Music Theory

Here is a preview of some of the lessons included in Musicopoulos

The Chromatic Scale

Introduction to Intervals and the Chromatic Scale

Musical notation generally divides musical tones into a series of 12 repeating notes. These 12 repeating notes are often referred to as the Chromatic Scale. Applying specific patterns and relationships between these 12 notes is used to create all Scales and chords. Given a starting note, all scales and chords can be derived by calculating the notes of the scale or chord based on a give pattern.

The term Intervals is used to describe the relationship between 2 notes. In this lesson, we will learn to calculate the interval between 2 different notes.

First, lets take a look at the Chromatic scale to familiarize us with the 12 musical notes.

The Chromatic Scale

Chromatic Scale Image

We calculate the interval between 2 notes in terms of steps. The first interval we will be looking at is the halfstep. A halfstep is always the closest note above or below a given note.

Using the Chromatic scale above as a guide, the note one halfstep above C is C Sharp or D Flat, written as C#/Db. The note one halfstep above C#/Db is D, and so on through all notes of the Chromatic scale. When we reach the end of the Chromatic scale, we return to the beginning. For example, one halfstep above B is C and one halfstep below C is B.

Enharmonic tones

As we can see in the Chromatic scale, some notes that share the same pitch are given 2 different names. We refer to these as enharmonic tones, where 2 or more different note names describe the same pitch. For example, when we move one halfstep up from C, we arrive at C#. However, when we move one halfstep down from D, we arrive at Db. In this lesson, we will not be concerned with which is the correct name to assign a note, either C# or Db will be considered a correct answer.

When searching for notes that are greater than one halfstep above or below a given note, it helps to actually count out the number of steps required to arrive at the required note.

For example, if the give the starting note E a value of zero:

One halfstep above

Chromatic Scale measuring a single half step

Four halfsteps above

Chromatic Scale measuring 4 half steps

Three halfsteps below

The chromatic scale measuring 3 half steps in reverse order

The second interval we use to define a relationship between notes is the wholestep. A wholestep is equal to 2 halfsteps. For example

E is one wholestep above D

Chromatic Scale measuring a whole step

Which is equivalent to

Chromatic Scale measuring 2 half steps