Musical intervals are the building blocks of everything related to composing and improvisation. The distance between two notes is referred to as an, “Interval.” In music, any two notes can be named by their distance. In this lesson post I will break down the concepts and general rules that are involved with naming musical intervals.
PRACTICING KEYS and INTERVALS:
When it comes to developing your skill for naming all of the various intervals used in music, the first step is knowing every one of the key signatures up to a level of having them well memorized.
The “Key Signatures,” handout, (you can download below), outlines all of the sharp and flat key signatures. Spend time memorizing each of the keys.
There are many ways to study memorization of the keys and intervals.
You can work with your musical friends to test your key and interval knowledge. You can use the ear training site teoria.com to train in several areas with keys and intervals.
Or, you could download an ear training and interval rehearsal app. A couple of examples of popular music interval training apps are listed below…
IOS app: “Relative Pitch,” by Easy Ear Training
Android app: “Perfect Ear,” by EduckappsSV
Anything that you can do to help quiz yourself on the various intervals is excellent. You could even go the old school route and create flash cards (with the keys and intervals on one side and their correct name or sharps or flats on the other).
It might take awhile to memorize every interval and every key signature, but in the end, memorizing all of this information is very important.
UNDERSTANDING INTERVAL DISTANCE:
Every interval distance has a name, you should study the theory used by musicians to understand the definition of what exactly an interval is so that each name makes sense.
In simplest terms an interval is the distance in pitch between two tones.
For example: “C” tone to an “A” tone is a 6th. Since the “A” tone exists inside the key of “C Major,” it is considered a, “Major 6th.”
Each interval name is a combination of two distance equations, they are called, “Quantity and Quality.”
QUANTITY = The total number of letter names an interval contains
QUALITY = The total number of half-steps an interval contains
There are two categories of intervals:
- PERFECT INTERVALS:
The perfect interval category includes; 1st (unison), 4th, 5th, and 8th (octaves)
- MAJOR or MINOR INTERVALS:
This category includes the; 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th
RULES FOR ASSIGNING QUALITY:
There are four rules for assigning an intervals Quality…
- When a major interval is decreased by a half step it becomes MINOR
- When a minor or perfect interval is decreased by a half step it becomes DIMINISHED
- When a major or perfect interval is increased by a half step it becomes AUGMENTED
- When a minor interval is increased by a half step it becomes MAJOR
Note: These four rules must become memorized.