The interval, an essential notion to understand

The definition of an interval in music is extremely simple: it is the distance between two notes . Rather fastoche to understand … For example, there is an interval between a Do and Mi or between La and Ré.

To make things simpler, we gave names to these intervals (interval of second, third, fifth …) that we will see later.

But before going into detail, it must be admitted that this concept, as easy to understand, is the basis of many things to understand in music theory. We can cite for example the understanding of chords , ranges or even a melody . The notion of interval will therefore be present at the harmonic as well as the melodic level .


An interval, a story of tones and semitones

In the context of Western music, intervals are counted in tones and semitones. The semitone is thus the smallest interval and the largest tone. I do not teach you anything if 1 tone is 2 1/2 times. This notion of tone will be used to make things easier to read. Better to say that a major third interval is 2 tones instead of 4 semitones :-).

On a piano keyboard, there is always one tone between two white keys except between Mi and Fa and between If and Do . The presence of these semitones may seem trivial and unimportant and well, think again, it’s quite the opposite. We will see this more precisely in harmony.

There are two types of intervals: the melodic interval and the harmonic interval .

The melodic interval consists of playing two notes one after the other: this makes you think of a melody.

Indeed, a melody is no more than a series of notes and there is an interval between each of these notes. For example, if I play The Mi Do If Re and Sol we have in theory 5 intervals: the interval between La and Mi, between Mi and Do, between Do and Si, between Si and Ré and finally between Ré and Sol.

If the first note is more serious than the second, we will have an ascending interval, otherwise it will be descending. If one remains at the level of the range of C major on the same octave (C, D, E, F, G, S and Si), the interval between C and E is ascending while Sol D is descending.

The harmonic interval consists of playing two notes at the same time.

You’re going to tell me, it’s like an agreement? Well no …, an agreement is to play at least 3 notes at the same time. Playing 2 notes together represents an interval. In other words, it is impossible to define a chord with only 2 notes.

You understand very well that the notion of intervals is very present as well on the level of the melody as of the harmony.

Span Reversal: upside down

If we take the example of an ascending interval, for example Do – Mi , the lowest note (starting note) is the C and the highest (end note) is the Mi.

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Some questions and answers about intervals

Here are some questions to which you will easily have the answers: just click on them 🙂

The interval corresponds to the space that exists between 2 measurements, 2 notes or 2 alterations?

The interval represents the space between 2 notes

What is the smallest unit of measure to calculate an interval?

This is the semitone

Two notes played simultaneously represent a melodic or harmonic interval?

This is a harmonic interval

In an octave, how many tones and semitones are there?

There are 5 tones and 2 half tones (in all 6 tones or 12 half tones)

How can Musiclic help you understand intervals?

On the Musiclic site, several pages may interest you: here are the main links with a brief description and possibly a video to accompany explanations.

The intervals in music theory

lessons This lesson gives you the main information to know about the intervals (naoms, qualifiers, reversals …)

Path: Home > Musical Theory  > Course of Musicology >  The intervals

Guess an interval

This game consists of presenting you with nine intervals (from a randomly selected starting note) and placing them correctly in the corresponding boxes.

Path: Home > Musical Theory  >  Games and animations >  Guessing an interval

Display the construction of a range by the intervals

This page allows you to visualize a set of ranges (major scale, minor scale, chromatic scale, pentatonic scale …) thanks to the intervals.

Path: Home > Musical theory  >  Games and animations >  Display a range

Find an interval

This tool is very easy and fast since it allows you to know interactively both the interval between two notes that you choose and the reversal of this interval. The intervals will be named but also the number of tones and semitones will be specified.

Path: Home > Musical Theory  >  Tools and Search Engines >  Find an Interval

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