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Thread: Intervals: C Major Scale

  1. #1
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    Smile Intervals: C Major Scale

    In C Major Scale, C to E is a third, and there are 4 semi-tones so that makes it a Major 3rd. But how about the distance from D to F within the same C Major Scale? It's a 3rd, but only 3 semi-tones. Is it a Minor 3rd in this case?

    Can someone help clarify? Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by liveislife View Post
    In C Major Scale, C to E is a third, and there are 4 semi-tones so that makes it a Major 3rd. But how about the distance from D to F within the same C Major Scale? It's a 3rd, but only 3 semi-tones. Is it a Minor 3rd in this case?

    Can someone help clarify? Thanks!
    Exactly, it is a minor 3rd...a major third would be D-F# (as found, for example, in the D major scale).
    Last edited by walternewton; 02-01-2014 at 07:08 PM.

  3. #3
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Yes, Here's how you do it:

    For 1sts (unisons), 4ths, 5ths and 8ths (octaves): If the higher note belongs exactly to the lower note's major scale, the interval is said to be 'perfect'.
    If the higher note is a semitone higher than the note of the lower note's major scale, the interval is said to be 'augmented' (the interval is greater).
    If the higher note is a semitone lower than the note of the lower note's major scale, the interval is said to be 'diminished' (the interval is smaller).

    For 2nds, 3rds, 6ths and 7ths: If the higher note belongs exactly to the lower note's major scale, the interval is said to be 'major'.
    If the higher note is a semitone higher than the note of the lower note's major scale, the interval is said to be 'augmented' (the interval is greater).
    If the higher note is a semitone lower than the note of the lower note's major scale, the interval is said to be 'minor' (the interval is smaller).
    If the higher note is 2 semitones (a tone) lower than the note of the lower note's major scale, the interval is said to be 'diminished' (the interval is even smaller).

    Or, in other words:

    With the Major scale, the pattern of intervals between the tonic and each successive note (starting with the second note and going upwards) is:
    major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, major 6th, major 7th, perfect octave.
    If any of these intervals is increased by one semitone, the interval becomes 'augmented'.
    If the intervals of 4ths, 5ths or octaves are decreased by one semitone, the interval becomes 'diminished'.
    If the intervals of 2nds, 3rds, 6ths or 7ths are decreased by one semitone, the interval becomes 'minor'.

  4. #4
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I never could see how knowing this was going to help, so I accepted it as part of the language and moved on to the scale interval numbering system shown below:

    Interval numbers............1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.......Chord numbers..... I, ii,... iii,.. IV, V, vi,.. vii
    C major scale intervals = C, D, E, F, G, A, B......Chords in the key..C, Dm, Em, F,. G, Am, Bdim.

    Notes use Arabic numbers and chords use Roman numbers. Upper case Roman numbers for major chords and lower case Roman numbers for the minor chords.

    I can function with this, I found the other way's use of the word major and minor confusing and with upper case roman numbers for all chords that in itself became confusing. My point, there is another way. Both end up getting you to the same place. Use the method YOU like best.

    What ever method we were taught seems to be the one we use. You decide which is best for you.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 02-01-2014 at 11:27 PM.

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by liveislife View Post
    In C Major Scale, C to E is a third, and there are 4 semi-tones so that makes it a Major 3rd. But how about the distance from D to F within the same C Major Scale? It's a 3rd, but only 3 semi-tones. Is it a Minor 3rd in this case?
    Precisely. It's 3 notes (DEF), so it's a 3rd. It's a half-step smaller than a major 3rd, so it's a minor 3rd. ("major" = bigger, "minor" = smaller, out of two choices.)
    Jumping Jack's explanation is good (and a common standard way of explaining intervals), and if it clarifies sufficiently then that's fine; but IMO there's no need to refer to a particular major scale. D-F is a minor 3rd, whatever scale (or chord) we might find it in. (It could have either E or Eb in between, it doesn't matter.)
    I mean, obviously one needs to know the basic whole-half step structure of the natural notes ABCDEFG. But intervals come before scales, or at least before the naming of scales. ("Major" and "minor" scales, like major and minor chords, are named after their 3rd interval, not vice versa.)

