Intervals: your tape measure for music.

In music, an interval is a way to describe the distance between two notes. In my post about whole- and half-steps, we learned about the two fundamental intervals in music: whole-steps and half-steps. You should read that post before reading this one.

It is important to learn all of the intervals because they help you understand chord and scale construction. Since chords and scales involve groups of notes that have very specific spaces — or intervals — between them, interval knowledge is integral to your understanding of scale and chord theory.

I don’t intend to make interval knowledge sound scary. It really isn’t. Like anything else, it involves review and memorization. Regular review of this article will help.

Keep in mind that intervals are just tape measures for music. They are used to measure and define the musical distance between two notes. As an example, let’s start with the whole-steps and half-steps.

A half-step is when we move from one note to the very next note in the chromatic scale. This is called a minor second interval. A whole-step is when we move from one note, skip a note and land on the second note. This is also called a major second interval.

A natural question at this point may be to ask why we have two names for the same interval? The only answer I have to that question is that the fundamental intervals (whole- and half-steps) are used to describe larger intervals and thus need special names.

So, without further delay, let’s define all of the intervals within an octave by. In the diagrams below, we are jumping from a note on an open string (any string will do) to another note on the same string. Be sure to listen to the audio examples of the intervals too.

Unison = 0 steps (same, enharmonic note)

Minor Second = ½ step

Major Second = 1 step

Minor Third = 1 ½ steps

Major Third = 2 steps

Perfect Fourth = 2 ½  steps

Tritone or Diminished 5th = 3 steps

Perfect Fifth = 3 ½ steps

Minor Sixth = 4 steps

Major Sixth = 4 ½ steps

Minor Seventh = 5 steps

Major Seventh = 5 ½  steps

Octave = 6 steps

Now you know the basics of intervals. In later posts, I’ll discuss more chord theory and I will use this interval terminology to describe the chord structures. Remember to review this post regularly so you can memorize all 12 intervals. Good luck.

For more information about me and the guitar lessons that I give in and around Baltimore, visit

One response to “Intervals: your tape measure for music.

  1. Pingback: Circle of Fifths | Guitar Lessons Baltimore·

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