Guide to Chord Formation by Howard Wright (Howard@jmdl.com)
2.0 : Intervals
Chapter 2 : Intervals
This is a way of referring to notes by desribing the 'distances'
G major scale: (Reproduced from chapter 1 for clarity. --SB)
Note of the scale Distance up from root note Actual note
1 (root note) 0 G
2 2 semitones A
3 4 semitones B
4 5 semitones C
5 7 semitones D
6 9 semitones E
7 11 semitones F#
8 12 semitones G
In the G major scale above, we can see that the distance between the
1st note (or root note) and the 2nd
note is 2 semitones - this is
called a 2nd
The distance between the root note (G
) and the 3rd
note in the scale
is 4 semitones - this is called a 3rd
Pretty easy so far.
All you need to do is count up from the root note using notes of the scale, and if you end up on the 5th
note of the scale you have a 5th
, if you're on the 7th note, you've got a 7th
Surely it can't be that simple...?
2.1 : Interval Flavours
Well not quite. As well as major scales
, there are minor scales
. You could also have a 'weird' note or chromatic note
that didn't fit into either scale. To cope with this, the intervals come in different flavours
You can have a minor 3rd
or a major 3rd
You can have a normal 5th
) or an augmented 5th
You can have a 9th
or a flat 9th
All that changes here is that the 'distance
' or interval
is either stretched or squeezed by one semitone (half step).
So a minor 3rd
is a semitone less than a major 3rd
An augmented 5th
is a semitone more than a perfect 5th
You will see a few different terms here which mean the same thing.
- An augmented or sharp interval means one semitone higher.
- A diminished or flat interval means one semitone lower.
You also have minor and major intervals which differ by a semitone - the minor interval is one semitone lower than the major interval.
Here is a table of intervals
with their corresponding 'distances' in semitones.
2.2 : Table of Intervals
1 flat 2nd
3 minor 3rd
4 major 3rd
5 perfect 4th
6 flat 5th (diminished 5th or augmented 4th)
7 perfect 5th
8 minor 6th (or sharp 5th/augmented 5th)
9 major 6th
10 minor 7th (flat 7th)
11 major 7th
13 flat 9th
15 sharp 9th/minor 10th (just minor 3rd one octave higher)
16 major 10th (just major 3rd one octave higher)
18 augmented 11th
19 perfect 12th (octave above perfect 5th)
20 flat 13th
So to work out any particular note, say the major 6th
of an A major
, start with A
, find the distance for a major 6th
and just count up from A.
You should end up with F#
, so this is a major 6th
up from A.
(see chromatic scale
- Appendix A
So, to recap
. Chords are described or 'spelled out
' using interval
These intervals tell you far above the root note
the other notes
are. By using the table
above you can find out how many
you need to move up for any given interval.
Here is a simple example.
Bm7 - the spelling for this is: 1st, minor 3rd, 5th, minor 7th.
Start with B - count up 3 semitones for a minor 3rd - you get D.
Count up 7 semitones from B to get the 5th - F#.
Count up 10 semitones to get the minor 7th - A
So the notes are: B D F# A
So - if you know the spelling
of a particular chord (i.e. the
intervals which describe it) then it's simple to use the table
above to find out what notes you need.
What if you don't know the chord spelling?
If you just have a chord name, like F#m9
, then you need to
know how this chord is built.
The basic building blocks of all
chords are triads
Guide to Chord Formation by Howard Wright
Reformatted and noded (with permission) by Space Butler
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