    I.e, to identify D-F as a minor 3rd, there is no need to invoke the D major scale, or even to know what the D major scale is. You only have to know the sizes of major and minor 3rds.
    (The major scale reference point that JJ's explanation uses obviously makes sense if one learns one's major scales before one learns about intervals - and I suspect that's common.)

    And of course you need to know the "major/minor/perfect" jargon: the differences in naming between 2nds 3rds 6ths and 7ths on the one hand (which come in two common sizes) and unisons 4ths 5ths and octaves on the other (which tend to come only in one common size, "perfect").
    And then "augmented" and "diminished" refer to the (slightly) rarer alterations of those three interval types, as JJ explained.

    IOW, as I see it - and admittedly I reduced it to this with hindsight well after I knew all my scales, which I learned before I ever heard the word "interval" - is:
    1. Natural notes first: ABCDEFG, WHWWHWW. IOW, basic tone-semitone, or whole-half step, distinctions
    2. Intervals (all common types). Ie the language used to describe any pair of notes. (Following the major and minor "2nds" encountered in step #1.)
    3. Chords. The language used to describe common sets of three notes (which derives from interval language).
    4. Scales.
    To be honest, #3 and #4 could be interchangeable. In terms of interval jargon, steps 1-2-3 make sense in that order. But of course scales (for better or worse) are considered the foundation of our music theory, and are often placed first (at least the C major scale is). I certainly wouldn't deny the importance of the major scale as a central plank of music theory . I just don't think we need it as a reference point for intervals, mainly because it can introduce complications.
    Last edited by JonR; 02-02-2014 at 10:54 AM.

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    Smile

    You guys are terrific, thanks! The music community is so supportive of each other, it's heartwarming to experience. I'm so glad I found this website. With a supportive community and the internet, it has really changed my concept of how to learn music....or anything.

    So back to the scales; I'm wondering if even Major scales can have Major, Perfect, Minor intervals within the same scale, what is the fundamental difference in having so many Major, Minor scales? I'm thinking it must be something to do with choices of pitches, and the particular intervals that the composer wants to use to create a specific mood? I'm not too sure, anyone got 2 cents on this one?

    Appreciated!

  7. #7
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by liveislife View Post
    what is the fundamental difference in having so many Major, Minor scales? I'm thinking it must be something to do with choices of pitches, and the particular intervals that the composer wants to use to create a specific mood? I'm not too sure, anyone got 2 cents on this one?
    There's a lot of history behind that question...
    For example, when the major/minor system was originally developed, music would seldom be in the "equal temperament" system we use today. As such, there could be a noticeable difference in the intervals and thus the sound of the scale (and by extension, the key). C-E and F-A are both major thirds for example, but they wouldn't necessarily have been exactly the same.

    Since most western music nowadays uses equal temperament, this is much less of an issue, and the main reason to pick one scale over another is to set the music so it is within the comfortable range of singers or instrumentalists. And of course some keys are easier to play in than others (and this may depend on the instrument).

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    Quote Originally Posted by liveislife View Post
    I'm thinking it must be something to do with choices of pitches, and the particular intervals that the composer wants to use to create a specific mood?
    Essentially - consider the C major scale (CDEFGABC) and A minor scale (ABCDEFGA) - same notes, but the different relationships between the pitches give them different sounds.

  9. #9
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Along those lines. The following is the major scale box pattern for the bass guitar - same bottom four strings as the 6 string guitar - I'm a bassists hang with me. Make your own 6 string pattern.

    Which scale to use? Good question. Let the major scale be your go to pattern. Change a couple of notes and you have something new. No reason for a zillion patterns.

    Bass Patterns based upon the Major Scale box.

    Major Scale Box.

