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Thread: Semitones (Chromatic vs. Diatonic)

  1. #1
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    Semitones (Chromatic vs. Diatonic)

    Hello all,

    I was just wondering what exactly is the diffrence between a diatonic semitone and a chromatic one.

    As I understand it, a chromatic semitone is from one key to the key right next to it on a piano keyboard (next door neighbors) For instance, the chromatic semitone of C would be C#, for C# it would be D and so on, is this correct? If to, please correct the error in my logic.

    Also, I think, tough this is probably incorrect, that diatonic semitones are like chromatic except using alternative note names. For instance, from E to E#, or from C to C#. Is this correct?

    Thanks in advance for any help,
    illu45

  2. #2
    Mode Rator Zatz's Avatar
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    Welcome to IBreathe!

    illu45,

    No, this is not correct. "#" or "b" signs by themselves do not indicate that the note is chromatic.

    In my opinion there are two main approaches (based on my experience) to understanding what the 'term' diatonic means:

    1. Related to the scale construction suggesting that it is built using both whole tones and semitones. Hence the prefix 'dia'.

    2. Related to belonging to a certain scale implying that a note is diatonic to some scale if it is a part of it.

    On the internet you may find many weird definitions of the word 'diatonic', one of them saying that all the white keys on piano are diatonic. Don't believe em

    Here's the thread with a long discussion which in my opinion is closely related to your questions.

    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/...ead.php?t=4141

    Should any further questions arise post them here. This is a long winded discussion and I expect that some new opinions may be posted now that the topic has been mentioned again.

    Also there 's no E# note. F stands for it instead. Please read Guni's article on intervals. Very interesting reading for a jump start if you want to learn theory:

    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/article/31

    Also be sure to check out another threads that can be seen at the bottom of this page on the 'Similar Threads' list. Besides that you may find searching through the discussions that are already available on forums very helpful.

    Good luck and happy staying at IBreathe!

    Zatz.
    Last edited by Zatz; 06-16-2004 at 11:01 PM.
    Zadd9 -> A6 -> T#9b5 -> Zmaj7

  3. #3
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    Thank you for the welcome. After reading through the related threads, I found a post by Fatmouse_au to be extremely helpful, this post here:

    A diatonic interval just needs the name of each note to be different (as in a scale), otherwise it's considered chromatic.

    For example:
    C to C# is chromatic.
    C to Db is diatonic.
    B# to C# is diatonic.

    B to Bb is chromatic.
    B to A# is diatonic.
    Cb to Bb is diatonic.
    I found this opne helpful since I am not relating the tones to any scales... This is what a question sheet I had looked like when it was blank, I am mainly concentrating on the diatonic semitone questions:

    So, then I am assuming that the first Question, Diatonic for F, would be Gb (flat)? And thus Bb would be B natural? Thus, (last one) the last one, D would be Eb (flat)?

    Correct my logic if need be please.
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    Last edited by illu45; 06-16-2004 at 11:00 PM.

  4. #4
    Mode Rator Zatz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by illu45
    C to C# is chromatic.
    C to Db is diatonic.
    To me this doesn't make any sense. In my opinion an interval can be either diatonic or chromatic whatever the notation. In this case technically we are talking about the same interval.

    As to ex. #1 my guess would be that there are the notes from F major scale (F G A Bb C D E) or one of its modes. So in my uderstanding (I adhere #2 from my previous post) there can be no diatonic semitone above F (the first note on the staff) in this case.

    Still considering the task (above each note) they probably meant that you shouldn't use the same note name twice. Let's wait until someone else posts on this matter

    Zatz.
    Last edited by Zatz; 06-16-2004 at 11:33 PM.
    Zadd9 -> A6 -> T#9b5 -> Zmaj7

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zatz
    Welcome to IBreathe!

    illu45,

    No, this is not correct. "#" or "b" signs by themselves do not indicate that the note is chromatic.

    In my opinion there are two main approaches (based on my experience) to understanding what the 'term' diatonic means:

    1. Related to the scale construction suggesting that it is built using both whole tones and semitones. Hence the prefix 'dia'.

    2. Related to belonging to a certain scale implying that a note is diatonic to some scale if it is a part of it.

    On the internet you may find many weird definitions of the word 'diatonic', one of them saying that all the white keys on piano are diatonic. Don't believe em

    Here's the thread with a long discussion which in my opinion is closely related to your questions.

    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/...ead.php?t=4141

    Should any further questions arise post them here. This is a long winded discussion and I expect that some new opinions may be posted now that the topic has been mentioned again.

