Music Theory

Lesson #20 - Generic Intervals

An interval is a musical measurement between two notes. A generic interval is the measurement of the lines and spaces between two notes.

To find the generic interval between two notes begin by counting the number 1 on the bottom note.

Count up one number for each line and space until you reach the top note.

For example if you have the notes D and A, to count the interval begin on D and count 1. E will be 2, F is 3, G is 4 and the top note A will be 5. So the interval between D and A is a 5th.

In music we common measure the intervals between 1 and 8 lines and spaces. The labels for each are the following:

  • 1 - Unison
  • 2 - 2nd
  • 3 - 3rd
  • 4 - 4th
  • 5 - 5th
  • 6 - 6th
  • 7 - 7th
  • 8 - Octave

There are as many possible intervals as there are lines and spaces between any two notes. But commonly we measure the distance between the two notes as though they were in the same octave to reduce anything large than 8 lines or spaces away down to an octave interval or less.

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Lesson #21 - Specific Intervals

A specific interval is the distance between any two notes measured in halfsteps.

A specific interval will be different from the generic interval because the generic interval is the number of lines and spaces, which will not line up with the number of halfsteps.

Specific intervals tell us something abou the quality of the intervals such as if the interval is major, minor, augmented, diminished or perfect.

To measure a specific interval begin with the bottom note and count 1 for the first half step between the bottom note and the next half step up. Proceed by counting up 1 for each half step until you reach the top pitch.

Here is a list of the number of half steps and the specific interval name:

  • 1 - minor 2nd
  • 2 - major 2nd
  • 3 - minor 3rd
  • 4 - major - 3rd
  • 5 - perfect 4th
  • 6 - tritone
  • 7 - perfect 5th
  • 8 - minor 6th
  • 9 - major 6th
  • 10 - minor 7th
  • 11 - major 7th
  • 12 - octave

To help you remember and more easily see this this information visually, you can download the free Specific Intervals poster.

If you liked this lesson don't forget to sign-up for the free One Minute Music Lesson newsletter. With your subscription you will also receive a free copy of the eBook "How to Read Music" by Leon Harrell.

Lesson #22 – Overtone Series In this lesson we will learn about the overtone series.

Musical tones with pitch are actually comprised of several higher and quieter sounds called overtones.

Overtones are the upper frequencies that resonate when a tone is played. If a piano plays the pitch C3 then the overtones C4, G4, C5, and E5 can be faintly heard.

In this example C3 is the fundamental, or the main frequency heard in this pitch. The fundamental frequency is the lowest frequency of a pitches overtone series.

The overtone series is also known as the harmonic series.

The frequencies of a pitch's overtone series can be calculated by multiplying the fundamental frequency by the numbers 1 through 16.

Each instrument resonates different overtones, which contributes to the instruments timbre; the unique quality of the instrument's sound.

Let's look at an the overtones of the pitch C3, which has a frequency of 130.81 Hz, in the chart below.

  • Fundamental = 130.81 * 1 = 130.81
  • Overtone 1 = 130.81 * 2 = 261.62
  • Overtone 2 = 130.81 * 3 = 392.43
  • Overtone 3 = 130.81 * 4 = 523.24
  • Overtone 4 = 130.81 * 5 = 654.05
  • Overtone 5 = 130.81 * 6 = 784.86
  • Overtone 6 = 130.81 * 7 = 915.67
  • Overtone 7 = 130.81 * 8 = 1046.48
  • Overtone 8 = 130.81 * 9 = 1177.29
  • Overtone 9 = 130.81 * 10 = 1308.1
  • Overtone 10 = 130.81 * 11 = 1438.91
  • Overtone 11 = 130.81 * 12 = 1569.72
  • Overtone 12 = 130.81 * 13 = 1700.53
  • Overtone 13 = 130.81 * 14 = 1831.34
  • Overtone 14 = 130.81 * 15 = 1962.15
  • Overtone 15 = 130.81 * 16 = 2092.96

To learn more about overtones I have a created a free overtone series poster you can download here.


Until next time,

Keep up the good practice,

Leon Harrell

Lesson #23 – Octaves An octave is an interval. The interval of an octave is the distance from one pitch to the same pitch 12 half steps away.

When you are reading octaves on sheet music they always fall with one note of the octave on a space and the other note of the octave on a line in the staff.

Throughout the range of the grand staff each octave has its own number assigned to it. An easy way to remember which number belongs to which octave is to memorize "Middle C = C4".

Octave numbers are assigned with each number spanning from C up to the next B. The next number appears at the next C.

Also, to calculate the frequency of an octave from any given beginning frecuency you will need to either:

  • Multiply the original frequency by 2 for the octave above.
  • Divide the original frequency by 2 for octave below.

To help you remember the information from this lesson click here to download a free poster with the octave numbers for the grand staff in the range of the piano keyboard.