    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    D|---6---|-------|---7---|---8---|
    A|---3---|---4---|-------|---5---|
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string
    Scales
    • Major Scale = R-2-3-4-5-6-7 Home base
    • Major Pentatonic = R-2-3-5-6 Leave out the 4 & 7
    • Natural Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 Major scale with the 3, 6 & 7 flatted.
    • Minor Pentatonic = R-b3-4-5-b7 Leave out the 2 & 6.
    • Blues = R-b3-4-b5-5-b7 Minor pentatonic with the blue note b5 added.
    • Harmonic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 Natural minor with a natural 7.
    • Melodic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-6-7 Major scale with a b3.
    Let the major scale be your home base then change a few notes and you have something different. No need to memorize a zillion patterns. Let the major scale pattern be your go to pattern - then adapt/adjust from there.

    Major modes

    • Ionian same as the Major Scale. Said to have an attractive up beat sound, if that is what you want the major scale will give you that - why get a mode involved.

    • Lydian use the major scale and sharp the 4 - yes, it’s that simple. Lydian is said to give a day dreamy sound and as such Lydian over a modal vamp of one to two chords would sustain that day dreamy sound.

    • Mixolydian use the major scale and flat the 7. Change one note..... Mixolydian works well over a dominant seven blues progression, and with a modal vamp gives a Latin sound.

    Minor Modes

    • Aeolian same as the Natural Minor scale. The natural minor scale is said to have a sad sound. Thus Aeolian will give that same sound, again why get a modal vamp involved when a basic i-iv-v minor chord progression will do the same thing.

    • Dorian use the Natural Minor scale and sharp the b6 back to a natural 6. Change one note. Dorian gives an attractive minor sound. My favorite mode and my favorite minor sound. Grab a modal vamp and let Dorian take over.

    • Phrygian use the Natural Minor scale and flat the 2. Again change one note. Middle Eastern sound if used over a modal vamp. Fun mode to "play" with, but, I seldom need that Middle Eastern sound.

    • Locrian use the Natural Minor scale and flat the 2 and the 5. OK here you have a dark and tense sound. A one chord modal vamp of the m7b5 chord works here. Seldom have a reason to use Locrian.

    Modal Harmony - the rest of the story.
    • If you play your modes over a chord progression you will probably only hear the tonal center of your progression.

    • However, if you play your modes over a modal vamp the vamp will sustain the modal mood long enough for the modal mood to be heard. The modal vamp droning effect will sustain the modal mood. Where with a chord progression the chords change so quickly that the modal mood does not have time to develop. Modal vamps of one to two chords let the modal mood be heard. http://www.riddleworks.com/modalharm3.html

    Scales and modes are for the melody - your solo. Chord tones are for your accompaniment bass line. Of course that's IMHO. To solo let the melody be your guide. Yep, melody has to be in there some place. Counting on running a scale or a mode and letting that be your lead solo - good luck.

    The song's tune is the foundation for your solo or your improvisation of that tune. Let the melody be your guide. OK easy said, hard to do. As the melody and the chord line to harmonize must share some of the same notes at the same time in the song -- and as the songwriter has already taken all that into account - inserting the harmonizing chord where needed - it makes since to play the chord's pentatonic scale over the chord - as that scale will have three chord tones and two safe passing notes in it's makeup. Play the chord's pentatonic scale notes over the chord changes as your melody solo right at first. Major chord - major pentatonic R-2-3-5-6 and minor chord - minor pentatonic R-b3-4-5-b7. Mix the notes up, no need to just run them in scale order.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 02-02-2014 at 08:11 PM.

  10. #10
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by liveislife View Post
    You guys are terrific, thanks! The music community is so supportive of each other, it's heartwarming to experience. I'm so glad I found this website. With a supportive community and the internet, it has really changed my concept of how to learn music....or anything.
    Glad to hear it. Breathing music must be good for our health...
    Quote Originally Posted by liveislife View Post
    So back to the scales; I'm wondering if even Major scales can have Major, Perfect, Minor intervals within the same scale, what is the fundamental difference in having so many Major, Minor scales?
    The issue here is "Key": that's - literally - the basis of it all.
    You can pick a keynote. Let's say G. Then you can pick a scale type to build on it.
    Conventionally in the west (for a few centuries), the choices have been reduced to two types: major and minor. (There used to be more, in the middle ages, known as "modes", and a few of these have been creeping back into fashion over recent decades.)

