"Know These Two Music Intervals And You're On Your Way!"
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The two smallest music intervals are the building blocks to all the others. It's kind of like going from the bottom step on a stairway to the top one. As long as you can climb with one or two steps, the stairway's a cinch!
Likewise, once you know what a half step is and what a whole step is on the piano, learning the other intervals will be a walk in the park.
This is easy stuff and you're going to master it quicker than you can say your name 20 times fast!
Half Steps and Whole Steps On The Piano
A half step is the smallest musical interval you will learn. Let's take a look at it on the piano. A half step on the piano is when you move from any key on the piano to the very next key, left or right (up or down).
So, let's say you are playing a "G" somewhere on the piano keyboard (first half step shown in illustration below). Well, a half step up would be the very next key on the piano to the right. Notice, it's not a white key. It's a black one. Yes, those count! Okay, we call this key "G#" (we say "G sharp").
By the way, this short music interval (the shortest possible) is often referred to as a minor 2nd, sometimes abbreviated m2 (notice the small "m" for minor).
Of course, a whole step is twice this distance. So, if we are to start on the same key we did a few moments ago, the "G," then we would move up to two keys to the right. Yes, this time, we are in fact playing a white key. This is "A." (see illustration below)
This music interval is referred to as a Major 2nds, abbreviated 2 (notice the capital "M" for Major).
Got it? Great!
So, half steps can be called minor 2nds and whole steps can be called Major 2nds. (You see, in music theory, all musical intervals are labeled in 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, etc...)
The same system works in either direction. Let's take a look at a half step down from "C"... hmmmm... this time, what happens? The next key to the left is a white key. That's right, it's a "B"... a whole step down from "C" would be a black key this time. The name of this key is "Bb."
You see, the most important thing to keep in mind is that, whether black or white, a half step up or down refers to the very, very next key on the piano, to the left or right.
What follows is an example of what a half step sounds like. In this sample, you will hear Middle C moving up to C#:
Here's a sample of a whole step... Middle C moves up to D:
A little fun with that half step...
Have you seen the beginning of the movie Jaws? The music at the start of that famous classic is pretty popular. On your piano or keyboard, play any key at the lower end. It doesn't matter which one you choose, but I will choose the lowest "G"... move up one half step... play G to G#...
Do this slowly four times. Now do it quickly eight or more times... can you sense that gigantic shark making his way through the depths of the ocean?
Give a listen:
By the way, a really simple way to recognize a half step on the piano is to notice that, when both keys are being played, no key exists between them. Likewise, a simple way to recognize a whole step on the piano is to notice that, when both keys are being played, one key exists between them.
There you have it. Now that you are familiar with the two smallest music intervals, you're all ready to continue your journey by taking greater leaps that await you!