Friday, January 31, 2014

Intervals II: Quality

The quality of the interval refers to it's sound based on the precise intervallic distance.

When identifying interval quality we use the terms: Perfect, Major, minor, diminished and augmented. These labels are shortened to: Perfect (P), Major (M), minor (m), diminished (d), and Augmented (A)

If we refer back to our C Major scale we see this interval distance pattern:
The "U" refers to an interval of a unison (the distance from one note to the note of the same name)
The "8ve" refers to the interval of an octave.

If we go one step further, here is the pattern of interval quality within a major scale:
From this example we can see that the intervals contained within a Major scale are comprised solely of Perfect and Major intervals.

From this example we can start to build a means for calculating interval quality:
1. Starting with the lower note of the interval as one,
count up to the upper note be sure to count all the lines and spaces in between.
2. Put that number underneath the interval.
3. Next determine if the upper note is in the key of the lower note.
4. If it is and the number is 2,3,6,7 than the interval is Major (M).
5. If it is and the number is 1,4,5,8 than the interval is perfect (P).

The information for those first 5 steps is built into the pattern of the Major scale.

The remaining steps will help you identify the interval quality of intervals that don't fit the above patterns.

6. If the upper note is not in the key because it has been raised with either
a sharp # or a natural sign and the number is 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8
then the interval is Augmented (A).
7. If it has been lowered with a flat b or a natural sign and the number is 1,4,5,8
then the interval is diminished (d).
8. If the number is 2,3,6,7 the interval first becomes
minor(m) and if it is lowered again it is

At this point you should be able to work through the Fun with Intervals sheet and complete the qualities of those intervals.

Intervals I: Intro

Intervals are simply the way we measure distance in music. Most often we think of intervals as the distance between notes, but we can also apply the term to distances between key signatures, chords, and even (less often) time elements.
For purposes of introducing intervals, we will use the example of distance between notes to build our understanding of identifying and constructing intervals.

We have discussed the spacing of the notes in the Major scale and the pattern of Whole steps (W) and Half steps (H) that build every Major scale.

Another way to describe these whole and half step intervals is by calling them 2nds. Ex. C to D is a 2nd. G to A is a 2nd. Every time you move from one note to the next closest note, you have some sort of 2nd interval.

When counting intervals we always start at 1 with the lower note and then count each line and space until we reach the desired note. For instance, if I use the scale above to figure the interval (or distance) from C to A, I would find it to be a 6th. (C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6.)

On the following worksheet, please count and label the distance of the intervals in the first section.
Fun with Intervals

When we count an interval we ultimately get the distance (number) of the interval. The trick with intervals is determining the quality of the interval. That will be addressed in the next post.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Helpful resources for theory review

You can find many helpful resources online for reinforcing basic music theory skills. The more comfortable you are with the fundamental elements of note reading (treble and bass clef) and key signatures (see the post about the circle of fifths) the better.

Two sites that I use often for both reference and practice are:

and is a simple, uncluttered space in which basic theory principals are spelled out in a straightforward, (hopefully) easy to understand manner. We will use a number of the lessons for reference and review during this course. In addition, the site has a number of customizable exercises to work on identification and construction of key signatures, intervals, chords, etc. You also have exercises that will help you work on ear-training. is another theory site that kind of kicks things up a notch. The lessons become more advanced and the number of training exercises is far greater. This is the graduate level work in theory, but it covers many useful elements to us beginners as well.

Circle of Fifths

One of the most important visual organizers in music is the circle of fifths. This chart has a number of variations, but it's main job is to help you to see the systematic way in which our key signatures are constructed and ordered.

You might ask, "Why do we call this the circle of fifths?" The name derives from the fact that if you move clock-wise around the circle (starting with the key of C major for instance) you will see the interval (distance) from one key to the next is the interval of a fifth (C major - G major - D major, etc.).
As we explore the construction of major scales, this chart is a handy visual reminder of the mathematical certainty and order in music. Keep it handy.

Welcome to Harmony and Theory!

This blog will be our online meeting place for the harmony and theory course. Course content will be posted here.