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Understanding Melodies: How to Determine Interval Quality

We can identify the exact distance between two notes by writing in the pitches of a major scale. Then we can determine whether the interval is major, perfect, minor, diminished, or augmented. Use the following steps to calculate the quality of an interval. We will use A and E flat for our first example.

Identify the interval between A and E flat

1. Start with the lower of the two pitches and write a diatonic scale up to the higher pitch.

Write a diatonic scale from the lower pitch to the higher pitch

2. Write the scale degrees under each pitch. E flat is the fifth scale degree above A so we know that the interval is a 5th. Next we will figure out the quality of the interval.

Write the scale degrees under the pitches to determine the interval

3. Write the whole steps and half steps between each scale degree to figure out the exact pitches of the A major scale, up to the fifth scale degree.

Write the whole steps and half steps between each scale degree

4. Fill in the necessary accidentals to create the accurate pitches for the major scale.

Fill in the necessary accidentals

5. The fifth scale degree in A major is E natural, not E flat. If the note were E natural, we would have a Perfect 5th. However, since E flat is a half step below E natural, our interval is a diminished 5th.

E flat is a diminished 5th above A

Of course, if you have memorized your major scales you can skip through some of these steps, but if you have not memorized them, this method will help you identify the quality of all intervals.

You can test yourself by figuring out the quality of each of the following intervals. If you need blank staff paper, you can print free staff paper from this web page.

Test yourself by identifying these intervalsYou can find out the answers here.


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