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Blog » Piano and Music Theory Part 07

25th May 2012  |  2 comments

Last week in Piano and Music Theory Part 06 we started to look at intervals which if you remember describe the relationship between different keys on the Piano/keyboard. Essentially intervals are measurements between notes/keys. So for example the distance between the C key and the E key (ascending) is known as a Major third. Similarly the distance between the C key and the G key (again ascending) is known as a perfect 5th! If you play all of these together you get a C Major triad chord which contains the 1st, 3rd and 5th degree of the C Major scale. Check out the image below which shows the names of the different intervals relative to C (C Major triad chord is highlighted).

When listening to different intervals the terms 'consonant' and 'dissonant' are often used. These terms describe the tonal character of different intervals. For example the interval between the 1st and 5th key of a scale is considered to be very 'consonant'. In contrast the interval between the 1st and the minor second key (C and C#) is considered to be very 'dissonant'. Generally keys that are closer to each other when played together are more dissonant and keys that are further away from each other are more consonant. However this is only true to a point...

The Tritone

Somewhere in the middle of consonance and dissonance lies a 'floaty' interval (between C and F#) which is known as the 'Tritone'. The sinister nature of this interval resulted in it being banned from use in religious music in the dark ages, earning it the name 'diabolus in musica'. This interval can be used for great effect in dark, eerie, ambient, non-tonal music (try it out!).

The best way to become familiar with intervals is to experiment with them. Try constructing your own chords with 2 or more notes and you will soon find key combinations that you like the sound of and would certainly use in the creation of your own music.

Next Week... more on chords

Written by Steve Heath of Wave Alchemy

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Hey Guys - any chance you will pick up some more of these theory sessions. They were proving really useful
Wave Alchemy
Edit - the root note as mentioned above is also commonly known as the 'tonic' while the key which is a perfect 5th above the tonic is called the 'dominant' (V). A perfect fifth below the tonic which is the same as a perfect fourth above the tonic is called the 'subdominant' (IV)

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