Intervals (Part 1)

My understanding of music theory became very straight forward when I was taught about intervals. As I was told –  an interval is the distance or relationship between two notes. That is all. Armed with this simple piece of information, much of the fog of the theory I’d learnt before suddenly lifted. It explained everything from why a scale sounded the way it did to how to create different moods and atmospheres in the music I was making.

An interval is the distance or relationship between two notes

The first thing to establish is the root note. My understanding of what a root note is differs from some people I speak to. I refer to root notes in chords(even though the chord in question may not be the tonic), scales(the general root note as established by the whole orchestration) and chord progressions e.g –

Amaj    |Emaj/Dmaj = A is the root, Emaj    |Dmaj/Amaj = E is the root even though both chord progressions used the same chords.

To help me memorize all the intervals I drew up a chart(below). I also felt it very important to learn each interval by ear. To the point that I could hum them when nowhere near a guitar. I found myself harmonising with washing machines, car engines and vaccum cleaners! So included in the chart is a list of songs(updated!)which helped me to achieve that. I have chosen a C root note and also included a transcription of each interval to play on the guitar neck.

The naming of each interval follows a sound/position in the scale pattern e.g. a Major 3nd interval has a major/happy sound and is 3rd in the scale. Some enharmonic equivalents(same notes, different names – G#/Ab)actually have two interval names. This is because scales have to follow a logical naming system eg C D E F# G A B – F# is the 4th note and there is already a perfect 5th so it is a #4th whereas C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb – Gb is the 5th note and there is already a perfect 4th so it is a b5th even though F# and Gb are enharmonic equivalents. As a result some intervals – #2nd and #5th don’t have a song in the chart as #2nd would sound like a Minor 3rd and #5th would sound like a Minor 6th.

Here is the chart –

Download (PDF, 249KB)

And the transcription –

Download (PDF, 51KB)

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