Chords: Intervals You Gotta Know

An Interval is a two-note chord. Here is a gallery of the most commonly-encountered intervals, each possessing an inherent and unique degree of harmonic consonance or dissonance

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-gallery-notation

While more intervals types are theoretically possible, we are going to study only those intervals that pay practical dividends in literacy, aural comprehension, and performance.


Perfect Unison (chord symbol = P1, chord structure = 1-1)

A unison occurs when two or more voices sing or play the exact same note in the same register.piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-perfect-unison-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-perfect-unison-keyboard


Minor Second (Symbol = m2, Chord Structure = 1-b2)

It is called a 2nd because it spans two letters (C-D).

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-minor-second-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-minor-second-keyboard

Sight reading hint: All 2nds (major or minor) span an adjacent line/space or space/line.

Listen and notice the extremely dissonant quality of the minor 2nd…


Major Second (Symbol: M2, Structure = 1-2)

It is called a second because it spans two letters (C-D).

Sight reading tip: All seconds (major or minor) span an adjacent line/space or space/line.

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-major-second-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-major-second-keyboard

Listen and notice the mildly dissonant quality of the major 2nd…


Minor Third (Symbol: m3, Structure= 1-b3)

It is called a 3rd because it spans three letters (C-D-Eb).

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-minor-third-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-minor-third-keyboard

Sight reading tip: All 3rds (major or minor) span a line/space/line or space/line/space.

Listen and notice the consonant, but dark quality of the minor 3rd…


Major Third (Symbol: M3, Structure = 1-3)

It is called a 3rd because it spans three letters (C-D-E).

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-major-third-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-major-third-keyboard

Sight reading tip: All 3rds (major or minor) span an adjacent line/line or space/space.

Listen and notice the consonant, bright quality of the major 3rd…


Perfect Fourth (P4, 1-4)

It is called a fourth because it spans four letter names (C-D-E-F) and it called perfect because it is highly consonant.

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-perfect-fourth-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-perfect-fourth-keyboard

Listen and notice the consonant, but somewhat unstable quality of the perfect fourth…


Augmented Fourth (A4, 1-#4)

Spans seven physical keys on piano. It is called a fourth because it span four letters (C-D-E-F#) and is called augmented because it is one note “larger” than a perfect 4th.

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-augmented-fourth-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-augmented-fourth-keyboard

The augmented fourth is also called a tritone. Tritone means three tones (three whole steps), the interval of either an augmented 4th or diminished 5th. The difference between an augmented 4th and diminished 5th is purely theoretical. Both share the same physical notes, but the notes have different letter names…


Diminished Fifth (d5, 1-b5)

It is called a fifth because it spans five letters (C-D-E-F-Gb) and is called diminished because it is one note “smaller” than a perfect 5th.

The augmented fourth is also called a tritone. Tritone means three tones (three whole steps), the interval of either an augmented 4th or diminished 5th. The difference between an augmented 4th and diminished 5th is purely theoretical. Both share the same physical notes, but the notes have different letter names.

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-diminished-fifth-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-diminished-fifth-keyboard


Perfect Fifth (P5, 1-5)

It is called a fifth because it spans five letter names (C-D-E-F-G) and is called perfect because it is highly consonant.

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-perfect-fifth-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-perfect-fifth-keyboard

Listen and notice the very consonant, harmonically stable quality of the perfect fifth…


Augmented Fifth (A5, 1-#5)

Spans nine physical keys on piano. It is called a fifth because it span five letters (C-D-E-F-G#) and is called augmented because it is one note “larger” than a perfect fifth.

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-augmented-fifth-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-augmented-fifth-keyboard


Minor Sixth (m6, 1-b6)

It is called a sixth because it spans six letters (C-D-E-F-G-Ab) and it is called minor because it the minor version of the major sixth.

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-minor-sixth-notation piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-minor-sixth-keyboard

Listen and notice the consonant quality of the minor 6th…


Major Sixth (M6, 1-6)

It is called a six6th because it spans six letters (C-D-E-F-G-A).

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-major-sixth-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-major-sixth-keyboard

Listen and notice the consonant, bright, but unstable quality of the major 6th…


Minor Seventh (m7, 1-b7)

It is called a 7th because it spans 7 letter names (C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb)

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-minor-seventh-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-minor-seventh-keyboard

Listen and notice the dissonant, unstable quality of the minor 7th…


Major Seventh (M7, 1-7)

It is called a seventh because it span seven letters (C-D-E-F-G-A-B).

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-major-seventh-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-major-seventh-keyboard

Listen, and notice the extremely dissonant, unstable quality of the major 7th…


Perfect Octave (P8, 1-8)

It is called an octave because it spans eight letter names (C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C) and it is considered perfect because it is highly consonant and is harmonically equivalent to a perfect unison.

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-octave-notation

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-octave-keyboard

Listen and notice the very consonant, stable and powerful quality of the octave…


Intervals Larger than an Octave

Intervals larger than an octave, sometimes called compound intervals, are commonly used to describe chord structures that theoretically span beyond one octave (for example: 9ths, 10ths, 11ths, 13ths).  Here for example is the interval of a minor ninth…

piano-ology-chords-intervals-you-gotta-know-minor-ninth-keyboard

Don’t sweat the details right now.  Specific instances will be discussed in other lessons as they arise, especially in the study of jazz harmony.


Learn More… Recognizing and the visio-spatial layout of each interval above is a valuable performance skill… Stay tuned for videos showing you what and how to study-practice.

About Frank J Peter

A uniquely burdened and blessed citizen of the world thinking and acting out loud!
This entry was posted in Aural Comprehension, Chords, How to Read Music, Music Theory and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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