Chapter Three


Understanding intervals is important for one to comprehend scales and chords. Intervals are building blocks upon which you build chords. Recognizing the do's and don'ts of intervals is also important for beginners who wish to compose music. For example, when composing music you should use seconds and thirds liberally, but you should not have a total range exceeding a major tenth. Do you understand what this means? If not, read on (and it would behoove you to read on even if you do understand it).

We will start by differentiating between melodic and harmonic intervals. A melody is a series of tones arranged in an upward or downward fashion. A harmonic interval is when two sounds simultaneously. Below are examples of melodic and harmonic intervals.

Intervals are named using a numeric representation. The numeric part of the name is based on the number of staff positions between the notes. The value includes the lines or spaces the notes are on.

There are two exceptions to the above rule.

1) The first exception is when two instruments or voices have the same pitch. This is called a unison. In case you are not familiar with the concept of voices, voices are used to notate two or more melodic or rhythmic concepts on the same staff or for several staves when using a piano staff.


2) The second exception is when there are eight positions between the notes. This is called an octave.