Tones and Semitones

Now you understand pitch on a grand orchestral scale. We turn to the smallest intervals in western music the tones and semitones.

The letters of the alphabet are separated by tones and semitones.

E to F is a semitone. Twice a semitone is a tone.

F to G is a tone. The alphabet is not equidistant.

F to G is twice the distance of E to F.

  Tone   Tone   Semitone   Tone   Tone   Tone   Semitone  
C 1 D 1 E ½ F 1 G 1 A 1 B ½ C

The ruler of pitch

Western music is divided into 12 equidistant semitones.

How do we write the interval between F and G?

We introduce new notation.

A semitone higher than F is F#. A semitone lower than G is Gb. F# and Gb are the same pitch. They represent the semitone between F and G.

The step-like alphabetic ascension of tones and semitones is familiar to all who play the piano keyboard.

The Ruler of Pitch
C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E
  Db   Eb     Gb   Ab   Bb     Db   Eb  
½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½

Music Theory

"Become an arranger first, then an orchestrator, and then a composer." - Joe Paparone

Joe Paparone is an Australian music arranger of the highest international calibre. Allow him to share 35 years of real world experiences with you.