Intervals

Interval is the distance between two tones (their pitches). Intervals can be:

  • melodic (successively sounding tones) or harmonic (simultaneously sounding tones)
  • ascending (second tone is higher) or descending (second tone is lower)

Interval names are derived from the distance to the first degree of major scale:

  • 1 - unison
  • 2 - second
  • 3 - third
  • 4 - fourth
  • 5 - fifth
  • 6 - sixth
  • 7 - seventh
  • 8 - octave

To specify intervals more precisely we use one of these interval qualities: perfect (P), major (M), minor (m), diminished (d) or augmented (A).

A unison, fourth, fifth, and octave can be perfect. Other intervals (second, third, sixth and seventh) can be either major or minor. In the ascending major scale are only perfect and major intevals (as distance from the first degree)

A minor interval (m) is one semitone smaller than a major interval (M).

An augmented interval (A) is one semitone larger than a major or perfect interval (P). A diminished interval (d) is one semitone smaller than a minor or perfect interval (P).

These are the most common intervals (ST = number of semitones):

ST Name Shortcut Examples
0 Perfect unison P1 C-C
E-E
1 Minor second m1 C-Db
E-F
2 Major second M2 C-D
E-F#
3 Minor third m3 C-Eb
E-G
4 Major third M3 C-E
E-G#
5 Perfect fourth P4 C-F
E-A
6 Augmented fourth A4 C-F#
E-A#
Diminished fifth d5 C-Gb
E-Bb
7 Perfect fifth P5 C-G
E-B
8 Minor sixth m6 C-Ab
E-C
9 Major sixth M6 C-A
E-C#
10 Minor seventh m7 C-Bb
E-D
11 Major seventh M7 C-B
E-D#
12 Perfect octave P8 C1-C2
E4-E5

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