Join Julian Velard for an in-depth discussion in this video Intervals: Major and perfect, part of Music Theory for Songwriters: The Fundamentals.
- All scales are made up of a series of intervals. An interval is the distance between two pitches. We've discussed a few intervals already. The octave, (piano) (guitar) the semitone, or half step, (piano) (guitar) and the whole tone, or whole step. (piano) (guitar) Intervals can be described in two ways.
The first is horizontal, or melodic, when two tones happen one after another in time. (piano) (guitar) The second is vertical, or harmonic, when two tones happen simultaneously, which is what happens when you play a chord. (piano) (guitar) The smallest interval that occurs in Western music, as I mentioned earlier, is a semitone.
It's important to note that in other musical systems around the world, there are further divisions of notes than the semitone. We refer to the visions that lie outside the twelve tone system as microtones. For example, in Raga, the classical Hindustani musical form, there are 26 notes that make up the octave. They use a different tuning system to achieve these notes. In some microtonal systems, the differences between notes can be so small, it's hard for ears accustomed to Western music to distinguish between them.
Our system for naming intervals is not unlike our system for naming scales. Each interval has a quality and a number. Let me explain. Our reference point for the quality and number of an interval is the major scale. We treat the first note of the interval as if it's the tonic or first degree of a major scale. For example, if we want to describe the distance of C to G, (piano) we treat the C as the first degree of the C major scale, and count up to G, (piano) which is the fifth degree of the C major scale.
Therefore, we call the interval of C to G a 5th. (piano) There are five qualities to intervals, and they are as follows: perfect, major, minor, diminished, and augmented. Each has their own unique sound, and we'll hear examples of all of these as we progress through the course. When using the first degree of the scales, the tonic, here are the intervals of the scale. I'll use the C major scale to demonstrate.
C to C, a perfect unison or prime (piano) Yes, even though it's the same note, it still counts as an interval. C to D, a major 2nd, (piano) C to E, a major 3rd, (piano) C to F, a perfect 4th, (piano) C to G, a perfect 5th, (piano) C to A, a major 6th, (piano) C to B, a major 7th (piano) C to C, a perfect octave or perfect 8th.
(piano) And here's what that sounds like on guitar. (guitar) The numeric values of intervals continue past the octave.
For example, the distance between C and D the octave above, is called the 9th. (piano) It's called the 9th because if we continue to count scale degrees past the octave or the 8th, the next note is the 9th. (piano) There are 10ths, (piano) 11ths, (piano) 12ths, (piano) 13ths, (piano) 14ths, (piano) and even 15ths, which is technically a double octave.
(piano) And here's what that sounds like on guitar. (guitar) The quality of an interval is not affected by its degree.
For example, C to the E in octave up is a major 10th, because C to E within the octave is a major 3rd. (piano) And just as C to F within the octave is a perfect 4th, C to the F in octave above is a perfect 11th. (piano) As we progress with our understanding of music theory and harmony, we'll see that the concept of quality continues through to the descriptions of chords.
We'll find that each quality of a chord has its own characteristic sound. This idea of a sound of an interval, or a chord's quality is important to our understanding of harmony and it's many uses in songwriting. Again, this is something we'll explore in depth later on, but it's good for you to become aware of the sound we associate with each quality in intervals, scales, and chords.
Professional musician Julian Velard starts the course with the building blocks of harmony: notes, scales, intervals, chords, inversions, and basic chord progressions. He then goes into voice leading—showing how to move from one chord to another by changing just one or two notes—and reviews common song forms, from the familiar verse/chorus/verse of pop to the simple verse of the blues. At the end of each chapter, Julian explains the songwriting techniques shown in the chapter within the context of his own original commercially released songs.
- Understanding scales, intervals, and keys
- Triads or three-note chords
- Triad inversions
- Common major-scale chord progressions and cadences
- Voice leading
- Song form elements such as verse, chorus, bridge, hook, and more
- Using common song forms in songwriting