

And if you don’t wish to write tonal music, there is no point in learning intervals at all.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

What other place would someone like me be in the mix of educated musicians who know. It's like having an ear to the prophets. lol. It's a real blessing. Thanks.

I looked up google and tonal is related to the tonic scales, I imagine the diatonic rather than chromatic, thereby I need to know intervals. Still all knowledge has their moment in time.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I never said theory wasn't important. The music I write is extremely tonal. "Good" is in the ear of the beholder. There are plenty of tonal works that were considered too radical at first. I just can't remember a time when my composing relied on identifying an interval.

I agree, identifying intervals is not often important. Which is a good reason to question the value of learning much about it at all, or spending time memorizing enormous tables that correlate multiple possibilities of semitone counts and note spelling combinations to different intervals. I for one seldom bother with the whole notation of learning to sing or identify intervals by ear.

And yet, learning to spell intervals properly does come up fairly often in pretty mundane ways. I have related this before, but I was once asked to fill in at the last minute for the originally-hired pianist in a major dance premiere because she wasn't able to read to read the part well enough. Once I arrived, I immediately could see why. Intervals were spelled terribly, things like E major triads E-Ab-B, or E major scales being spelled E-F#-Ab-A-B-Db-Eb-E. It made sight-reading the music virtually impossible. It seems clearly the music had been entered via MIDI and no one ever thought to check and correct enharmonic spellings of accidentals - or if they did, they simply didn't understand enough about these issues to do it correctly.

So, while I agree that composing doesn't depend on identifying intervals, knowing how all these things relate to each other is vitally important to proper notation, which in turn is vitally important to successful performance.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

That's a great example. Other possibilities could be an improper or incomplete notation software transposition. Or maybe they just selected the whole piano part and started hitting the up or down arrow buttons. In any case, we definitely need to understand key signatures. Of course, notation has to be correct. To my knowledge, my notation is correct, for the most part. But then I write for my own enjoyment. Therapy, so to speak. A few things have been performed. But that's not my goal. I often have two scores for any piece. One for real players and one marked up to get the software to sound like want.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Most beginners think that once reading or listening is learning. However, it is necessary to work on and train until what has been learned is well established in the mind, until hand-skills are well developed and hand/eye coordination becomes automatic.

In the example below, both chords sound the same, and both are spelled correctly depending on where they're used.

For example, the first chord can be written as E/F and the second chord: Fm(Maj7 b5) //depending on where they are used.
The intervals between chord degrees are different in both chords.

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

Except that as a guitar player, Fm(Maj7 b5) is backwards for someone trying to read chord symbols. I would have to change it to Fdim 7. In this case I couldn't give a fig about intervals. I need to know what chord to play.

Just as the E chord plays, only the bass note advances one pitch.
E/F <=equals to=> Fm(Maj7 b5)

``` (1)      (2)
--0----  --4----
--0----  --5----
--1----  --4----
--3----  --3----
-------  -------
-------  -------
easy     hard```

Hi bob
I have purchased a while ago to help my new musicians children create a melody on the web. this facility is gone now but I have still put the cards on {Compose Yourself Cards from ThinkFun] my musescore. So for me to write a folk song. I can use my fake chords with a melody as I move along. e.g make a double measure with C note and some passing notes add the harmony triad. Then add another harmony triad and put notes in next two measures. You're saying I don't have to plan out the diatonic chords to start with. Just move along as I feel the song works. I''m studying early compostion at present. I read books on Ralph Vaughan Williams and what was comforting was he found it hard. Imagine that!

mpvik,
You have to find a method of composing that works for you. I recall in a music history class we had to write using 16th century rules. Voice leading was very strict. Chords had to be in a certain order. Rhythms had to be just so. For the final we wrote entire pieces without ever hearing what they sounded like. Just going by all the rules. The results were actually not bad. But lacked inspiration.

mpvick,
Don't get me wrong. You need to learn the theory. But what was more important for me was learning how to listen. I think you need to listen to a lot of the kind of music you what to write. As well as listening to a lot of music in general. Really listen. What instruments can you hear? Where is the melody? How does the music transition from one section to another? What is driving the music forward at any particular time? It takes practice.
For the final in one class, the teacher played 8 measures of four part harmony. We had to write it down. He played it several times and the only hint we got was the note the soprano line started on. In this type of test it wasn't enough to know what a 4th is. We had to know what it sounded like. There are all kinds of tricks to do that. A certain well known tune starts with a certain interval. My problem was that I often couldn't remember the correct tune.

Dear Bob
Yes, I am still doing my theory exams. I won't stop that. It's my way of finding out what I know. Yes, I've seen the small tunes that have a certain interval. I forget also. I don't think my ears will do all that is required as I miss a tone If I knew what tone or tones I'd know. You certainly had highly educated learning. wow. Yes, I do listen to a lot of music. I'm gathering folk at present. I used to like country but the words are a depressing kind. I do love Strauss, too complicated for me yet. Great information from you. I think I will need video help to hear these pieces in the music. I do know the binary and ternary. I'm slowly getting there. ta so much.

Deaar Bobjp I still use a mouse and I'm only new at interval understanding so a simple method I can count on is essential. I could do with knowing how to input notes quicker. I also use the mouse when I make triads with clicking on the tonic note and using 'N' then adding 2 more notes on top. Not sure how you're managing this but any shortcut is great. Thanks.

Another way is to enter the first note. Then Alt+3 to enter a 3rd. And again to add the 5th (another 3rd). I don't enter chords that often to remember this.

Normally the efficient way to enter notes is to simply type their letter names. To build a triad, type the letter name of the first note, then hold Shift while typing the other letter names. These shortcuts and more are explained in the Handbook, also in most video tutorials, including my online course.

Don't worry about the key signature except to decide what notes are involved. The interval between A flat and D flat is a perfect fourth (A B C D = four note names and D flat is the fourth note of the scale of A flat major) no matter whether that A flat and D flat are specified in the key signature or by accidentals. So if the key signature is three flats and you see a note two leger lines below the treble clef and a note with a flat just below the bottom line of the treble clef you are looking at an interval between an A flat and a D flat, just the same as if the key signature has six flats and the second note has no accidental or if the key signature has one flat and both notes have accidentals.