02 -The Smallest Intervals (minor second vs MAJOR second)

Quick Review

Make sure to read the short theory lesson on an introduction to The Musical Alphabet? Were you able to quiz yourself on the timed exercise?

The musical alphabet is really easy to learn… A-B-C-D-E-F-G


The Space Between

musical interval: the space between. Jay Bryan Sandifer. www.PianoDrumsGuitar.com
musical interval: the space between. Jay Bryan Sandifer. www.PianoDrumsGuitar.com

Try this simple experiment: Hold your hand out in front of you with all five fingers spread, palm facing inward. You will notice space between each finger. Would you agree….this ‘space’ between your fingers is not the actual finger(s) but the distance between each finger?

The Distance Between A, B, and C

In music, there is a space or distance between two letter names of the musical alphabet. It is not always the same distance either. The distance between A and B is different than the distance between B and C. 

***If you are not careful, you may make the mistake of thinking these ‘spaces between’ are the actual musical alphabet letter names. I’m not exactly sure why, but many of my younger students have struggled with this concept of space between. 

Intervals for the 4yr old beginner…

Each letter of the musical alphabet represents a specific sound. Just as the letter A is different from the letter B, so is the sound represented by the letter A different from the sound represented by the letter B. One sound would be higher, the other lower.

Did you know: the musical distance between each ‘letter’ in the musical alphabet is measured by ‘Steps’. This distance is measured in half steps and whole steps.

example: Right now I am sitting at my desk. If I decide to get some water to drink, I will need to get up and take some steps so I can move from the desk to the kitchen. I can choose to take small half size steps or larger whole steps. Does that make sense?

There are two types of basic musical steps: Half Steps (H) and Whole Steps (W)

***It is important to understand these ‘steps’ represent the distance between note letter name. They do not represent actual note letter names.

Pictures of Whole and Half Step Differences:

Musical ABC's -Worship ArtsLook at the A, B, and C.  Look at the ‘W’ under the A and B. This ‘W’ stands for WHOLE STEP. Do you know what the ‘H’ stands for?

You’ll notice the B and the C are adjacent. That means they are immediately next to each other -with nothing in between. This is a great example of a half step.

*it is very important to understand that the distance between some letters in the musical alphabet are a whole step apart, while others are only a half step.

Intervals for big people

Serious music people prefer to use the words whole tone and semitone instead of steps. The idea is the same. The world interval really comes into play conceptually with more advanced music theory. There are many different types of intervals and names of intervals. In keeping with the close proximity and relationship between adjacent musical alphabet letter names of the musical alphabet, I want to bring to your attention in this lesson the two smallest intervals: the minor second and the major second.

minor 2nd (m2)

**When you see two adjacent black or white notes (which is considered in this lesson to be a half step), the interval is traditionally identified as a minor second -or- m2. Notice the lower case ‘m’.

half step =m2 (minor second)

Major 2nd (M2)

***When you see two black or white notes next to each other, but another note can be found in between, (which is considered in this lesson to be a whole step), the interval is traditionally identified as a major second -or- M2. notice the uppercase ‘M’.

whole step = M2 (MAJOR second)

Take a second to test your understanding of the half step and whole step relationships. Test yourself now. Shoot for 18/18 100% in one minutes time.


Whole & Half Step on Guitar Fret Board:

guitar fret A-B-C -Worship Arts

Do you see the numbers to the right? They represent the number of strings on a six-string guitar. There is no ‘5‘ because, in this diagram, it has been replaced by an ‘A‘. If the guitar is in ‘standard tuning’, the fifth string is an ‘A‘. Notice there are no ‘black keys’ on the guitar diagram. If you want to play the ‘B‘ you can stay on the same string as the ‘A‘, but will need to press the string down on the 2nd fret.

Notice we skip over the first fret.

So, how many types of ‘steps’ are there again? __________ and, what are their names?

Do you know how many half steps it takes to make a whole step? ____

***The letter names of the musical alphabet are used to make the scales we used in melodies. Each letter name has a numeric value attached, but depending on the ‘key’ or ‘scale’, these attached numeric values will differ.

next free theory lesson…


01 -An introduction to the Musical Alphabet

The Musical Alphabet

The Musical Alphabet -jay bryan sandifer
The Musical Alphabet -jay bryan sandifer


The Music Teacher

I am a teacher. Teachers give assignments. I am a father too. I teach my children. I give my students and children assignments.

So at the end of this short lesson and each of the following lessons, you will have an opportunity to test your knowledge and understanding of some basic and fundamental music theory ideas.

One time I gave them the following assignment as we were talking about building a music business on the way to school. I asked my oldest son Ezekiel and my middle daughter Jaylia to survey their friends and teachers with this question:

“What do you remember about your first lesson?” and “If you have never had a music lesson before, what would you want to learn during your first lesson?”

The response…overwhelmingly? notes. the notes. The people remember most that they learned the notes or they thought it might be best for them to learn the notes first.

Before we get into those ‘musical notes’, I want to cover something really important. If you would like to skip to the musical alphabet test, click the link. Otherwise, let’s talk a little about what music is. First. Before anything.

