• Essential Intervals In Chord Formation Every Serious Musician Must Know

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    If you’re interested in learning the essential intervals that are used in chord formation, then this lesson is for you.

    According to Jermaine Griggs, “intervals are the building blocks of chords” and every serious musician who wants to have a deeper insight to the harmonic constituents of chords and how they are formed should have a proper understanding of intervals.

    In this lesson, we’re emphasizing on the intervals that are essential to the formation of chords:

    Third intervals

    Fifth intervals

    Seventh intervals

    But before we go any further, let’s refresh our minds on intervals.

    A Short Note On Intervals

    Although there are so many ways to define an interval, according to Jermaine Griggs “an interval is a product of the relationship between two notes which may be played or heard together based on the distance between them”

    For example, when C and A:

    …are played or heard together, an interval is formed based on the distance between them.

    Due to the fact that the interval formed encompasses six tones of the C major scale:

    …from C to A:

    …it’s called a sixth interval.

    Description Of Intervals

    Essential Third Intervals

    There are two essential third intervals every serious musician must know:

    The major third

    The minor third

    These third intervals are important are vital in the formation of all chord types — major, minor, augmented, diminished, and dominant chords.

    The Major Third Interval

    The major third interval is a product of the relationship between the first and third tones of the major scale. For example, the first and third tones of the C major scale:

    …which are C and E:

    …when played or heard separately or together produces a major third interval.

    “Check Out All The Major Third Intervals On The Keyboard…”

    C major third:

    Db major third:

    D major third:

    Eb major third:

    E major third:

    F major third:

    Gb major third:

    G major third:

    Ab major third:

    A major third:

    Bb major third:

    B major third:

    The Minor Third Interval

    The minor third interval is a product of the relationship between the first and third tones of the minor scale. For example, the first and third tones of the C minor scale:

    …which are C and Eb:

    …when played or heard separately or together produces a major third interval.

    Additionally, lowering the major third interval by a half-step produces the minor third interval.

    “Check Out All The Minor Third Intervals On The Keyboard…”

    C minor third:

    C# minor third:

    D minor third:

    D# minor third:

    E minor third:

    F minor third:

    F# minor third:

    G minor third:

    G# minor third:

    A minor third:

    A# minor third:

    B minor third:

    Essential Fifth Intervals

    The following fifth intervals are important to chord formation:

    The perfect fifth

    The diminished fifth

    The augmented fifth

    These fifth intervals are found in a vast majority of the everyday average chords.

    The Perfect Fifth Interval

    The perfect fifth interval is a product of the relationship between the first and fifth tones of the major (or minor) scale. For example, the first and third tones of the C major scale:

    …which are C and G:

    …when played or heard separately or together produces a perfect fifth interval.

    “Check Out All The Perfect Fifth Intervals On The Keyboard…”

    C perfect fifth:

    Db perfect fifth:

    D perfect fifth:

    Eb perfect fifth:

    E perfect fifth:

    F perfect fifth:

    Gb perfect fifth:

    G perfect fifth:

    Ab perfect fifth:

    A perfect fifth:

    Bb perfect fifth:

    B perfect fifth:

    The Diminished Fifth Interval

    Lowering the upper note of the perfect fifth interval by a half-step produces the diminished fifth interval. For example, lowering the upper note of C-G (a perfect fifth interval):

    …by a half-step (to Gb):

    …produces C-Gb:

    …a diminished fifth interval.

    “Check Out All The Diminished Fifth Intervals On The Keyboard…”

    C diminished fifth:

    C# diminished fifth:

    D diminished fifth:

    D# diminished fifth:

    E diminished fifth:

    F diminished fifth:

    F# diminished fifth:

    G diminished fifth:

    G# diminished fifth:

    A diminished fifth:

    A# diminished fifth:

    B diminished fifth:

    The Augmented Fifth Interval

    Raising the upper note of the perfect fifth interval by a half-step produces the augmented fifth interval. For example, raising the upper note of C-G (a perfect fifth interval):

    …by a half-step (to G#):

    …produces C-G#:

    …an augmented fifth interval.

    “Check Out All The Augmented Fifth Intervals On The Keyboard…”

    C augmented fifth:

    Db augmented fifth:

    D augmented fifth:

    Eb augmented fifth:

    E augmented fifth:

    F augmented fifth:

    Gb augmented fifth:

    G augmented fifth:

    Ab augmented fifth:

    A augmented fifth:

    Bb augmented fifth:

    Cb augmented fifth:

    Final Words

    A cross-section of chords that are commonly used in gospel and jazz music are formed using these essential intervals and you would do well to learn them.

    In another lesson, we’ll focus on the application of these essential intervals in chord formation.

    See you then!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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