Let’s get into some of the deeper details of Chord and Scale construction.
The Interval is the relationship between two tones.
Intervals exist between notes in Time,
These are the same interval: a Major Third, G – B
The intervals are named by the same 7 scale steps that we already know.
These are the intervals of the Major Scale in the Key of G. The same relationships exist in all other Major Keys as well.
Notice that the 4th, 5th & Octave are “Perfect” intervals. This is because of the quality of sound that these intervals possess. They have a quality which is neither Major, nor Minor.
Major intervals tend to sound Brighter, where Minor intervals are Darker. If Major is the Sun, Minor is the Moon. Perfect intervals do not have this quality of light/dark. They are neutral, basic, solid, strong. Where Major-Minor intervals have a desire for movement and activity, Perfect intervals tend towards rest and stability.
Let’s look at the intervals of the Minor Scale in the Key of G Minor.
Notice that the Perfect intervals remain Perfect, and essentially all of the Major intervals become Minor (except for the Major 2nd)
So these are all of the possible intervals with the exception of two: the Minor Second and the Tritone. Both of these intervals can actually be found in the Major and Minor Scales.
The Minor Second is better known as the “Half Step.” Just as the Major Second is the “Whole Step.” The Formula for building the Major scale in steps is this:
Let’s go back to C Major on the Keyboard for a minute. Notice that most of the white keys have a black key in between the two. There are two places where there is no black key however! Between ‘E’ and ‘F’, and between ‘B’ and ‘C’. These are the Half Steps, or the Minor Seconds. They exist in every Major Key between the 3rd and 4th steps, and between the 7th and 8th steps.
The Tritone exists between the 4th and 7th scale steps of the Major Scale. In the Minor Scale, between the 2nd and 6th scale steps. It is made of 3 Whole Steps, hence the name “Tri-Tone.” It is sometimes known as the “Flat-Five,” or the Diminished 5th, as well as the “Sharp-Four,” or the Augmented 4th. The spelling depends on the musical context. It divides the octave perfectly in half and has a symmetry which no other interval possesses. The Tritone has so many interesting and powerful forces in music that it needs a whole lesson all by itself!
*Note on Augmented and Diminished. The word Augment means to “make larger,” and Diminish to “make smaller.” A Perfect interval can only be perfect, so to modify the interval you make it either Augmented (raised by 1 half-step) or Diminished (lowered by 1 half-step). Major and Minor can be Augmented and Diminished as well, and this results in all sorts of tricky enharmonic musical spellings!
Intervals can be “Inverted,” by changing the order of the two tones. For example:
We start with G – B, and invert this to become B – G.
Harmonically speaking, inversion has no big difference because we still just have the tones ‘G’ & ‘B’. It doesn’t matter what order they come in.
Melodically however, there is a very big difference between the intervals of a Major 3rd and a Minor 6th.
There is a principal of Inversion: all qualities become their opposite when inverted. Major becomes Minor. Diminished becomes Augmented. Perfect remains Perfect.
3rds become 6ths. 5ths become 4ths. 2nds become 7ths.
Octaves are always Octaves.
Learning to see Intervals in music is another fundamental task like being able to see the note names. Study the shape of each interval.
2nds are really easy to see, because they’re written close to each other and offset. 2nds are written from line to space, or space to line.
3rds are the next easiest because they’re close to each other and stacked evenly. 3rds are written from line to line, or space to space.
4ths are written from line to space, or space to line.
5ths are written from line to line, or space to space. They look very even on the staff.
6ths are written from line to space, or space to line, and are clearly larger than 4ths.
7ths are written from line to line, or space to space, and are clearly larger than 5ths.
Octaves are written from line to space, or space to line.
These are visual cues that will speed up the process of identifying the intervals, rather than trying to see each note separately and then calculating the distance between the two. That takes a lot of time. Work to see an interval just by itself. Practice by going through scores and identifying the intervals at sight. Pick the chords apart and identify the intervals that are stacked up. Notice Melodic intervals as well! Don’t worry about the qualities (Major/Minor/Perfect) for now, just get the interval numbers.
In your head think of a random note, and then think of a random interval and the note created. For example: “D flat, Perfect 5th above= A flat.” “C sharp, Major 3rd below= A.” This kind of calculation is really tough, but really good exercise. Practice while looking at the keyboard at first, and later stop using the visual aid. Imagine the keyboard in your head. The final challenge is to forget the keyboard and only imagine the musical Staff in your head.
More important than the Visual appearance of Intervals, is the way they sound to the Ear. Play at the Keyboard and Listen to many different intervals. Always keep your mind and your ear really wide open and looking to Discover something unique within the sound of each interval for yourself, to make it your own. Experiment with the difference between Major & Minor. Experiment with the difference between 3rds and 6ths. Compare with 4ths and 5ths. Try to find out for yourself why Major sounds different from Minor and why they both sound different from Perfect. Practice in different Keys. Practice inverting the intervals.
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