• Dear Musician, All Tritones Are Not The Same And Here’s Why

    in Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    In this lesson, I’ll tell you why all tritones are are not the same.

    The tritone is one of the most important dissonant interval in tonal music; especially with its common place in both classical and popular music.

    If you’re coming across the tritone, I got you covered. It’s because of you that we’re starting out in the next segment by providing you with some valuable insights on what the tritone is.

    If you already know what a tritone is, it’s fine if you skip the next segment. However, I’ll recommend that you refresh your mind on the tritone in preparation for what we’re about to study.

    “What Is A Tritone?”

    The term tritone literally means three tones or three whole steps. So, a tritone consists of three whole steps.

    “Give Me Your Undivided Attention…”

    From F:

    …three whole steps above or below produces the tritone.

    Three whole steps above F, we have:

    F to G (a whole step):

    G to A (a whole step):

    A to B (a whole step):

    …altogether, F to B:

    …is  a tritone.

    “We Could Also Descend To Form The Tritone…”

    Three whole steps below F, we have:

    F to D#(a whole step):

    D# to C# (a whole step):

    C# to B (a whole step):

    …altogether, B to F:

    …is  a tritone.

    Attention: Going down from F to B produces the B-F tritone and not the F-B tritone. This is because the tritone is an interval and intervals are reckoned upwards from the lower note (which is B in this case).

    So, three whole steps from any given note, in any direction (ascending or descending) produces a tritone.

    “All Tritones Are Not The Same…”

    We derived two tritones — F-B and B-F:

    F-B tritone:

    B-F tritone:

    …in the previous segment. Although these tritones are related in several ways (both are made up of F and B), they are not the same.

    An intervallic breakdown of the tritone will give us a better understanding.

    The Intervallic Breakdown Of The Tritone




    …can also be considered as intervals and every interval has two aspects: its size and its quality. So, we’ll be looking at the size and quality of both tritones.

    “A Breakdown Of The Size Of The Tritones”

    The F-B tritone:

    …is a fourth interval and this is because there are four letter names between F and B:

    F, G, A, and B (four letter names):

    The B-F tritone:

    …is larger than the F-B tritone; it encompasses a fifth interval (from B to F):

    B, C, D, E, and F (five letter names):

    So, a breakdown of the size of both tritones shows that they are different in size: one is a fourth and the other a fifth.

    “A Short Note On The Quality Of The Tritones”

    Time will fail me to show you why the F-B tritone is an augmented interval and the B-F interval is a diminished interval.

    However, I want you to note that F-B is “larger” than F-Bb (which is a perfect fourth interval):

    …by a half-step.

    Attention: Note that larger intervals are augmented intervals.

    Also, the B-F tritone is “smaller” than B-F# (a perfect fifth interval):

    …by a half-step and intervals that are smaller than perfect intervals by a half-step are known as diminished intervals.

    “…Here’s Why”

    The tritone can either be an augmented fourth (in the case of F-B) or a diminished fifth interval (in the case of B-F) and it is worthy to note that both tritones (F-B and B-F) differ in size and quality.

    “Tritones Differ In Quality…”

    Although they are all tritones, one is an augmented interval and the other is a diminished interval.


    …is an augmented interval, while B-F:

    …is a diminished fifth interval.

    “Tritones Differ In Size…”

    One of the differences between these tritones:



    …is their size. The former is a fourth interval while the latter is a fifth interval.

    Final Words

    Understanding the difference between the tritone and the inverted tritone is very important for scholarly musicians. If you’re a hobby player or someone who is not really interested in learning a lot about the theoretical aspect of intervals, you may not really appreciate this information.

    We’ll go a step further in our understanding of the tritone in a subsequent lesson.

    See you then!

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Carolyn

    Thanks for explaining the situation tritone. Everything is beginning to make sense to me. When I constantly look at the information It all began to come together. God bless you for the time you all put in posting such valuable information.


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