Notes and Scales: Chapter 4 – Half Steps and Whole Steps (Understanding Basic Music Theory)
4.2 Half Steps and Whole Steps
The pitch of a note is how high or low it sounds. Musicians often nd it useful to talk about how much higher or lower one note is than another. This distance between two pitches is called the interval between them. In Western music, the small interval from one note to the next closest note higher or lower is called a half step or semi-tone.
Listen to the half steps in Figure 4.7 (Half Steps).
The intervals in Figure 4.7 (Half Steps) look di erent on a sta (Section 1.1.1); sometimes they are on the same line, sometimes not. But it is clear at the keyboard that in each case there is no note in between them.
So a scale that goes up or down by half steps, a chromatic scale, plays all the notes on both the white and black keys of a piano. It also plays all the notes easily available on most Western instruments. (A few instruments, like trombone and violin , can easily play pitches that aren’t in the chromatic scale, but even they usually don’t.)
If you go up or down two half steps from one note to another, then those notes are a whole step, or whole tone apart.
A whole tone scale, a scale made only of whole steps, sounds very di erent from a chromatic scale.
Listen to a whole tone scale.
You can count any number of whole steps or half steps between notes; just remember to count all sharp or at notes (the black keys on a keyboard) as well as all the natural notes (the white keys) that are in between.
Identify the intervals below in terms of half steps and whole steps. If you have trouble keeping track of the notes, use a piano keyboard, a written chromatic scale, or the chromatic ngerings for your instrument to count half steps.
Fill in the second note of the interval indicated in each measure. If you need sta paper for this exercise, you can print out this sta paper PDF le.
Basic Music Theory