Our Composition and Music Theory tutor Shaun Keyt expalins the basics of musical intervals including some tips on how they are best used!
There are many concepts within Music Theory which can help you create a certain type of emotion within your melodies and harmonies. One example of this is Musical Intervals.
Intervals relate to the distance between two notes and can define the relationship of the Tonic note to any note within a scale. These Interval relationships apply to all Keys and simply define the distance between a Tonic note and its Scale’s notes. For example, the Perfect Fifth interval occurs in A Minor (notes: A & E), C Minor (notes: C & G) and E major (notes: E & B).
Here is a list of Intervals within a scale’s octave which shows the Interval name, distance from the Tonic and note names if you were playing in the Key of C.
Unison Distance: 0 Semitones Notes: C & C (the same note)
Minor Second Distance: 1 Semitone Notes: C & C#
Major Second Distance: 2 Semitones Notes: C & D
Minor Third Distance: 3 Semitones Notes: C & D#
Major Third Distance: 4 Semitones Notes: C & E
Perfect Fourth Distance: 5 Semitones Notes: C & F
Augmented Fourth Distance: 6 Semitones Notes: C & F#
Perfect Fifth Distance: 7 Semitones Notes: C & G
Minor Sixth Distance: 8 Semitones Notes: C & G#
Major Sixth Distance: 9 Semitones Notes: C & A
Minor Seventh Distance: 10 Semitones Notes: C & A#
Major Seventh Distance: 11 Semitones Notes: C & B
Octave Distance: 12 Semitones Notes: C & C (one octave higher)
To listen to each interval, play the Tonic note and the other Interval note at the same time. For example, to hear a Perfect Fourth based on C, play the notes: C and F. By playing through the Intervals, you might notice how each one has its own distinct sound and that some Intervals seem to fit together better than others. The ones which clash the most can be referred to as being “dissonant” and the ones that seem to gel can be called “consonant”. It is possible to classify each Interval on a scale from being most consonant to most dissonant.
Most Consonant: Unison
Most Dissonant: Augmented Fourth
This can be valuable information when writing your melodies and harmonies. For example if you’re looking for the right notes to sound strong and powerful, try using an Interval of an Octave or a Fifth. If you’re writing something dark and disturbing, try a Major Seventh or an Augmented Fourth (also called the Tritone). A knowledge of Intervals can be one of your most powerful tools and can guide you through the process of melodic composition.