Music Theory "Going Up"!

Welcome to the Third Floor 

Hello again. You are ready for this page of music theory if either you have some previous experience or you have journeyed your way here from the ground up  and have gained an understanding of the following concepts.

Half and whole steps

Sharp Flat and Natural Accidentals

The Natural 1/2 Steps

The Major Scale

The Intervals of a Major Scale

The difference between a Major interval and Minor interval

 If you are ok with these things from our scheme of work then lets carry on. If not then go back to through the links and review until you can’t take it anymore and then contact me with your question. I will try to answer it as soon as I can.

The Language and Labelling of Musical Patterns

There are really five qualities or “states of being” in western music:





and Perfect

We can make this as simple or as confusing as you want.

If you can, keep an open mind... try to be aware of the language. What we are trying to do here is develop an understanding of the language and labelling of patterns in western music. Think of the way we use words as a way of being increasingly accurate, not just as a confusing set of jargon. Just like in any language words can describe, measure, convey position or purpose and function and more. 

For example remember that a word like "tone" can represent:

the description of a sound characteristic or timbre as in “a warm or bright tone”

the distance between two sounds i.e. a "whole tone", "semi tone" or "half tone"

the exact placement or position in a scale or series such as the "third tone"

the function of a note like a “chord tone" or a "non-chord tone “

 We can see this idea of how the way we use words in different contexts has an affect on meaning.   Just like we use the word repair in "to repair a guitar" as a verb and  we use it as a noun in "a beautiful repair on that guitar". This is very true in music theory. We may discuss a diminished  interval (noun) or an interval we want to diminish (verb) in size. The interval we may want to diminish in size however may end up as a any other type of interval besides a "diminished interval" by name. It could easily end up being called a "minor interval" (a different noun). Just as an example, we may want to for whatever reason diminish the size of a whole step to become a half step. You may remember from previous pages that a whole step is a "Major Second" and a half step is a "Minor Second". So although we did the action of diminishing the interval size or distance, The resulting interval was not re-named as a "Diminished Second".

Before you move on, make a cup of tea and have a go at the customised

 Perfect Unison/Half/whole step using your ear alone exercise (thanks to

Let's look at how we name intervals using these terms and how they behave in relation to each other then.

The Four Qualities of Triads In Music Theory

There are many ways to look at this. We are going to try to stick to the most practical and useful way as much as possible. You can find lots more information in libraries, private tuition and of course the internet on this subject. For now let us get a working knowledge.

The four qualities or "states of being" that we label western harmony of two notes or more are:

Major, Minor, Diminished and Augmented.

There are reasons for these names but we can get into that later. Lets just work on our understanding of the system of music theory rather than how the names of the system evolved.

When we stick to just two notes at a time the all important fifth quality or state of being arises in the form of the Perfect Interval.

You may remember this from our discussion on the Major Scale.

So just remember when you are talking about intervals (the distances between two notes and only two notes and no more) they can be classified as one of the five qualities

i.e. major, minor, diminished, augmented, or perfect

A Really Really Important  Part Of Music Theory is Ear Training

Head... Hands... Hearing... Heart...

Theory...Technique... Ear-training... Expression...

This is a good place to install another Ear Training Exercise. You need to develop you Aural Skills and Awareness along this journey. The link below will take you to a customised exercise on the website which is an invaluable resource provided by Ricci Adams. Unless you already have a strong aural perception (hearing and recognition) grasp of the Major Scale and the labelling of Simple Major Intervals you should go to this exercise on a regular basis until you are happy that you can hear and understand what is going on there. 


Compare It to the Major Scale

If you've been following our scheme of work you will see we've reached the last idea bubble in our top row. The symbols in this elliptical bubble on the top righthand side of our scheme of work is a good way of memorising our Rules of Behaviour for Intervals. If I've still got your attention and you are becoming more comfortable with the major scale, than now you will see why it is so important in the grand scheme of things in western music theory. 

Got to the next page Rules of Behaviour for Intervals now.

Home>Top>Language & Labelling>back to major scale Second Floor>Go to Music Theory Third Floor Page Two 

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