Lesson #24 – Octave Equivalence In our last lesson we learned about octaves and octave numbers. Since a pitch has the same letter name in any octave it considered to be a part of a pitch class. A pitch class is a term used to describe any pitch, for example C, regardless of what octave or register that pitch is in. In the video above the example shows 8 octaves of C's, but all these pitches are part of the pitch class C.

Since all these are the same pitch class they have the quality of octave equivalence. Octave equivalence means that these pitches will share many of the same overtones, as well as be resonant with each other, and that voice leading resolutions will still work with octave displacement.

Listen to the extreme example of octave equivalence in the performance of Happy Birthday in the video. This example displaces the pitches of the melody in several octaves, yet you can still follow the melody due to the phenomenon of octave equivalence.

Lesson #25 – Major Scales Scales are the foundation of most music. A scale is a pattern of intervals that repeat every octave that is built on a tonic pitch.

A tonic pitch is the first pitch of a scale. The tonic pitch is also the letter name of the scale.

Major scales are built from a combination of half steps and whole steps.

A half step is the smallest distance between two pitches, this also referred to sometimes as a minor second.

A whole step is the distance of two halfsteps. A whole step will sometimes be referred to as a major second.

To create any major scale you must begin on a tonic pitch and create the following interval pattern:


This pattern is two whole steps (W) followed by a half step (H) then three wholsteps and one last half step.

In the video above the example is the C major scale. Begin with the tonic pitch C then go up the scale in the interval pattern of W W H W W W H. That will produce the notes C D E F G A B C.

Here is that C major scale in standard notation:

C Major Scale
C Major Scale

Lesson #26 – Minor Scales There are three types of minor scales that are used often in music.

They are:

  • Natural Minor (also known as the Aeolian Mode)
  • Harmonic Minor
  • Melodic Minor

These scales are created by using different patterns of half steps (H), whole steps (W) and augmented seconds (A2).

The Natural Minor scale is created by starting on a tonic pitch, your first pitch of the scale, and moving up by the following pattern: W H W W H W W

If you create a C natural minor scale the tonic pitch will be C and the scale will be formed by following the pattern starting on C.

So the result would be C D Eb F G Ab Bb C.

The Harmonic Minor scale is also created by starting on a tonic pitch and moving up by the following pattern:W H W W H A2 W

If you create a C harmonic minor scale the tonic pitch will be C and the scale will be formed by following the pattern starting on C.

So the result of that pattern would be C D Eb F G Ab B C

The third type of minor scale is the Melodic Minor scale. This minor scale contains different pitches going up than going down.

On the way up you will use the pattern: W H W W W W H. If you use the tonic pitch C again, a C melodic minor scale on the way up will be C D Eb F G A B C.

On the way down you use the pattern from the natural minor scale going down. That will result in the C melodic minor scale coming back down as C Bb Ab G F Eb D C.

Wanna Hangout? Introducing OMML Live on Google Hangouts and YouTube Live

Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans,Over the past few months I have been searching for a way to offer the OMML community live video webinars to teach the fundamentals of music theory and ear training for free.

Let's hangout to talk about music!

Recently Google Plus has added the ability to broadcast live video via Google Hangouts and YouTube Live. This new ability will make it possible for me to be able to answer all your questions about music theory and ear training live.

This means there is no more waiting for a response in the comments or email. Also you will get a more detailed answer to your questions with live video and audio.

I'm eager to answer all your questions

I am so excited to be able to interact with all of you and I don't want to waste any more time before I begin my live shows. This may mean we run into a few technical bumps along the way, but I think it will be well worth any of the possible growing pains in this new technology.

I am fairly new to hosting live webinars but am ready to give it a try with my first live broadcast on this Sunday, March 17th at 4pm Central Standard Time.

To get an invitation to join the webinar be sure you have signed up for my free newsletter to get the invitation that will be sent on Sunday.

Currently I am calling these live webinars OMML Live. For the first live show I will be teaching all about my simple tool called the Pitch Wheel. Also I will be teaching you how to memorize scales, chords and intervals with this unique free tool that I have created.

During the show I will also be answering your questions live and offering tips, tricks and advice for building your musical talents.

Join me on Sunday, March 17th @ 4pm Central Standard Time

I know you must be asking "How do I signup?"

To participate in the free webinar you can use Google Hangouts in your free Google Plus account or watch the show directly on YouTube and interact via the comments section.

I will send out the exact link to the webinar to subscribers of my free newsletter later this week with full details of how to participate in the webinar.

Don't come empty handed

I am looking forward to talking with you all this weekend and I encourage you to come prepared with questions. Feel free to ask anything about music and especially music theory and ear training.

Can't wait till Sunday?

If you can't wait till Sunday to get in touch with me then let me know your questions or thoughts in the comments section below. You can also send me questions directly to my email at anytime.

I hope this new extension of the One Minute Music Lesson will bring you closer to achieving your musical goals and I am anxious to get started with the new live shows soon.

Thanks for following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.


  Leon Harrell (about) is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing.

Leon Harrell's goal is to teach you musicianship by using highly targeted concept lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and composition.