• What Every Serious Musician Needs To Know About The Semitone

    in General Music,Piano,Theory

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    Our focus in today’s lesson is on the semitone.

    So many intermediate players would dismiss this lesson because it has to do with the semitone. However, there are important tips about the semitone that a vast majority of musicians don’t know yet; not because it’s difficult, but because it’s too simple.

    It’s good to learn complicated concepts and advanced techniques, however, the importance of learning and being grounded in basic concepts like the semitone cannot be over-emphasized.

    In the next 10 minutes or so, you’ll be learning the proper definition of the semitone, its occurrence, and most importantly, the two semitone types.

    The Semitone – Explained

    It is important for us to lay the foundation of this study by expounding on the octave. Permit me to do that quickly before we proceed.

    A Short Note On The Octave

    There are eight components in every key, and the octave is the eighth component in a key (be it a major or minor key). In the key of C major:

    “Check Out The Eight Components…”

    C is the tonic

    D is the supertonic

    E is the mediant

    F is the subdominant

    G is the dominant

    A is the submediant

    B is the subtonic

    C is the octave

    The octave (which is C):

    …is the eighth component in the key of C major:

    …and a duplicate of the first note in the key (aka – “tonic”):

    …which is also C.

    The term octave can be used in other subtle ways too. For example, the interval between the tonic (C):

    …and the octave (C):

    …is an octave:

    Also, all the notes within the compass of a octave:

    …can be considered as an octave. Hence, there are twelve musical notes:

    …within an octave:

    Seven natural notes:

    …and five accidental notes:

    “What Is A Semitone?”

    The semitone is usually defined as the shortest musical distance between two musical notes, and there’s nothing wrong with that definition. There are no notes between E and F:

    …on the piano. Consequently, the musical distance between them is a semitone.

    “Here’s How Music Scholars Define The Semitone…”

    The semitone is a product of the division of the octave into TWELVE EQUAL PARTS. If you do the math, a semitone is one-twelfth of an octave.

    Now, the good news here is that you don’t need slice the octave:

    …into twelve equal parts by yourself – the octave [by default] consists of twelve musical notes with equal distances between them.

    The distance from C-C (which is an octave):

    …consists of twelve equal parts.

    “Check Them Out…”

    C to C#:

    …is the first part.

    C# to D:

    …is the second part.

    D to D#:

    …is the third part.

    D# to E:

    …is the fourth part.

    E to F:

    …is the fifth part.

    F to F#:

    …is the sixth part.

    F# to G:

    …is the seventh part.

    G to G#:

    …is the eighth part.

    G# to A:

    …is the ninth part.

    A to A#:

    …is the tenth part.

    A# to B:

    …is the eleventh part.

    B to C:

    …is the twelfth part.

    In a nutshell, the semitone remains the shortest distance between two notes on the piano and is also known as the half-step.

    Final Words

    I believe that you’ve learned something about the semitone from this lesson. If you have any question, kindly post it on the comment section below.

    Thanks for your time and see you in another lesson.


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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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

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



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