For ABRSM Grade 5 Music Theory you will need to understanding 6 types of intervals: major, minor, perfect, augmented, diminished and compound. Only compound intervals are specific to grade 5, the others are part of the grade 1-4 curriculum.
Below are example of all of the Grade 5 music theory intervals that you need to know. For a full lessons to understanding intervals, check out our guide to what intervals are.
Major, Minor and Perfect Intervals
Major, Minor and Perfect intervals in any key are part of the Grade 1-4 syllabus, however they will also come up in the grade 5 exam. Here’s a quick reminder of how to work out these basic intervals.
Remember that only certain intervals can be labelled as major/minor or perfect. In the diagram below you can see that major/minor intervals are 2nds, 3rds, 6ths and 7ths. Perfect intervals are 4ths and 5th.
Key fact- To work out any interval we always start with the Lower note AND always use the Major scale.
Major intervals occur on the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th note of any scale. Here is an example below.
The lowest note in the example is D, so we use the scale of D major to work out our interval.
As you can see, D Major has two sharps, F# and C#. So the note B is in D Major, in fact it’s the 6th note of D Major. This makes the interval D-B a Major 6th.
In a similar way to Major intervals, minor intervals can only fall on the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th notes of a scale. Take a look at the example below.
You might notice that we have the same bottom note (D) as the last example: so we are still using the key of D Major to work out our interval.
But hold on a minute: Bb is not in the key of D Major! In fact it is one semitone lower than B, or one semitone lower that a Major 6th. This makes D-Bb a Minor 6th.
Perfect intervals only occur on the 4th and 5th notes of the major scale. Below is an example of a perfect 5th interval. This interval is a perfect 5th because C is the 5th note of the F Major scale. So we can say that F-C is an interval of a Perfect 5th.
Augmented and Diminished Intervals
These categories are used to describe what happens when we sharpen or flatten our major, minor or perfect intervals. The diagram below explains how we create augmented and diminished intervals. Remember that we always keep the same letter name when creating these intervals. So we might be using double flats and double sharps to do this.
As you can see, if an interval is major, we can raise it a semitone to make it augmented. If an interval is minor, we can lower it a semitone to turn it into a diminished interval.
From a Perfect interval, we can raise the top note semitone to form an augmented intervals. We could also lower our perfect interval a semitone to create a diminished interval.
These intervals are a semitone flatter than a minor or perfect interval.
The lower note is Bb, so let’s look at Bb Major, which contains Bb and Eb. Bb-G would be a Major 6th, so Bb-Gb would be a Minor 6th. If we flatten the interval again, we get a diminished 6th. Hey presto! Bb – G double flat is a diminished 6th interval.
Augmented intervals are a semitone sharper than a perfect or major interval.
The lower note is A, so let’s look at A Major, which has 3 sharps (F#, C# and G#). A-G# would be a Perfect 4th, and A-G double sharp is one semitone larger. This makes A-G double sharp an Augmented 4th.
All of the intervals so far have been included in Grade 1-4, but now it’s time to look at Compound Intervals. These are specifically Grade 5 Music Theory Intervals.
Compound intervals are any interval that is larger than an octave. There are two ways so name compound intervals.
- Keep on Counting
- We know that an octave is an 8th, so we could look at the next interval as being a 9th, then 10th and so on.
- Use the term ‘Compound’
- The second way is to use the word ‘compound’. Instead of saying a Major 9th, simply say that it is a compound Major 2nd. This tells us that it is a major second but up an octave.
The diagram below shows you how these two naming systems work with intervals starting from middle C.
Here’s an example of a grade 5 compound interval question you might see.
Db has 5 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb). This means that Db – Bb would be a Major 6th. If we sharpen this by a semitone we get our original interval, Db – B. If you sharpen a Major interval you get an augmented interval. So Db – B is an Augmented 6th.
But wait a minute, our B is an octave higher than this. So our interval is a compound augmented 6th or an Augmented 13th.
Need more support with Grade 5?
check out our Complete guide to ABRSM Grade 5 Music Theory for more resources and tips on how to ace your theory exam, AND enjoy the process!
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