In the last blog post I explained the logical system behind note names. A similar system exists for tone distances also called intervals. Lets talk about this.
What is an interval?
The distance between two tones is called an interval. The orange arrow in the following figure illustrates an interval on the Animoog keyboard.
Why intervals are so important?
When we’re composing a melody, the absolute pitches are less important. The tonal character of the piece will depend much more on the distances of neighbouring tones. The melodies c-d-e-d-c and a-b-c#-b-a for example consist of different tones but they sound quite similar. The reason is, that the intervals of the pieces are the same in both sequences. With interval names we can characterize a musical piece much better than with absolute note names.
Estimation of interval names
Intervals got the names prime, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, octave and so on. These names are derived from the diatonic scale, e.g. the c-major scale. Let’s use the example c-a to explain this.
To get the name of that interval we need to count the scale tones from tone c to tone a. That means in the case of a c-major scale we must only count tones belonging to the c-major scale.
Tone a has got the number six which is some kind of measure for the distance c-a. Thus the interval c-a is called “sixth“.
The first eight interval names
In the same way also the other intervals can be derived. The interval names are straight forward. Exceptions are the first and the eight interval which are called prime and octave.
|Scale step range||Interval Name|
Practicing interval names with Animoog
It is important to know how different intervals sound. The best way to learn this is to play intervals at a musical instrument while singing the interval’s name. How this can be done with the synth app Animoog is part of the following video.
The eight interval names prime, second to octave are not precise enough. Thus the names do not distinguish between the second c-d and the second e-f for example. Therefore the next episode will be about major and minor intervals.
- Intervals play an important role for the perception of melodies and chords.
- To estimate an interval roughly we simply need to count the scale-steps from the first interval tone to the second.
- The name of the interval directly corresponds to the number of scale steps. Exceptions are the prime (1) and the octave (8).