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piano intervals

Piano Intervals

by Tania Gleaves on March 1, 2014

Introduction

Piano intervals are differences in pitch. If you think of the C major scale, each one of its keys is an interval between its lowest note and its highest. That includes whole notes and half notes, mind you.. The smallest interval is obviously the half-step (called a minor 2nd) and the largest interval is an entire octave (called a perfect eighth). There are thus, a total of 88 intervals from the left side of the keyboard all the way to the right. Played one-by-one, these notes are called a melodic interval (ascending or descending — either way), but when played together, they’re called a harmonic interval. Of particular interest is the manner in which intervals build major, minor, and other type of chords.

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Types of Intervals

Once you’ve learned the pattern of identifying intervals, playing them is easy-as-pie. The major third interval for instance, is the distance between any three notes of the C Major scale. If you were to play the C key and the E key simultaneously, the C, D, and E keys form the trio in the “third” interval even though the D key is silent. If you were to play the C and D key only, you would form a major 2nd interval because the distance between both notes is just two. If you were to play the C key and the E-flat key, you would form a minor third. C to F is a perfect 4th interval while C to G is a perfect fifth. Playing the bottom C all the way to the top C is playing an octave. But things start to get a little tricky when you introduce sharps and flats.

For example, playing D to G creates a perfect 4th. When we’re working with intervals, we have to be careful about what we call a flat and what we call a sharp. With our perfect 4th, a G-sharp becomes an augmented 4th — not an A-Flat. An A-flat in this case is called a diminished 5th. But that’s getting a little ahead of ourselves.

Why Learn Intervals

Learning intervals makes maneuvering around the keyboard easier. It also makes playing the piano easier too! That’s because many of the songs we hear every day are played with only three chords. By studying intervals and understanding how they build basic chords, you can quickly learn to play the songs that you enjoy listening to. Chords after all, are built with the intervals we’re talking about! Minor chords for example, are built with minor intervals and major chords are built from major intervals.

Here’s a short list of some songs we’re familiar with. As you think about these songs, think about the intervals that they use and then try them out on your own:

Frere Jacques: Major 2nd
Happy Birthday: Major 2nd
Beverley Hills Cop: Minor 3nd
Kum Ba Ya (Chorus): Major 3rd
Here Comes the Bride: Perfect 4th
Amazing Grace: Perfect 4th
Star Wars: Perfect 5th
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: Perfect 5th
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean: Major 6th
Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Perfect 8th (Octave)

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Looking for a Chord Chart for the Piano?

by Erik Thiede on February 16, 2009

piano chord chart software Looking for a Chord Chart for the Piano?

Instant Piano Chord Chart Finder

Need a Quick and Convenient way to find piano chords and voicings?

The construction of a piano chord chart can be easy once you understand the formula for each chord.

It all follows from the intervals of the respective scales. For example, the major scale for the key of C is C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C, where the first “C” is “1”, “D” is “2”, “E” is “3”…the last “C” is “8”.

The notes in the extended chords, 9th, 11th and 13th, can extend beyond the last note in the scale (“8″) so we just repeat the scale pattern out to the 13th from the root (including the root note), in this case it becomes: C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A. The last “A” is number “13”.

Using the above pattern and knowledge of the major scales, you can use the chord chart below to construct the chords for every key. Note that a “b” in front of the number means that the note in that position should be made flat (lowered one-half step) and a number with a “#” in front of it means that the note in that position should be made sharp (raised one-half step:

Chord Name Symbol Formula*
Major M, maj, implied is missing 1 3 5
Minor m 1 b3 5
Augmented aug, + 1 3 #5
Diminished dim, o 1 b3 b5
Dominant 7th 7 1 3 5 b7
Major 7th M7, maj7 1 3 5 7
Minor 7th m7 1 b3 5 b7
Dominant 7b5 7b5 1 3 b5 b7
Augmented Dominant 7th, Dominant Seventh Sharp 5 7#5 1 3 #5 b7
Minor/ Major Seventh m/M7, m/maj7 1 b3 5 7
Diminished Minor Seventh, Minor Seventh Flat Five, Half-Diminished Seventh m7b5 1 b3 5b b7
Diminished 7th dim7 1 b3 b5 bb7
Suspended, Suspended 4th sus, sus4 1 3 4 5
Minor Suspended, Minor Suspended 4th msus, msus4 1 b3 4 5
Major 6th 6, M6 1 3 5 6
Minor 6th m6 1 b3 5 6
Six/Nine, Sixth Add Ninth 6/9, 6add9 1 3 5 6 9
Minor Six/Nine, Minor Sixth Add Ninth m6/9, m6add9 1 b3 5 6 9
Add Nine add9 1 3 5 9
Minor Add Nine madd9 1 b3 5 9
Major Ninth M9, maj9 1 3 5 7 9
Minor Ninth m9 1 b3 5 b7 9
Dominant Ninth 9 1 3 5 b7 9
Dominant Sharp Nine 7#9 1 3 5 b7 #9
Dominant Flat Nine 7b9 1 3 5 b7 b9
Minor Eleventh m11 1 b3 5 b7 9 11
Dominant Eleventh 11 1 3 5 b7 9 11
Dominant Sharp Eleventh 7#11 1 3 5 b7 9 #11
Major Sharp Eleven, Major Seventh Sharp Eleventh maj#11, maj7#11 1 3 5 7 9 #11
Major Thirteenth maj13 1 3 5 7 9 11 13
Minor Thirteenth m13 1 b3 5 b7 9 11 13
Dominant Thirteenth 13 1 3 5 b7 9 11 13

* Bolded numbers are optional

Piano Chord Charts in specific keys:

Want a Visual Chord Finder for your Desktop? I found a pretty good one and it’s call the “Instant Piano Chord Chart Finder“. I can get by with a basic chart but having everything on my desktop does come in handy…Here’s a screenshot:

piano chord chart software Looking for a Chord Chart for the Piano?

Want to learn how chords “move” or progress around in the music? It’s called Chord Progressions.

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