Musical intervals on piano

This lesson on musical intervals will teach you to recognize and understand how intervals, the distance between two notes, are used in both melodies and chords on piano.

The two types of musical intervals.

A melodic interval is created whenever you play two notes in succession or one after another.

A harmonic interval happens when two notes are played at the same time or simultaneously.

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Why do we learn about intervals?

There are several different reasons.

One reason we learn to recognize musical intervals is so that when we hear a melody we will be able to distinguish between its melodic intervals which greatly helps our ability to play by ear.

With a little knowledge of intervals we can build the different music scales and then take that knowledge to understand the basics of harmony and the logic in a melodic line.

Using our knowledge of musical intervals we can stack two or three or more intervals upon one another to build the different piano chords we will use in learning to play by ear.

Finally we will learn about the relationship between the musical intervals since some are dissonant (creating tension) leading to more consonant ones.

Q? What is a Half Step?

Answer: The smallest distance or interval between two notes.

If you were to start with middle C, and play each adjacent note, either up (to the right) or down (to the left), without skipping any notes, would would be moving up or down the keyboard in HALF STEPS, or HALF TONES.

The distance between each key and its closest upper or lower key is a half tone which is the smallest interval used in Western music.

Now if you'll look at the piano you'll realize that the distance between a white key and a black would be half a tone accepts from two places.

The distance between E and F and B and C is half a tone as well since there isn't a black key between them.

The basic musical intervals.

The intervals come in various sizes, Unisons, Seconds, Thirds, Fourths, Fifths, Sixths, Sevenths, and Eigths which are also know as Octaves. They are shown on the musical staff in the graphic below.

Intervals are measured from the bottom note, being called the root or One, to the top note.

Some are described as major intervals (M) or minor ones (m).

Other are perfect (P)

When we raise an interval by half a tone or a (half step) it becomes Augmented (A).

When we lower it in a half a tone or half step we call it Diminished (D).

The Perfect, Major, and Minor intervals are shown in the graphics below.

Using this information.

Most visitors to this site are primarily interested in learning to play the piano by ear.

I have geared most of the information contained on this website to those people as it was a skill that I started to develop at a very early age while singing in choir at church and in choruses at school.

Learning to play by ear will require "ear training".

Perhaps the best way, if not the only way to train your ear to recognize intervals and therefore melodies is by singing.

If you are able to hear a melody and then sing it you are well on your way.

If you have never sung before I might suggest that you start now!

Even if you have to do it in the closet or the shower!

When I finally got serious about music and playing the piano and keyboard professionally I attended Berklee College of Music. All students at Berklee when I was there were required to take a course in Solfege, or sight singing. Even the Drummers!!

Slofege or site singing starts with being able to recognize and sing the Major scale using the syllables DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, TI, and DO.

A great way to do this is by reviewing the old song from the "Sound of Music" which starts Do a dear, a female dear.

If you learn to sing out loud or in your head a major scale you can then learn to recognize all the basic intervals we have discussed.

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