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Intervals 1: Definition; half and whole steps

September 1, 2016               Archives

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The term interval has two meanings in music. In a melody it has a horizontal, or linear application describing the change in pitch from one melodic note to the next.

melodic intervals

In a harmony interval describes the vertical pitch difference of notes sounded simultaneously in a chord.

harmonic intervals

In Western music the smallest interval is a semitone, also called a half step. On the piano this would be from any key to a key immediately adjacent to the former. This may be a white to white key (C-C#, Db-D, E-F and F-F#) or black to adjacent white key and white to adjacent black key.

half steps on pianoWhole steps are a combination of two half steps shown below as C-D and E-F#.

whole steps on piano

On the guitar a half step is the distance of one fret and the whole step is then the distance of two frets.

steps on guitar fretboard

Here are a few examples to test yourself to see if you have the concept. Mouse over the example for the answer.

step example 1

step example 2

step example 3

step example 4

step example 5

step example 6


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