    The "major scale" is fixed as all major and perfect intervals - as measured from the root, that is. (Other types occur when you measure from other notes.)

    The "minor scale" has one basic form - "natural minor" - equivalent to the 6th mode of the major scale. Eg, the C major and A minor scales walter mentions. Same 7 notes, different keynote, making them "relative" keys.
    However, the minor "key" frequently uses a raised (major) 7th degree, and sometimes a raised 6th degree too. These variants are known as "harmonic minor" and "melodic minor", but they're best seen as occasional variants of natural minor within one piece of music.
    IOW, the "A minor key" consists of: A, B, C, D, E, F-or-F#, G-or-G#. The reason for the G# is mainly to make the A "tonic" (keynote) more secure, by leading up to it, in the same way the 7th of the major scale leads up to the tonic (by a half-step). It helps in differentiating the sound of A minor from C major.

    And of course, we have 12 options for both major keys and minor keys, because the scale structure is irregular. So whichever of the 12 octave divisions we start on, applying the scale formula gives us a different set of notes each time.

    When it comes to building chords, we take any scale step, count it as "1st", and add the 3rd and 5th notes up from there. Because the scale is irregular, those notes will be different distances apart. All the 5ths except one are perfect, but some of the 3rds are major, some minor. But the main chords in the key, on the I, IV and V degrees are all major.

    Even though we only have the two basic key-scale types (as compared to, say, Indian music, with its countless raga scales), the way we can use chords of various types in chord sequences of all kinds means we have a huge amount of expressive variety within each kind of key. (There are no chords in raga. They don't need them .)
    Quote Originally Posted by liveislife View Post
    I'm thinking it must be something to do with choices of pitches, and the particular intervals that the composer wants to use to create a specific mood? I'm not too sure, anyone got 2 cents on this one?
    OK, let's say you choose a major key, because you want that "bright" mood (brighter than minor anyhow).
    Which major key do you choose?
    As JJ says, this is going to depend on practical factors: what is easy (or even possible) for the singers and players who are going to play it?
    This doesn't have to bother a composer, because he/she can leave it to the musicians themselves (or an arranger) to transpose the song as they want (move it to whatever key suits them).
    If the composer is writing a song - ie something to be sung rather than played - then he will bear in mind the capacity of the average human voice: what is actually singable? And if he wants to write a hit, he needs to make the melody memorable as well as relatively simple. (Obviously there are books-worth of formulas, tricks and tips about how one might achieve that...)

    So - back to choice of key - for guitars, the keys of G, D, A, E and C are most popular, because they tend to offer the easiest sets of chords to play.
    For jazz groups, with saxes, clarinets and/or trumpets, the keys of F, Bb, Eb, and Ab are popular, because flat keys are easier for horns.

    For singers, it depends on the range of the tune. Not what its keynote is, but what the highest and lowest notes are. Can the singer reach up (or down) to get them easily?
    Let's say you want to sing Happy Birthday, which has a range of one octave. (I mean sing it correctly, not bellow it tunelessly or drunkenly at a party ). Its first note is its lowest note, and its highest note comes on the first syllable of the third "birth-day". So don't start singing high! Start fairly low. If you really care about being able to sing it properly (and your ear is quite good) check what the highest note is that you can get to comfortably, then start singing the octave below that.
    The keynote is the final note, and also the last note of the 2nd line. The low and high notes are the 5th of the key. IOW, if the key was C major, it ranges from the G below C to the G above.
    So if your vocal range happened to be just one octave, you could only sing it in one key.

