Diminished 5th Interval Songs
‘Purple Haze’ – Jimi Hendrix
The psychedelic rock masterpiece known as “Purple Haze” is by the legendary Jimi Hendrix. This mind-bending anthem takes you on a trippy ride with its electrifying guitar riffs and hypnotic lyrics.
The opening dissonant riff actually contains an augmented 4th follower by a diminished 5th. Both intervals are three tones apart, they are just written differently. The E – Bb is the dim 5th as B natural is in E major and this has ben flattened to B flat. (More on how to work out dim 5th intervals later in the article).
The overall effect gives the the song an edgy start before the famous minor pentatonic riff takes over.
‘Black Sabbath’ – Black Sabbath
Prepare to immerse yourself in the depths of heavy metal as we explore the seminal composition “Black Sabbath” by the band, Black Sabbath. This song is characterized by its formidable guitar riffs and haunting vocal delivery and it stands as an anthem for rock and metal music.
The dim 5th interval is again present at the beginning of this song. The alternating notes of C sharp and the G natural above are three tones apart. This helps to give a dark and foreboding theme to the song.
‘YYZ’ – Rush
Rush’s rock instrumental masterpiece, ‘YYZ’ will have you air-drumming and headbanging like nobody’s business, with its killer bassline, intricate guitar work, and pulse-pounding rhythm.
The alternating between F sharp and C at the beginning of the song give us an Diminished 5th.
What is an Diminished 5th Interval?
Firstly, the definition of an interval is the distance between two notes. We could play the notes at the same time, a harmonic interval, or one of the other, a melodic interval. So how can we describe the distance between two notes.
Using whole steps and half-steps (tones and semitones)
We could describe an interval in terms of the number of half-steps for the lower note to the upper note. For an Diminished 5th we have to go up 6 half-steps or 3 whole-steps to create the interval.
Using scales to name intervals
One difficultly I see students having with diminished intervals is how to label the top note. If we have the diminished 5th of C – Gb, could we not write C – F sharp instead? The answer is no, but it’s important to know why.
When we look at diminished 5th intervals (like will all intervals) we start with the scale of the lower note. In this case that is C major. The 5th degree of C major is G natural. Now we flatten the G natural to G flat to we have our diminished 5th.
It’s very important that you do not change the letter name of the top note.
If we use the F sharp we now have C-F# with is a 4th. As F natural is in C major, we have sharpen this to get F#. Therefore C – F# is an augmented 4th. Now C-F# and C-Gb are harmonically the same, but they are named differently.
This also means that we might have double flats in our interval as we could be lower a note that is already flat. In this case we use a double flat because changing the note letter means altering the name of the interval to a 4th. Below are some examples of diminished 5th intervals using double flats.
Alternatively, we might see diminished 5th intervals with natural signs on the top note. Looking at the example below, the lower note is B natural. B major has five sharps: F#, C#, G#, D# and A#. A perfect 5th would be B to F# and if we lower this we get B to F natural, our diminished 5th.
Ear Training and Intervals
To develop as a musician you’ll want to be able to recognise intervals by ear. This is where ear training comes in, as the more you practice, the better your’ll get.
My recommendation for this is Tonegym as they have a comprehensive and fun program for training your ears. It’s what has gotten the best results with for my own students.
In the ‘tools’ section of their site, Tonegym even have an interval memorizer that allows you to learn every type of interval.
For an in-depth look at ear training, here’s my full review of Tonegym.
Examples of diminished 5th Intervals
Here is a table which shows diminished 5th across a whole octave. Remember that to name an interval ask yourself, ‘Which degree of the lower note’s scale is the higher note?’
diminished 5th Interval Qualities
We can describe the sound of intervals using a numbers of adjectives. An interval can sound ‘stable’ or ‘grounded’ like a perfect 5th, or it could sound ‘dissident’, ‘neutral’ or even ‘sinister’.
The interval of an diminished 5th, also known as a tritone, carries a highly unstable and dissonant quality that can create a sense of tension and unease. It can be described as a dissonant interval due to its significant distance and clash of pitches.
When used in melodies, the diminished 5th interval can be employed to create a sense of anticipation or to add a distinct and haunting quality. The augmented 4th interval is often utilized in various musical genres to convey a range of emotions, from suspense and uncertainty to moments of dissonant beauty.
ToneGym- The Ultimate Ear Training App
ToneGym allows you to improve your ear with a range of games, interactive and competitions.
Or check out our complete review of ToneGym.
diminished 5th Intervals On Piano
If you are a pianist then playing a diminished 5th interval couldn’t be easier. Moving up 6 half-steps (3 whole steps) or flatten the 5th note of any major or natural minor scale. Check out the example below.
diminished 5th Intervals on Guitar
Below are guitar shapes that with give you a diminished 5th interval. These can be moved up a down the neck to create intervals starting on different notes. In fact this is the shape used in ‘Purple Haze’ by Jimi Hendrix to play the opening tritone riff.