Free Christmas Songs

Index - Melody

Understanding Half Steps and Whole Steps

There are two different kinds of intervals of a step: the half step and the whole step. Understanding these intervals is very important to accurately create scales and chords.

The half step is the distance from one pitch to the next possible pitch. Half steps are very easy to see when we use the piano keyboard like the one introduced in the section on sound. In the Flash example below, when you point to any key, the name of that pitch will become visible. If you are unable to view the keyboard, download the latest version of Flash Player at, or use the image below for pitch identification.

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How to determine a half step using the piano keyboard

If you want to know what pitch is a half step above G, find the G on the keyboard, then point at the next possible key to the right of G (in this case it is a black key). It shows us that a half step above G is either called G sharp or A flat. Using the Flash keyboard above, you can also hear the pitches by selecting them.

To determine a half step below G, go through the same process but point to the pitch to left of G, which is called either G flat or F sharp. As mentioned in the section on Sound, when one note has two different names, they are called enharmonic equivalents.

How to Determine Whole Steps

A whole step is defined as two half steps. Avoid the temptation to think of a whole step as one letter name to the next letter name. For example, look at the pitches E and F on the keyboard. There is no black key between them, so the interval between E and F is a half step. To determine the whole step above E, count two half steps to the right of that key. The whole step above E is F sharp.

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Learn about numeric intervals

Piano keyboard with the names of all notes



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