    Also there 's no E# note. F stands for it instead. Please read Guni's article on intervals. Very interesting reading for a jump start if you want to learn theory:

    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/article/31

    Also be sure to check out another threads that can be seen at the bottom of this page on the 'Similar Threads' list. Besides that you may find searching through the discussions that are already available on forums very helpful.

    Good luck and happy staying at IBreathe!

    Zatz.

    Well, actually there is a note E#, it's just not common. Obviously, it's the enharmonic equivalent of F, but it is worth noting that in some key signatures E# is a necessary addition - F# Major, for example. And, if I'm thinking about this the right way, the difference that makes C, C# different from C, Db is the same - no note can appear twice in a diatonic key because it would be impossible to read the key signature.

  6. #6
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    I think I understand this question.
    Diatonic in the sense of "belonging to a particular Major scale".
    For reasons of notation and because music notation is Keyboard centric, C Major (all the white notes on a piano) is the basis scale with no alterations.
    You need to build Major Scales according to the following formula with the rules listed.
    HS= HALF STEP
    WS= WHOLE STEP
    WS,WS,HS,WS,WS,WS,HS
    Since each uniques note of the twelve tone Chromtic scale can be the root you should have 12 different Major Scales.

    If you study the above interval stucture you will notice that you can modify it by changing one note and create the same structure. This can be done by starting at the fourth degree and from the fifth degree.

    A(A#/Bb)BC(C#/Db)D(D#/Eb)EF(F#/Gb)G(G#/Ab).
    Rules for making Major Scale:
    Must use exactly 1 of each note name (A-G);
    No note can have more than one accidental;
    Must be built using the 2212221 or WWHWWWH formula.

    Notice how you can make the closest related other major scales by starting on
    the fifth or on the fourth tones.

    22122212212221 Major Scale
    22212212221221 (Shifted to Fifth)
    Start on fifth raise fourth.
    Example: CDEFGAB>GABCDEF#


    22122212212221 Major Scale
    22122122212212 (Shifted to Fourth)
    Start on fourth lower seventh.
    Example: CDEFGAB>FGABbCDE

    The results of this if you apply this iteratively:
    The roots occur in this order: (up in Fifths)
    CGDAEBF#C#
    Each consecutive scale adds one sharp.
    The roots occur in this order: (up in Fourths)
    CFBbEbAbDbGbCb
    Each consecutive scale adds on flat.

    Tha bad news is you have 15 different major scales because of this, since there must be only 12, there are 3 from the flats group (DbGbCb) that are enharmonic to three from the sharps group (C#F#B). These are spelled differently but sound the same.

    Ok, so with this background you can see that each scale must uses each note name the corollary is that each note name can ONLY occur once.

    Because of this in the diatonic HS you must have two unique note names. In a chromatic HS you can use the same name and sharp it or flat it or you could use different names.
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
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  7. #7
    Registered User Shane's Avatar
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    This idea is actually very simple.

    First, illu, what is important to know is that a semitone is a semitone - whether diatonic or chromatic, a semitone is always two notes which are one half step apart (like you said, neighbor keys on the piano). The idea of diatonic and chromatic intervals is very simple:

    i) Diatonic intervals are intervals which are formed ONLY with the pitches of a given key. For example, in the key of E Major, for an interval to be diatonic, it has to be made up of two notes from the following; A, B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#

    ii) Chromatic intervals simply involve some kind of chromatic alteration (a sharp, flat or natural) of one or both of the pitches. For example, in E Major again, the interval of E to Bb would be an example of a chromatic interval, because notice how there was a chromatic alteration to the B.

    Hope that clears things up for you.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shane
    This idea is actually very simple.

    First, illu, what is important to know is that a semitone is a semitone - whether diatonic or chromatic, a semitone is always two notes which are one half step apart (like you said, neighbor keys on the piano). The idea of diatonic and chromatic intervals is very simple:

    i) Diatonic intervals are intervals which are formed ONLY with the pitches of a given key. For example, in the key of E Major, for an interval to be diatonic, it has to be made up of two notes from the following; A, B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#

    ii) Chromatic intervals simply involve some kind of chromatic alteration (a sharp, flat or natural) of one or both of the pitches. For example, in E Major again, the interval of E to Bb would be an example of a chromatic interval, because notice how there was a chromatic alteration to the B.

    Hope that clears things up for you.
    Yep, that helps quite a bit also...

    I think I've got it now,

    Thank you all for your replies,
    illu

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