Intervals in Music Theory

Wouldn’t you like to learn all about intervals in music theory?  Intervals are the foundation for learning how to read music on any musical instrument.  Piano intervals are measured by the distance that occurs between 2 notes.  These same intervals apply to other musical instruments such as a flute, violin or guitar.


Beginner music theory starts with learning about the intervals of major seconds and major thirds. Once you understand 2nds and 3rds you are well on your way to reading music for any musical instrument.

What Is an Intervals in Music?

 Intervals in music is defined as the distance between two notes on the music staff. The first interval to consider is the interval of a Second, notated as a ‘2nd’. The second is also referred to as a ’STEP’ in music reading because it is the shortest distance you can travel on your keyboard or piano from one key to the very next key.

It is important to learn to read music by INTERVAL rather than by note name or finger number because the fingerings will not be available on all pieces of music that you encounter.

Also, learning to read music by interval enables you to be a true musician because you can start on any given note and read your way through any piece of music. If you concentrated too much on just C Position or Middle C Position, you would soon diminish your ability to read notes in other areas of the staff.

Piano Intervals

Let’s take a look now at piano intervals on the piano keyboard.  The first interval to be learned is the interval of a 2nd which can best be learned with the sheet music and tutorial entitled  C-D-E Waltz .

Notice that all of the Intervals within the C-D-E Waltz are ‘2nds’. That means that each distance between each note in this piece moves to a notes immediately next to the note you started on and is an interval of a 2nd. You will not be skipping any notes here as you move either in an upward direction or a downward direction.

From one line note moving up to the next space note is a ‘2nd’ or Step Up. Similarly, from one space note moving up to the next line note is also a ‘2nd’ or ‘Step Up’.

If you were moving in a downward direction from a line or space note you would say ‘2nd down’ or ‘Step Down’.

After you have watched the video tutorial on this page and understand the concept of the music interval of a 2nd, then be sure to practice this music interval exercise two different ways:
1. Say the Letter Names as you play. (C-D-E, etc.)
2. Say ’Step up’ or ’Step Down’ as you play each note.

Music Theory Intervals

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Please review the facts below as a brush up on the musical subject of music theory intervals:

1.  A music interval is the distance between two notes on the music staff ( see examples above)
2.  A line note is a note that has a line going through it.

3.  A space note is located between two lines on the music staff.

4.  When you place one note on a line and another note on a line just above or below it you have created the music interval of a 3rd (see the 3rd example above).

5.  When you place one note on a line and then another note on the space  just above or below it you have created the music interval of a 2nd (see the 2nd example above).

For further study on music intervals follow this link:

Music Interval Exercise Using 2nds, 3rds and 4ths