This week we’ll cover the concept of whole-steps and half-steps. They are the build blocks of everything from chords to scales. They’re important, so let’s dig in.
Let’s first review the chromatic scale. Remember my blog about notes? We learned that all of western music can be described with one of 12 notes. Those twelve notes comprise what is called the chromatic scale:
A A♯ B C C♯ D D♯ E F F♯ G G♯
Okay, so where do these step thingies come in? Whole-steps and half-steps are ways to describe the distance, or interval, between two notes. Let’s start with a half-step. A half step interval occurs between two adjacent notes. Here are some examples of half-steps (be sure to look at the chromatic scale above as a reference to the examples below):
A to A♯
C♯ to D
E to F
In other words, whenever you move from one note in the chromatic scale to the very next note, you are moving a half-step. Now that you know what a half-step is you can probably guess what a whole-step is. Yep, a whole-step is when you move from one note, skip a note and land on the second note. Here are some examples of whole-steps (be sure to look at the chromatic scale above as a reference to the examples below):
A to B
C♯ to D♯
E to F♯
Whole-steps are two notes apart and half-steps are one note apart. I hope that makes sense. So how does that translate to your guitar? Easy! If you move from one fret to the very next fret, you are moving a half-step. If you move from one fret to another fret two frets away, you are moving a whole step. Not much to it. Click on the picture below for a larger version.
This information by itself may seem useless now but it will become valuable later when we talk about scales and chords.
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