Music is a language that has its own grammar and syntax, just like any other language. In music theory, intervals are one of the fundamental building blocks of melody and harmony.

Understanding intervals is essential for anyone who wants to learn how to read, write, or compose music. In this article, we will explore what intervals are in music theory and how they are used.

What Are Intervals?

An interval is the distance between two pitches (or notes) in music. In Western music, there are 12 different pitches, which repeat at higher or lower octaves.

The distance between two pitches is measured in half-steps (also known as semitones). For example, the distance between C and C# is one half-step.

Types of Intervals

There are two main types of intervals: harmonic intervals and melodic intervals. Harmonic intervals are played simultaneously (i.e., together), while melodic intervals are played sequentially (i., one after another).

Harmonic intervals can be further classified into two categories: consonant and dissonant. Consonant intervals sound stable and pleasant to the ear, while dissonant intervals sound unstable and tense.

Melodic intervals can be classified as either ascending or descending. An ascending interval moves from a lower pitch to a higher pitch, while a descending interval moves from a higher pitch to a lower pitch.

Interval Names

Each interval has a name based on its distance in half-steps from the starting pitch (also known as the root or tonic). The most common interval names are:

Interval Quality

In addition to their names, intervals also have qualities that describe their sound. The quality of an interval is determined by its size (i., the number of half-steps) and the type of interval (i., major, minor, perfect, augmented, or diminished).

For example, a major third has a size of four half-steps and is considered a consonant interval. A minor third has a size of three half-steps and is also considered consonant. An augmented fourth has a size of six half-steps and is considered dissonant, while a perfect fifth has a size of seven half-steps and is considered consonant.


In conclusion, intervals are the building blocks of melody and harmony in music theory. Understanding the different types of intervals, their names, and qualities is essential for anyone who wants to learn how to read, write or compose music. By learning intervals effectively one can understand how music works at its core level which can help in creating unique compositions in future.