Musical Intervals

So far, we have learned what a keyboard looks like and how to correctly name its keys. Now it's time for musical intervals: this is how you discover which notes fit into a certain key or family.

What is an interval?

Its definition is as follows: ‘an interval is the distance between notes/letters of the alphabet’. From the moment we play two different keys on the piano, we use intervals. Thanks to the use of intervals, we can form various scales, such as the major and minor scales.

A major scale usually evokes energetic, uplifting and happy feelings, while the minor scale mainly evokes emotional, sad and fearful feelings. This is because the intervals or distances between the different notes in the major and minor scales are different. Feeling lost? Don't worry; we'll come back to this later.

First, we delve deeper into the musical intervals to form both scales. Therefore, we need to discover the difference between a whole tone (also called a whole step) and a semitone (also called a half step).

Tones and semitones

The difference between a tone and a semitone can best be explained by the illustration below. Try to compare the distance between the letters C and D (= 1 tone or a whole step) with that between the letters B and C (= 1 semitone or a half step). When we go from C to D we pass through one black key, which is not the case when we go from B to C.

In other words, a semitone moves our finger only one key up or down (= the same as right or left). To play a full tone higher or lower, we have to move our finger two keys. Here are some examples of semitones and full tones.

Now that you know the difference between a tone and a semitone, you are ready to learn how we can build any major scale!