1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Intervals: Ascending vs Decending

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by count_funkula, Apr 21, 2002.

  1. I am a little confused about intervals.

    Does the fact that the notes involved in a particular interval are different depending on whether or not you are ascending or descending from a particular scale degree confuse anyone else?

    Say I'm trying to tell someone how to play a particular tune and I say "starting at the root, play a Major 3rd". Well, in the key of A, a Major 3rd could be a Db or Gb depending how you look at it.

    I thought I understood this but now I'm all confused.
  2. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    I could be wrong about this, but whether the note is flat or #, depends on the key of the particular piece of music. Sorta based on the circle of fifths I think.

    Im sure someone else much more knowledgable will come along tell me Im wrong...lol
  3. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Gard made a great thread about intervals here, you might want to check out:


    By the way, I think Db to Gb is a perfect 4th, and not a major 3rd. Is that what you mean, tho? If you start at your root, A, your major 3rd would be C# (A to C#) I believe. I would assume in this situation that it would be the same descending, but I'm still studying up on my intervals so please don't go by me. :D

    And, in the Key of A you would usually see the notes as C# and F# (and G#) instead of Db and Gb.
  4. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Going clockwise on the circle of 5ths, for the Key of A (and F#m-its relative minor), you would have sharps. If you go counter-clockwise, in 4ths, you would have flats. One thing to remember, when dealing with key signatures, is not to mix sharps and flats. Ex: With your F#m you wouldn't say Db, Gb, Ab, you would say C#, F#, G#. F#m=Gbm, but I think Gbm is rarely used.

    Hope I'm correct on this as well. :D
  5. Lipis Roman

    Lipis Roman

    Mar 5, 2002

    I think the issue here is the difference between scale degrees and the names of intervals. If you were to say play the root (A) and then "the" Major 3rd of A Major (C#) that is one thing. If you say play the root and then drop down "a" Major 3rd (F) that's different.

    Take the C Major scale for instance. Say you're staring on the note E (the 3rd degree of the C Major scale) and then you move up to B. B is the 7th degree of a C Major scale, but the intervalic distance between those two notes E & B would be a Perfect 5th.

    I hope that helps to some, not sure if that was exactly what you're having trouble with? Someone should be around to confirm and expand on all of this soon enough.
  6. I found the answer I was looking for in one of my books.

    Thanks anyway.
  7. SpeeDFX


    Apr 14, 2002
    Does anyone know a web site that CLEARLY teaches about intervals?, I'm a super-newbie and I need the easiest explanation possible..I'm already lost when you guys start talking about "major" and in the "key" of...
  8. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Glad you found the answer.
    That said-
    In the key of "A", a Major 3rd could NEVER ever be a "Db".
    "Count" out on your fingers A-B-C-D...that = 4 fingers, right? How can FOUR = a "3rd"?! ;)

    True, "C#" & "Db" sound the same...theoretically, they're 'different'.
    I recall arguing with my college professor for about 30 minutes over this same thing! Finally, the light clicked 'on'. What I was doing was-
    SEEING the interval on paper.
    THINKING what the interval LOOKED like on a bass' neck. By doing this, a minor 3rd & a raised 2nd LOOKED like one-in-the-same.
    To me, a raised 2nd was a minor 3rd. DUH! ;)

    "C#" is the Major 3rd in "A" Major.
    "Db" is a diminished(lowered, flatted) 4th.

    Watch those enharmonics! ;)
  9. Read you loud and clear JimK. I'm pretty bad about that. Same fret on the bass so I often use whatever name comes to mind. You are right though it is a C#.
  10. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Maybe I'm reading this wrong, considering the majority of answers I've read. Unless you're telling someone to go down, how could a Gb (or F#) be a possibility?

    If you say "starting at the root, play a Major 3rd" it's ascending. That's C# (Db).
  11. Brad, I was wrong. The distance between A and F# is a Minor 3rd.

    F-G-A : Determines the type of interval (3rd)
    3 semitones : Determines the quality of interval (minor)

    The answer I found in my book that helped me was, intervals are always determined by looking at the "distance" between the lower note and the higher note. I think I understand now. Thanks for all the help.
  12. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999

    Not again...:confused: ;)

    "F#" to "A" is a minor 3rd.
    "A" to "F# is a Major 6th.

    BTW, note how the 3 & 6 add up to 9 & how the Major/minor flip-flops.

    "F#" to "G#" = a Major 2nd
    "G#" to "F#" = a minor 7th
    2 + 7 =9

    "F#" to "C#" = a Perfect 5th
    "C#" to "F#" = a Perfect 4th
    5 + 4 = 9
  13. Doh! Thats what I meant.....really.....F# to A is a Minor 3rd.
  14. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
  15. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    JimK you left out:

    F# to F#(octave higher) = Perfect Octave
    1 + 8 = 9!

  16. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...dammit, Phil!

    (I just knew I forget sumthin'). ;)

    And it is fun!
  17. Player


    Dec 27, 1999
    USA Cincinnati, OH
    and I was just about to get out my paper plate again :eek: