Learning how to work out intervals is another aspect of music theory education that many students struggle with. However, it is vital to understand what an interval is to better understand your melodies, harmonies, chords and just about anything music!
Let’s start from the beginning – What is an Interval?
An interval is simply, the difference between two pitches
Remember that the distance between every note that is next to each other or on top of each other is an interval
Think about that scale you’ve been practising. The distance between every note is an interval! We will come to what the number between each interval actually is later.
An interval can be considered either melodic or harmonic.
A melodic interval is where the notes are played successively – like how we saw on the scale above!
A harmonic interval is where the intervals are played simultaneously – like in the case of a chord!
So how do we work out the intervals number?
An interval is always labelled with a number and in order to work out the intervals number we have to see what the distance between the two notes are!
At this point it is extremely important to remind yourself what the degrees of the scale are…
Now we are happy with the degrees of the scale it is much easier to count. As you can see, the degrees of the scale start on the first note of the scale, this means you will also have to include your starting note.
Let’s look at the below melodic interval example and see if we can work out the distance!
So how do we count this correctly?
As you can see, E is the 3rd degree of the scale. So, the difference between middle C and E is 3. This makes this an interval of a 3rd!
What about a harmonic interval?
What notes do we have here?
That’s correct, we have a G and a C. Let’s remind ourselves of the degrees of the scale for G major.
Which degree is C from G?
That’s correct it’s the 4th degree, meaning the distance from G to C is 4… making the interval a 4th!
How easy is that?!
One last thing
When we are working out intervals it is very important to work it out using the LOWER of the two notes!
Take a look at the interval below…
When working this interval out, it is very important to start with the lower note, which is the G! Even though, as you can see, the D is to be played first! Let’s write out the G major scale below…
As you can see, D is the fifth note up from G, making this interval a 5th!
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Let me know how you get on! And don’t forget to check out the other blog posts here!