Music Literacy
Basic Music Theory
Introduction
The Basics
The Major Scale
Key Signature
Intervals
Chords
Minor Keys
Application
Conclusion






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Semitones

Another way to help identify the quality of an interval is to count the number of half-steps, or chromatic pitches, between the two notes.  The number of half-steps, or semitones, in each interval is shown in the following chart.  This number does not include the starting note.

Interval Semitones
unison 0
minor 2nd 1
major 2nd 2
minor 3rd 3
major 3rd 4
perfect 4th 5
tritone 6
perfect 5th 7
minor 6th 8
major 6th 9
minor 7th 10
major 7th 11
perfect octave 12

For example, consider the following two intervals:

You recognize that these are thirds, but suppose you are not sure whether they are major or minor.  If you remember that a minor 3rd contains 3 semitones, and a major 3rd contains 4 semitones, you can count the chromatic pitches, as follows:

So, you can see from the above that E to G is a minor 3rd, whereas F to A is a major 3rd.

The ability to correctly identify the quality of a third is going to be important in understanding and identifying chords.  So, although you don't have to memorize the whole chart above, it will be good if you can remember how to tell the difference between a major and a minor third.


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