• Here Are Important Intervals Every Serious Musician Should Know

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    In today’s lesson, I’ll be showing you important intervals every serious musician should know.

    Intervals are important in music for a variety of reasons and here’s one of them…

    Intervals are the building blocks of chords. Jermaine Griggs

    It takes the knowledge of intervals for you to understand the harmonic properties of chords.

    There are various qualities of intervals like major, minor, augmented, and diminished intervals, and the quality of interval used in the formation of a chord determines the overall quality of that chord.

    Although there are other uses of intervals, we can’t delve into them because of time constraint. Let’s get into this lesson by reviewing intervals.

    A Short Note On Intervals

    An interval is the relationship between two pitches in terms of the distance between them.

    When two notes are played, the relationship between them produces an interval. Although the following two-note relationships:

    C-E:

    G-Eb:

    F-B:

    …can be described as intervals, however, there are important things you need to know about intervals before we proceed.

    #1 – “Intervals are a product of the relationship between two notes”

    Beyond being seen as the distance between pitches, intervals are a product of the relationship between notes. Due to the fact that this relationship is based on an underlying scale, it is called a scale relationship.

    For example, the relationship between the interval C – D:

    …is based on the C natural major scale:

    Considering that C and D:

    …are the first and second tones of the C major scale:

    Attention: The intervals C-D:

    …is considered as the second because it encompasses two degrees of the C major scale. Summarily, intervals are basically formed out of a scale relationship between notes.

    #2 – “Intervals can be played or heard simultaneously or separately”

    Intervals that are played or heard simultaneously are said to be harmonic intervals while intervals that are played separately are said to be melodic intervals.

    Suggested reading: Note relationships: Melody vs Harmony.

    Also take note that intervals come in various sizes.

    Intervals that are within the compass of an octave and are known as simple intervals while others that exceed the compass of an octave are known as compound intervals.

    These are a few things about intervals just to prepare your mind for this study before we get started. To take you to the next level in this study, let’s look at what scale step intervals are.

    Scale Step Intervals

    Scale step intervals are important intervals that every serious musician should know, because they are built from scale relationships between the first tone of the scale (aka – “tonic”) and other tones of the scale.

    In the major key, there are eight degrees. For example, in the key of C major:

    …there are eight degrees from C to C.

    C is the first

    D is the second

    E is the third

    F is the fourth

    G is the fifth

    A is the sixth

    B is the seventh

    C is the eight

    The relationship between these eight scale tones and the first tone in the key (aka – “the tonic”) produces a special set of intervals known as scale step intervals. The goal of this segment of this course is to expose you to these scale step intervals and how they are formed.

    “Check it out in the key of C…”

    The relationship between the first tone of the scale:

    …and the first tone of the scale:

    …produces a first:

    …which is also known as a unison or prime.

    The relationship the first tone of the scale:

    …and the second tone of the scale:

    …produces a second:

    The relationship the first tone of the scale:

    …and the third tone of the scale:

    …produces a third:

    The relationship the first tone of the scale:

    …and the fourth tone of the scale:

    …produces a fourth:

    The relationship the first tone of the scale:

    …and the fifth tone of the scale:

    …produces a fifth:

    The relationship the first tone of the scale:

    …and the sixth tone of the scale:

    …produces a sixth:

    The relationship the first tone of the scale:

    …and the seventh tone of the scale:

    …produces a seventh:

    The relationship the first tone of the scale:

    …and the eight tone of the scale:

    …produces an eighth:

    “Altogether, there are eight scale step intervals, but that’s not all…”

    Scale step intervals can be qualified using special adjectives like perfect and major.

    While the term ‘perfect’ is used to qualify scale step intervals of the first, fourth, fifth, and eighth degrees, the adjective ‘major’ is used to qualify scale step intervals of the second, third, sixth and seventh degrees.

    Perfect – first, fourth, fifth, and eighth

    Major – second, third, sixth, and seventh

    “In a nutshell…”

    50% of scale step intervals are perfect intervals while the remaining 50% percent are major intervals.

    Scale Step Intervals In All Twelve Keys

    These perfect and major intervals are scale step intervals in the major key, and they are worth knowing in all twelve keys. Consequently, we’ll be learning them in all twelve keys in this segment.

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of C

    Using the C major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of C…

    C-C:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    C-D:

    …a major second.

    C-E:

    …a major third.

    C-F:

    …a perfect fourth.

    C-G:

    …a perfect fifth.

