Music Basics – Musical Intervals

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Music Basics Series – Part 6

By Jan Durrant

An Interval is defined as the distance between two notes.

The first interval to consider is the interval of a Second, notated as ‘2nd’.

The Second is also referred to as a ‘step’ in music reading because it is the 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 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 much more well rounded pianist 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 become less able to read notes in other areas of the staff.

Now look at the series of letter names below. This series of letters corresponds with your piano or keyboard.

Keys C, D and E are in that sequence right next to each other on your keyboard. Moving from one note to the next either up or down in a sequential manner is moving by Seconds.
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This exercise is written is centered around the concept of the Second, or step.

Place your right hand thumb (finger number 1) on a table top or on your keyboard in front of you. Your thumb will be resting on C, your second finger will be resting on D and your third finger will be resting on E.

You will be playing interval or distances of a Second throughout this exercise. Be sure to practice this exercise two different ways:

  1. Say the Letter Names as you play.
  2. Say ‘Step up’ or ‘Step Down’ as it is written on the music.


C D E D / C D E D / E D C D / E D C D / C D E D /

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Article source: About the author: Jan Durrant holds a Master’s Degree in Music from the University of Texas at San Antonio in Texas. She has over 25 years experience in both public and private school music teaching.

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