It's now time to introduce the concept of an INTERVAL. This is one of the most important ideas you will encounter in all of music.
If you sing two tones, you can find a match for the first tone you sing and a match for the second tone you sing on the piano keyboard. If you count the distance on the piano between the notes you sang, that count can be used to name the sensation you receive when your voice jumps up or down by that amount. Each measurement that is made between tones by measuring their distance on a piano keyboard is called an interval. The key thing to know is that anyone who listens to music and is able to identify a melody is automatically measuring the distance beween the different tones in the melody.
Melodies are formed by skipping from one pitch to another using one of the possible intervals. If you choose any note on the piano, and skip by a certain set sequence of interval distances to reach the notes in the melody, you will be able to play the same melody using a different beginning note. Most people don't recognize melodies as a sequence of notes. They recognize them as a certain sequence of measured intervals. Different interval sequences are recognized as different melodies.
How many different intervals are there? Well, if you could sing the lowest and highest notes on the piano, you would be singing an interval that is 88 piano tones wide. Because people's brains recognize octaves so easily, there are only twelve interval distances between tones that are distinguishable as being completely different from other intervals. You can take one of these 12 fundamental intervals and add on any number of octave intervals to construct the intervals larger than an octave. People recognize these as one of the twelve fundamental intervals stretched by one or more octaves.
If you play tones separated by a particular interval you create a two-tone melody that has the characteristic feeling of that interval. Such a two-tone melody is called a melodic interval.Play examples of the twelve fundamental melodic intervals
The smallest interval, which would correspond to zero in arithmetic, is the unison. Two notes played in succession with the same tone form a unison.
Play a unison interval
The melodic minor second (m2), which is formed by playing two notes one step apart on the piano, is the smallest interval that can be played with two different notes. It represents the smallest possible amount singers are usually asked to slide their voices while singing. This interval has the connotation of something slipping or sliding when it's played slowly. It can sound mysterious, sad or strange.
Hear more examples of usage of the minor second intervalThe melodic major second (M2) is formed by playing two notes that are two steps apart on the piano. The major second is the interval that occurs the most in most melodies. This interval has a fairly neutral sound. It can sound happy, glad or positive.
Hear more examples of usage of the major second interval
The melodic minor third (m3) is formed by playing two notes that are three steps apart on the piano. This interval is frequently played in melodies that have a sad or dark feeling. This is the characteristic interval used in blues songs.
Hear more examples of usage of the minor third intervalThe melodic major third (M3) is formed by playing two notes that are four steps apart on the piano. This interval is frequently played in melodies that have an optimistic or happy feeling. This is a characteristic interval used in marching songs.
Hear more examples of usage of the major third intervalThe melodic perfect fourth (P4) is formed by playing two notes that are five steps apart on the piano. This interval has an archaic or medieval feeling.
Hear more examples of usage of the perfect fourth intervalThe melodic flatted fifth (flat 5) is formed by playing two notes that are six steps apart on the piano. This interval is very dissonant sounding. In the middle ages, music theorists called this interval the "devil in music".
Hear more examples of usage of the flatted fifth intervalThe melodic perfect fifth (P5) is formed by playing notes that are seven steps apart on the piano.This interval sounds very restful and is frequently used to mark a stopping point in a melody. The fifth is extremely consonant.
Hear more examples of usage of the perfect fifth intervalThe melodic minor sixth (m6) is formed by playing notes that are eight steps apart on the piano. This interval is quite dissonant and is very active sounding. This is a very wide interval and is used infrequently in melodies.
Hear more examples of usage of the minor sixth intervalThe melodic major sixth (M6) is formed by playing notes that are nine steps apart on the piano. This interval is very consonant . This is a very wide interval and is used infrequently in melodies.
Hear more examples of usage of the major sixth intervalThe melodic minor seventh (m7) is formed by playing notes that are ten steps apart on the piano.This interval is dissonant. Because it is so wide it is rarely used in melodies.
Hear more examples of usage of the minor seventh intervalThe melodic major seventh (M7) is formed by playing notes that are 11 steps apart on the piano. This interval is very dissonant, even more dissonant than the the minor seventh. It is rarely used in melodies because it is so wide.
Hear more examples of usage of the major seventh intervalThe melodic octave is formed by playing notes that are 12 steps apart on the piano.This interval is extermely consonant
Examples of melodies: Merry Had a Little Lamb Star-Spangled Banner Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Earthly BeautyIf you decide to play tones separated by a certain interval distance at the same time, those tones form a harmonic interval. The harmonic intervals have a characteristic feeling associated with them that is very similar to the feeling caused by the same interval played melodically. Harmonic intervals can be identified by specifying the name of the lowest note in the interval, (called the interval's root) and then specifying the interval type. For instance, the interval formed by a G and the B a major third higher is called a G M3 interval. Since intervals built on roots that are octaves apart (that have the same note name) sound so similar to one another, all of those octave apart intervals are named by the same name.
Harmonic minor 2nd (m2)
Listen to harmonic m2 (minor 2nd) interval     Listen to all m2 intervals built on C roots (all seven C notes on piano)
Harmonic major 2nd (M2)
Harmonic minor 3rd (m3)
Harmonic major 3rd (M3)
Harmonic perfect 4th (P4)
Harmonic flatted 5th (fl5)
Harmonic perfect 5th (P5)
Harmonic minor 6th (m6)
Harmonic major 6th (M6)
Harmonic minor 7th (m7)
Harmonic major 7th (M7)
Last update: Tuesday, March 4, 2003 at 9:58 PM.