    C-A:

    …a major sixth.

    C-B:

    …a major seventh.

    C-C:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of Db

    Using the Db major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of Db…

    Db-Db:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    Db-Eb:

    …a major second.

    Db-F:

    …a major third.

    Db-Gb:

    …a perfect fourth.

    Db-Ab:

    …a perfect fifth.

    Db-Bb:

    …a major sixth.

    Db-C:

    …a major seventh.

    Db-Db:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of Db

    Using the D major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of Db…

    D-D:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    D-E:

    …a major second.

    D-Fs:

    …a major third.

    D-G:

    …a perfect fourth.

    D-A:

    …a perfect fifth.

    D-B:

    …a major sixth.

    D-Cs:

    …a major seventh.

    D-D:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of E

    Using the Eb major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of Eb…

    Eb-Eb:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    Eb-F:

    …a major second.

    Eb-G:

    …a major third.

    Eb-Ab:

    …a perfect fourth.

    Eb-Bb:

    …a perfect fifth.

    Eb-C:

    …a major sixth.

    Eb-D:

    …a major seventh.

    Eb-Eb:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of E

    Using the E major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of E…

    E-E:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    E-F#:

    …a major second.

    E-G#:

    …a major third.

    E-A:

    …a perfect fourth.

    E-B:

    …a perfect fifth.

    E-C#:

    …a major sixth.

    E-D#:

    …a major seventh.

    E-E:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of F

    Using the F major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of F…

    F-F:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    F-G:

    …a major second.

    F-A:

    …a major third.

    F-Bb:

    …a perfect fourth.

    F-C:

    …a perfect fifth.

    F-D:

    …a major sixth.

    F-E:

    …a major seventh.

    F-F:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of Gb

    Using the Gb major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of G…

    Gb-Gb:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    Gb-Ab:

    …a major second.

    Gb-Bb:

    …a major third.

    Gb-Cb:

    …a perfect fourth.

    Gb-Db:

    …a perfect fifth.

    Gb-Eb:

    …a major sixth.

    Gb-F:

    …a major seventh.

    Gb-Gb:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of G

    Using the G major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of G…

    G-G:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    G-A:

    …a major second.

    G-B:

    …a major third.

    G-C:

    …a perfect fourth.

    G-D:

    …a perfect fifth.

    G-E:

    …a major sixth.

    G-F#:

    …a major seventh.

    G-G:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of Ab

    Using the Ab major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of Ab…

    Ab-Ab:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    Ab-Bb:

    …a major second.

    Ab-C:

    …a major third.

    Ab-Db:

    …a perfect fourth.

    Ab-Eb:

    …a perfect fifth.

    Ab-F:

    …a major sixth.

    Ab-G:

    …a major seventh.

    Ab-Ab:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of A

    Using the A major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of A…

    A-A:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    A-B:

    …a major second.

    A-C#:

    …a major third.

    A-D:

    …a perfect fourth.

    A-E:

    …a perfect fifth.

    A-F#:

    …a major sixth.

    A-G#:

    …a major seventh.

    A-A:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of B

    Using the Bb major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of B…

    Bb-Bb:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    Bb-C:

    …a major second.

    Bb-D:

    …a major third.

    Bb-Eb:

    …a perfect fourth.

    Bb-F:

    …a perfect fifth.

    Bb-G:

    …a major sixth.

    Bb-A:

    …a major seventh.

    Bb-Bb:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Scale Step Intervals In The Key Of B

    Using the B major scale:

    …here are scale step intervals in the key of B…

    B-B:

    …a perfect first (aka – “perfect unison”.)

    B-C#:

    …a major second.

    B-D#:

    …a major third.

    B-E:

    …a perfect fourth.

    B-F#:

    …a perfect fifth.

    B-G#:

    …a major sixth.

    B-A#:

    …a major seventh.

    B-B:

    …a perfect eight (aka – “perfect octave”.)

    Final Words

    A knowledge of scale step intervals in all twelve keys is of the greatest possible importance because it helps you create relationships between the tonic and every other note in the key. This is most helpful to the left hand – especially during chord progressions.

    In the key of D:

    …if a song progresses from the third:

    …to the sixth:

    …and then to the second:

    …degree of the scale, a knowledge of the major third, major sixth and the major second scale step intervals would guarantee an easier understanding and easier execution of the 3-6-2 chord progression.

    Although we’re not done with this discussion yet, we’ll have to stop here to continue in another lesson.

    Until 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 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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