Welcome back everyone! This time we are going to cover simple intervals!  Now you may be thinking, “Intervals? Like high intensity interval training?” Lucky you! It is not that. Intervals are the distance between two notes. “Simple Intervals” are intervals that do not exceed an octave, and compound intervals are ones that do (but we won’t get into compound intervals for now).

When I discussed the major scale, I explained it as a series of half-steps, and whole-steps. These are intervals as well, and they can also be called a “minor 2nd” and “major 2nd”. On the piano, a minor 2nd would be any motion between C and C# (Db), and a major 2nd would be any motion between C to D. Feel free to reference the image I have included when needed. The #/b refers to the black keys being the respective sharp or flat of the neighboring keys.


The main types of intervals are major (M), minor (m), perfect (P), diminished (d), and augmented (A). Each interval is going to receive a letter and number to classify what it is. Augmented intervals are a major or perfect interval that has been expanded a half-step, and diminished intervals are minor or perfect interval that has been decreased a half-step. Now this can cause confusion, because an A4 and a d5 are the exact same notes. The real difference between the two is the treatment of resolution, which we can talk about at a later time. So here are all the simple intervals:

Wow! That’s a lot of intervals! Aren’t they amazing!? That’s the general idea of simple intervals, but now let’s talk about the different categories of intervals – maybe organize them out a little.

Let’s just clear up that there are melodic intervals, which is when two notes are played in succession, and harmonic intervals, when two notes are played simultaneously. Also, there are consonant and dissonant intervals. The sounds of these types of intervals are what classify them. Dissonant intervals have a lot of tension in their sound. You, the listener, usually like to hear this tension resolve, which is where consonant intervals come into play. The consonant intervals are: P1 (unison), P4, P5, P8, M3, m3, M6, m6. The dissonant intervals are: m2, M2, A4 (or d5), m7, M7.

I know that everything I have presented is only on a visual level, but there are tons of apps you can use to practice aural and visual recognition of these intervals. Personally, visual recognition of intervals is great for any musician, but is mostly used by the academic musician. On the other hand, both academic and non-academic musicians will benefit from aural practice of interval recognition. At UTA, the popular program was MacGamut. “MacDammit” was our name for it, but it got the job done. Another way of cementing some of these intervals into the old noodle is by associating them to musical pop culture. John Williams’ theme to “Jaws” is a easy way to memorize the sound of a m2. The video gamer in me relates a M3 to the pause sound from Super Mario Bros. 3. The opening two notes, “The Simp-”, of The Simpsons is how I learned to recognize A4/d5 (remember, they are the same thing). The list goes on. NBC Chimes are a M6 up, then a M3 down. So go! Go find your favorite music, and start making those relations people, because it will translate to your playing.

If you want to talk further about intervals with me, email or comment. Also, let me know what you use to remember intervals if you already know this stuff. Next time, we are going to be putting this interval knowledge to use by making chords out of 2-3 separate sets of intervals.

This entry brought to you by me watching my wife play Zelda, and as always, thanks for turning on my corner!