Musical IntervalsHow we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. - Anne Dilliard
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Musical Intervals

Musical Intervals

A musical interval is the ratio or space between two musical notes.

Pythagorous of Samos (c.582 - c.507 B.C.) is credited with the idea of tuning an instrument up and down by fifths to create a complete musical scale that sounded harmonious. By tuning each successive note in turn by the ratio of a fifth in the pattern of the Circle of Fifths, Pythagoras realized that eventually he returned to almost an exact higher octave of the note he started with. There is, however, a slight error between the octave harmonic relationships and the tuning by fifths that occurs when you tune using this method. The error is today still called the Pythagorean comma and represents a ratio of about 74/73.

You can click on these links to learn a lot more about the Circle of Fifths or the Pythagoran comma.

If you would like hear these sound ratios at length, BioWaves has produced several meditation CD's that use some of the above intervals. The Perfect Fifth is comfortable to listen to, the Tri-Tone Drone is for balancing and increasing consciousness, while the experimental Phi-Tone Drone uses the Golden Mean Ratio.

These note relationships, or intervals, are used in creating a musical scale. But the error from the Pythagorian Comma means that a scale cannot be truly harmonic.




Unison Very comfortable interval. It sometimes seems to represent sameness since only the tone of the music is different.
Minor 2nd Definitely dissonant. It creates a tense and uneasy feeling that is expectant, anticipatory, busy and mysterious.
Major 2nd Somewhat dissonant souding.
Minor 3rd or
Augmented 2nd
Major 3rd This is found frequently in church music. It is sweet, comfortable, square and resolved, without a lot of character.
Minor 4th or
Augmented 3rd
Perfect 4th This interval is airy, comfortable and evokes feelings of serenity, clairity, openness and light.

It is not allowed in some configurations because it would be considered a pagan progression. It is also not allowed by the Roman Catholic Church.

Dane Rugier thinks that 4th symbolizes contraction and magatism. In Indian traditions it represents a return to the mother.
Tri-Tone or
Minor 5th or
Augmented 4th In Sound Therapy we call this the "Inverse" or "Complimentary" Frequency
Considered VERY POWERFUL. This note wants to, and often does, resolve to the 5th in music. "It alone, I think, is one of the most powerful intervals that we have," says Kay Gardner. According to standard music theory, this interval is not to be used in music. In fact, it is called: Deabolics en Musica. The Devil in Music. This interval is used frequently in horror films and is used in Leanord Bernstein's, "Maria" from "The West Side Story." This interval appears in scales that have been invented by women.
Major 5th This interval is comfortable. It is the first overtone, evoking feelings of home, sturdiness and completeness.

Dane Rugier says in his book, The Magic of Tone and the Art of Music, that it has a spiritual function and the power to manifest potential, evoking electricity and the creative mind.
Minor 6th or
Augmented 5th
This sound has poinient. emotional, loving or love lost feeling. Chopin's music is filled with this interval in parallel motion.
Major 6th  
Augmented 6th or
Minor 7th
This is a bit dissonant.
Major 7th This interval is very dissonant. It wants to resolve to the octave.
Octave This harmonic interval is very comfortable. There is a sameness about the sounds, as it is in complete harmony with the fundamental sound.



Longitudinal Wavelength Sound Waves Pitch and Frequency Speed of Sound Doppler Effect Sound Intensity and Decibels Sound Wave Interference Beat Frequencies Binaural Beat Frequencies Sound Resonance and Natural Resonant Frequency Natural Resonance Quality (Q) Forced Vibration Frequency Entrainment Vibrational Modes Standing Waves Law of Octaves Psychoacoustics Tacoma Narrows Bridge Schumann Resonance Animal BioAcoustics More on Sound


Law Of Octaves Sound Harmonics Western Musical Chords Musical Scales Musical Intervals Musical Mathematical Terminology Music of the Spheres Fibonacci Sequence Circle of Fifths Pythagorean Comma


Drum Vibrational Modes


Aristotle Copernicus Einstein Fibonacci Hermann von Helmholtz Kepler Sir Isaac Newton Max Planck Ptolemy Pythagoras Thomas Young
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