Perfect, Major, and Minor Intervals

This episode lifts the secret about major and minor intervals. Why is it not enough to name intervals with names like prime, second or third? Why do we need to add major and minor?

Introduction

If we analyze the seven tones of a diatonic scale, then we will realize that there are two versions of all intervals except the prime. To distinguish between these versions the terms major and minor as well augmented and diminished were introduced. About the latter we are going to talk in the next episode.

Scale steps versus semitone steps

To be able to distinguish between major and minor intervals we need to distinguish between scale steps and semitone steps. The next figure shows two versions of the Animoog keyboard. The first version only shows keys of the C-major and therefore scale steps.

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The second version additionally shows the remaining tones, which are the black keys. The second figure therefore shows semitone steps.

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In both versions the intervals c-d and e-f are emphasized. In the first figure both intervals seem to have the same size. But in the second figure it becomes clear, that the interval c-d is larger than the interval e-f. Thus we see, that we need to estimate the distance of tones in semitone steps when we want to be precise.

Perfect, major and minor intervals

Both, the interval c-d as well the interval e-f are seconds. But from c to d there are two semitone steps, from e to f only one. Therefore the interval c-d is called major second and the interval e-f minor second.

In the same way two versions of the interval second exist also two versions of the other intervals exists, except the prime. Thus one could get the idea to say: Ok, lets name the smaller interval “minor” and the bigger one “major”. But sorry, it’s not as easy.

A major and a minor version only exists for the four intervals second, third, sixths and seventh. The other intervals are separated into a perfect version and augmented or diminished one. But – as already mentioned – that will be topic of the next episode.

Interval-Table

With these terms we are able to provide the following table:

Semitone steps Fine type Rough type Example
0 Perfect Prime c-c
1 Minor Second e-f
2 Major c-d
3 Minor Third e-g
4 Major c-e
5 Perfect Fourth c-f
6 See next episode. h-f
7 Perfect Fifths c-g
8 Minor Sixth e-c
9 Major c-a
10 Minor Seventh g-f
11 Major c-b
12 Perfect Octave c-c

Video demonstration

The following video summarizes the things said before using the music app Animoog.

Next Blog Post

Beside perfect, major and minor intervals also augmented and diminished intervals exist. These are necessary to distinguish between the fourth f-b and the fourth c-f for example. We are going to talk about that in the next episode.

Summary

  1. Except of the the prime, larger and smaller versions of all intervals exist.
  2. To distinguish between that versions, the terms perfect, major, minor were introduced.
  3. But only the second, third, sixths and sevenths interval are called major or minor.
  4. Regarding the intervals prime, fourth, fifth and octave we are distinguishing between perfect, augmented and diminished intervals.

9 thoughts on “Perfect, Major, and Minor Intervals”

    1. I have been looking forawrd to 3ds hacking for over a year, I am glad it’s slowly becoming possible! Good luck with your work! I will be cheering you on as you progress and am looking forawrd to its release! 😀

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  1. Heh… I was wondering if you were going to try and tackle augmented and diminished in this episode. :) Good idea to break it into a smaller chunk. I’m still seeing new ways of visualizing this that I didn’t see in Theory 101. (Of course that was also almost 30 years ago too…)

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