An interval is the distance between any two notes.  The smallest intervals are half steps and whole steps. 

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On a keyboard, a half step is the distance from any key to the next key.  In music, a flat (b) lowers the pitch of a note a half step.  A sharp (#) raises the pitch of a note a half step. 


A whole step is made up of two half steps, therefore there is always one note in the middle of a whole step. On a keyboard, a whole step is the distance from one key to another key with a key in between.


In the examples below, try to identify whether the interval is a half step or a whole step. Whole Steps and Half Steps are identified by W and H.

mouse Hover your mouse over the interval to see the solution. Use the keyboard as a guide if needed.key

treble 1 t2

b b1 b2


All intervals are given numbers for names.  In order to give an interval a number, start with the bottom note and count lines and spaces to the upper note.  Be sure to count both the starting and ending notes.  Note: Half and Whole steps are called intervals of a 2nd, and an octave is the interval of an 8th.

The intervals that beginning students will be working with during their first year in music classes are below in treble and bass clef.

mouse Hover your mouse over each interval to see what it is called.

treble 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

bass 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Other intervals have different tricks and methods to assist in not only identifying them by sight, but also by sound.


Interval Step Size Song
Minor 2nd (m2) ½ step    “Jaws” theme
Major 2nd (M2)  1 whole step “Happy Birthday”
Major 3rd (M3)  2 whole steps “Doe, a Deer (DoReMi)”
Perfect 4th (P4)  2 ½ steps  “Here Comes the Bride”
Perfect 5th (P5) 3 ½ steps  “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”
Major 6th (M6)  4 ½ steps  “N-B-C” tones (N and B)
Major 7th (M7)  5 ½ steps  Almost sounds like an octave
Octave (8ba/8vb) 6 whole steps  Same pitch