    Naturally men's and women's voices differ, and typically women are around an octave higher than men, although there is a lot of overlap, and many men can reach well up into female registers.
    A female singer I used to work with would sing Stevie Wonder songs a minor 3rd lower than he did. Her voice isn't unusually low for a woman, but his is unusually high for a man. Likewise Neil Young, and many classic rock vocalists such as Robert Plant. I knew a jazz bassist and teacher whose voice covered 4 octaves, so he could sing soprano (highest female) as well as bass (lowest male).

    The guitar, incidentally, exactly fits the full range of classical vocal registers. Low E is bottom of normal Bass (Contrabasses can get lower), and 20th fret top E is high C, extreme top of Soprano (actually very women can get that high; most struggle to get within an octave of that) Hence the guitar makes the perfect companion for the singer!
    Last edited by JonR; 02-03-2014 at 03:58 PM.

  11. #11
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Liveislife, what key do you like to sing in? Kind of nice to know. We all can sing in most keys, but, if we were doing the solo, there is one key we like the best, because we can hit all the high notes and also manage the low notes in that key.

    What key is your solo key? If you do not know, keep this in the back of your mind as you sing your songs. In a week or so you will know "your Key".

    I like D the best. That is why when it's my song I request it be in D.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 02-04-2014 at 12:53 PM.

  12. #12
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    Liveislife, what key do you like to sing in? Kind of nice to know. We all can sing in most keys, but, if we were doing the solo, there is one key we like the best, because we can hit all the high notes and also manage the low notes in that key.

    What key is your solo key? If you do not know, keep this in the back of your mind as you sing your songs. In a week or so you will know "your Key".

    I like D the best. That is why when it's my song I request it be in D.

    Good luck.
    Sorry, Malcolm, but that's a bit misleading. You may have a favourite key, but generally singers don't. When choosing a key for a song, it's range that matters, both of a song and of one's voice. The keynote of a song might be anywhere within its range. As long as you can reach the highest and lowest notes in the tune, that's what matters. There still might be a choice of a few keys within that range. But if one of them is always D, then you're lucky!

    Favourite keys are more a matter for instrumentalists, for practical fingering reasons. (Eg, G for guitarists, or Bb for clarinet players.)

  13. #13
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I hear what you are saying, however, how about the fat Lady asking for a song to be in Bb, as she comes out of the audience and is still climbing on stage. Or in a jamming circle why Shirley always calls her songs in A and Nick likes his in E.

    Yes it does explain why some of the guitarists always capo and get the song into G. G C D7 is easy and that's all of the chords they ever learned.

    In my neck of the woods people ask that the song be played "in their key" all the time. That is why the guitar guys have their capos out and ready.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 02-04-2014 at 08:07 PM.

  14. #14
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    I hear what you are saying, however, how about the fat Lady asking for a song to be in Bb, as she comes out of the audience and is still climbing on stage. Or in a jamming circle why Shirley always calls her songs in A and Nick likes his in E.
    Sounds like anecdotal stuff to me.
    Some of those stories probably come from hearing singers state their favourite key for a specific song.
    It's simply mistaken to believe that one key can be best for any song, when its range can extend different distances below or above that keynote.

    I do think there might be something in the idea of internal resonance, some frequency that just feels right to sing or hum - as if a human body might have a "fundamental" in the way a sax or trumpet does. I have noticed that the key of Eb kind of feels "natural" for me in an odd way - and coincidentally the lowest note I can reach easily is Eb. But it does seem somewhat fanciful.
    Anyway, it doesn't affect what key I'd choose for a song. Different songs feel comfortable in different keys.
    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    In my neck of the woods people ask that the song be played "in their key" all the time. That is why the guitar guys have their capos out and ready.
    For a specific song, sure. But are they going to sing every song in the same key?? That would only make sense if all the songs had the keynote in the same position within the range of the melody.

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    Sorry for delayed response, it's been a hectic work week. I'm not a good singer, but do enjoy music and trying to learn composition starting with theory, and perhaps moving on to the engineering aspect later on. I never took formal music training when I was young, but this forum certainly makes learning fun and enjoyable. Thanks guys!

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