What is Music?

What is Music- Music is a language of written symbols. Jay Bryan Sandifer
What is Music- Music is a language of written symbols. Jay Bryan Sandifer

Music is a language. Music is a language of emotion and culture. Every emotion has a sound. Every culture has a sound.

Music is a language of written symbols. Think for a moment. If the English language is to be read by others, a system of written symbols must be available. The period. The question mark. The comma, The letter ‘R‘ or ‘S‘. Upper case. Lower case, etc…

It is the same with the language of music. If someone is to be able to read music, a written system of symbols must be available.  Are you able to name any music symbols?

whole note? staff? note? rest? repeat sign? how about this one…..fermata!

This Musical Symbol is called a fermata. Jay Bryan Sandifer
This Musical Symbol is called a fermata. Jay Bryan Sandifer

Doesn’t that sound fun? FURRRRR MAHHH TAAAAAAAAAH

Like most languages, it could be said there are also many dialects or accents to this language of music. Depending on the style, mood, and culture, music can be expressed in a variety of different ways through the spectrum of emotion. Take a moment and think about one of your favorite songs. Why do you like the song?

I’m not sure about you, but it’s hard for me to think of my favorite song.

In all honesty, there are so many great, great, great songs I could list off (and I’m certain you could too)..and the list would change each day, week or month…right?

So, for this lesson, check out one of *the* basic building blocks to the written language of music: The Musical Alphabet!

Ready? simply read the following letters:






Did you start from the top and read down? Great. Now take a second and re-read starting from the bottom. This idea of going up and down is important in music …very important, and we will learn more about this later.

Begin with the End in Mind

We started with the letter ‘G’ because this is where the musical alphabet ends.

Visionaries ‘begin with the end in mind’, so let’s be visionaries today! Once we know the end we can begin with confidence. Right? Ready? A B C D E F G.

So, what comes after ‘G’?

If you said ‘H’, you are either (1) trying to be really funny or (2) or internationally credited (in Germany the Bb is still referred to as B, while the B is known as H…yep)

But in western cultures, there are no ‘H’s, no ‘I’s, no ‘J’s, etc. in the musical alphabet. Just ABCDEFG!

What comes after ‘G’? you start over with ‘A’ again (one octave higher), then ‘B’, then ‘C’…until you get to ‘G’. Then what? another ‘A’, then ‘B’, then ‘C’….and so on. So, how many letters are there in the Musical Alphabet?

Study the Diagram Below

abc keyboard 1

Here is a great little exercise for you. Your goal should be to get 15/15 correct in one minutes time. 100%.

Before you start, study the diagram above. Do you see the ‘C’? Do you see the ‘D’?

This next question will be very important in helping you be able to identify any letter of the musical alphabet on any keyboard in the world. Notice that the ‘D’ is located between the TWO black key group. Is there a ‘D’ to be found anywhere between the THREE black key grouping?_____

Notice the ‘D’ is located between the TWO black key group. Do you see it?question: Is there a ‘D’ to be found anywhere between the THREE black key grouping?_____ (no)

The ‘D’ is found between the TWO black keys. Always.

Now its Test Time

Use this exercise to test your knowledge and understanding of the musical alphabet of the keyboard. Remember, your goal should be to get 15/15 correct in one minutes time. 100%. Click the image below to test your skills. 🙂

Musical Alphabet Test -Keyboard
Musical Alphabet Test -Keyboard

Get to Know the Basics of Music Theory

In all practical and common senses, these seven letters are used as a standard to represent certain pitches played on just about any musical instrument you can name and think of.

Next Lesson?


03 -Pitch Relationships in Music


How many different letters are included in the musical alphabet?____ What are their names?

How many different types of ‘steps’ are there? _____ What are their names?

You should understand why ‘letters‘ and ‘steps‘ in music are so important.

(1) Letters can help identify pitch. (2) Steps help to identify how these pitches may relate to each other.

In order to increase your awareness of music it helps to know this. Have you ever had your own personal ‘sing-along’ with your favorite song? How did you do? As you were singing, you probably didn’t give too much thought (if any at all) to specific ‘letter names’ or whether you were moving your pitch up or down in either  ‘half and whole steps’, right?

Your favorite song has a melody. The pitches (or tones) in that melody are sequenced in one of three ways: (1) they go up (2) they do down (3) they repeat …stay the same.

Do the notes stay the same? Go up? or Down?I’m sure you are familiar with the melody found in the diagram. Sing this melody in your head (or ‘out loud’). Do you hear (and ‘see’) whether the ‘notes’ are staying the same, moving up or moving down? …of course you do, right?

Just about every song …past, present, and future will have melodies with pitches that are sequenced in one of these three ways: moving up, moving down, or staying the same,

*notice the melody may also ‘skip’ or ‘jump’ up…or down. We measure these skips with intervals. Intervals will be discussed later.


Next, we will see a great example of A-B-C pitches used in a famous folk melody. Can you guess which one?

moving on?…