Musicianship Workshop - Q&A

Here is a music theory question from Adrienne.


* In chromatic scales, is the pattern of interval names always the same?  For example in C the first half step from C is C# which is the minor second.  In A, would the first half step to Bb also be the minor second?  In B, would the first half step to C also be the minor second?  In C the 5th half step is the perfect fourth - In E would the 5th half step to A also be the perfect fourth?


Yes.  However, remember that C sharp is also D flat.  So, a half step (minor second) above C is C sharp/ D flat (they are the same note).  

Five half steps is a perfect fourth.  On the guitar, five frets (five half steps) higher from any note is the Perfect fourth.  Works every time!


* Why is the minor second in C called C# without also listing Db, and the minor third called Eb without also listing D#?  I notice that F# and Gb are both listed, and there are two names for those intervals.  So is it just a convention that we call the minor second in C C#?  Do we always call the half step from C C# and never Db in all chromatic scales?


Another great question!  I think the best way to think of this is by how they sound.  If you go from C to C# (which is also a Db), you will hear the sound of a minor second.  So, it really doesn't matter if you call it C# or Db.  However, there are certain protocols in music.  Typically when you refer to the interval of a second, you will be referring to the second note after the starting note.  For example, the second note from C is D, so C to Db is a minor second, and C to D is a Major Second.  The third note from C is E, so C to Eb is the minor third, and C to E is the Major Third.  

So , I would say whether you say C up to Eb or C up to D#, it will sound like a minor third, but when notating it in music, it would be best to notate the Eb above the C.  Get it?


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