• An Exposition On Major Intervals: Simple And Compound Intervals

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    This lesson is for you if you’re interested in having a deeper understanding of major intervals.

    The internet is so populated with tons of lessons for keyboard players, however, there’s comparatively little information out there on the subject of intervals and that’s because a lot of people don’t really think intervals are important.

    Contrary to that perception, intervals are the building blocks of chords. What this means is that without intervals there won’t be chords; of course every chord can be broken down to intervals. For instance, the C major triad:

    …consists of the following intervals:

    C-E (a major third interval):

    E-G (a minor third interval):

    C-G (a perfect fifth interval):

    It is because of the importance of intervals that we’re dedicating this lesson to the study of intervals and we’ll be focusing on major intervals in this lesson.

    Let’s get started!

    Simple Major Intervals — Explored

    There are four simple major intervals:

    1. The major second
    2. The major third
    3. The major sixth
    4. The major seventh

    …and we’ll be exploring them in this segment.

    “What Are Simple Major Intervals?”

    Simple major intervals are major intervals that are within the compass of an octave. So, using the key of C major as a reference:

    …all the major intervals within the compass of the C octave:

    …are simple major intervals.

    “Check Them Out…”

    C-D (the major second interval):

    C-E (the major third interval):

    C-A (the major sixth interval):

    C-B (the major seventh interval):’

    All the four major intervals above are said to be simple intervals because they are within the compass of an octave.

    The relationship between the first tone of the scale and any of the following tones:

    The second tone

    The third tone

    The sixth tone

    The seventh tone

    ,,,produces simple major intervals.

    Inversion Of Simple Major Intervals

    An interval is said to be inverted when the position of the notes are changed: the upper note is played before the lower note or the lower note is played after the upper note.

    Simple major intervals can be inverted.

    The inversion of simple major intervals produces minor intervals. So, it’s important to note that no simple major interval remains a major interval after being inverted.

    The interval “C-E” (which is a major third interval) becomes “E-C” (a minor sixth interval) when inverted:

    C-E (major third):

    E-C (minor sixth interval):

    “Check Out The Simple Major Intervals And The Minor Intervals They Produce When Inverted…”

    Major second (C-D) –> Minor seventh (D-C)



    Major third (C-E) –> Minor sixth(E-C)



    Major sixth (C-A) –> Minor Third (A-C)



    Major seventh (C-B) –> Minor second (B-C)



    Compound Major Intervals — Explained

    The following major intervals are classified as compound intervals:

    The major ninth

    The major tenth

    The major thirteenth

    The major fourteenth

    You’ll learn more about these intervals in this segment.

    A Short Note On Compound Major Intervals

    Major intervals that are bigger than an octave are described as compound major intervals. In the key of C major:

    …here are the compound major intervals:

    C-D (the major ninth interval):

    C-E (the major tenth interval):

    C-A (the major thirteenth interval):

    C-B (the major fourteenth interval):

    The major ninth and major tenth interval:

    C-D (the major ninth interval):

    C-E (the major tenth interval):

    …can be played by one hand if you have average or long fingers. But intervals like the major thirteenth and major fourteenth interval:

    C-A (the major thirteenth interval):

    C-B (the major fourteenth interval):

    …CANNOT be played by on human hand.

    “Take Note Of The Following…”

    The major ninth and major thirteenth interval are useful in chord formation and this is because the ninth and thirteenth tones of the major scale are used as extensions in the formation of extended chords like ninth chords and thirteenth chords respectively.

    The major tenth and major fourteenth intervals:

    Major tenth (C-E):

    Major fourteenth (C-B):

    …are given the same consideration as the major third and major seventh interval:

    Major third (C-E):

    Major seventh (C-B):

    Final Words

    Note that all compound major intervals have their corresponding simple major interval. For example, check out this pair (the major second and the major ninth):

    C-D (major second):

    C-D (major ninth):

    Both intervals have the same spelling “C-D” although they are different in size. Consequently, compound major intervals can be associated with simple major intervals and vice-versa.

    Thank you for your time.

    All the best!

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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, and God bless you.


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