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Quick question regarding minor 2nds

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Nashrakh, Oct 20, 2009.

  1. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Ok, so I got a dumb question.

    Why is a minor 2nd called a minor 2nd?

    "Basic Music Theory", a really great book mainly aimed at children (that's why I like it :D) and written by Jonathan Harnum, states:

    A Major interval lowered a half step becomes a minor interval.

    Ok, so that kinda makes sense. What struck me as odd is:

    The flat 6th and the flat 7th are both in the minor scale, while the minor 2nd ISN'T. I thought the names were derived from the names of the major and minor scale, because all major intervals are in the major scale and all minor intervals (except the 2nd) are in the minor scale.

    But the 2nd (one whole tone) is in both the major AND the minor scale, so why is a flat 2nd called a minor 2nd in the first place?

    Anyone else thought that to be odd? Or was I fooled by the names, which to me imply that the name of the interval corresponds to the name of the scale in which those intervals are included?
  2. out of convienence.

    If you invert ANY interval it becomes the opposite (minor third - major sixth) etc, and the minor second is opposite to the major seventh which is one half step lower than the tonic.

    It isn't "right" exactly, but it makes everything easier.

    Just like why does the guitar have a B string instead of a C string, just to make everything easier, even though it isn't "right."
  3. guroove


    Oct 13, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    I never understood that, and never refer to it as a minor 2nd. I usually just call it a half step.
  4. You're fooling yourself because you're jumbling several different things together.

    Major and minor are qualitative descriptions that can be used to describe

    1. Intervals
    2. Chords
    3. Keys
    4. Scales

    A major chord can contain several different types of intervals, but it's still a major chord. A major key can contain major and minor chords, but it's still a major key. A major scale can proceed by a series of major and minor intervals, but it's still a major scale. A major chord does not contain only major intervals, nor does a major scale; a major key does not contain only major chords. You have to be careful not to mix up different things.

    The answer you saw in that book is exactly correct as applied to intervals. The fundamental meaning of major and minor is just greater and lesser.
  5. jd858us


    Dec 13, 2006
    I am not familiar with that book, but you should check that it's not oversimplifying the topic for kids.

    When first delving into this, It's easy to confuse the terms major and minor with the scales, as opposed to the essential qualities of interval construction, but what about perfect, diminished and augmented? They don't have any dual meanings.

    Not all intervals change their quality when inverted (perfect remains perfect) although subtracting from 9 will always provide the correct number.

    Handy rule: subtract from 9, major becomes minor (and the opposite); augmented becomes diminished (and the opposite); perfect remains perfect, every single time for the rest of our lives. Hard to find that kind of consistency anywhere but in the world of math.
  6. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Ok, then. The nomenclature just doesn't make it very clear and as you see, makes it very easy to get confused.
    Nah, it was a thing that's been bugging me for quite some time. I just picked up that books for kicks, and I even learned something from it (like, how to read key signatures easily).
  7. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Closed for cleanup. Please refer to this thread for policy on bad information.

    Reopened. Let's see if we can keep from muddying the waters again.
  8. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    Richard Lindsey has it right, let me see if I can clear things up even more.

    Minor simply mean "smaller." The major third is a larger interval than the minor third. The major second is a larger interval than the minor second, and so on.

    Perfect interval are perfect because, well, they are. Play a 7th fret harmonic - it's a fifth (P5). There's no fooling around with that, it's perfect, as nature intended.

    Play a 4th or 9th fret harmonic - it's a major third (M3).

    With just these notes (root, octave (8va), P5, M3) we can construct the major scale.

    From P5 to 8va is P4.

    Root + M3 = M3.
    P5 + M3 = M7
    P5 + P5 = 9 (aka M2)
    P4 + M3 = M6.

    And there we have the major scale, and we find a few new intervals - m3 is the distance between M3 and P5. m2 can be thought of as the distance between M7 and 8va.

    Repeat the process above with m3 and you get the minor scale.

    Root + m3 = m3
    P5 + m3 = m7
    P4 + m3 = m6

    Everything else remain the same.

    So from the major chord on root, p4 and p5 you derive the major scale. From the minor chord on root, p4 and p5 you derive the minor scale.

    So really it's the chords that define the scales, & not the other way around.
  9. I struggled with this concept, and still kind of do. My best advice would be to just think of minor seconds as a half step, and minor nines as and octave and a half step. Just ignore the fact that yes a major second exists between the tonic and 2nd in both major and (all) minor scales.

    What everyone said about scales and intervals and how to invert and derive names is all textbook correct. But yeah, just come to terms with a minor second being a half step distance between two notes. Not an actual scale degree.

    "So saying there is a minor second between the 1st and the 2nd in a phrygian scale" makes sense. Saying "there is a minor second in the major scale" also makes sense, because there is one b/w the 3rd and 4th, as well b/w the 7th and 8ve. It's a distance, not a degree. At least thats how I think of it.
  10. Eddue


    Jan 12, 2006
    New Haven, Mich
    From my understanding, only thirds, sixths(or thirteenths) and sevenths are considered to be either major or minor notes in a scale. The other notes, (roots, seconds, fourths and fifths as well as the ninths and elevenths) are either raised(sharp) or lowered(flat)
  11. Not a semi-tone? ;)
  12. dufunk


    Sep 20, 2009
    I always wondered this as well, and just assumed there was a good reasonseeing as music isn't a new concept. I just wondered why they didn't call the major second a p2 and when it becomes flattened, make it diminished 2nd?
  13. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
  14. ayryq


    Jan 9, 2009
    Here's a quote from "Harmonic Practice in Tonal Music" by Robert Gauldin. Emphases his.

    He goes on to say that perfect, major, and minor intervals are diatonic intervals which can all be expressed using only the white keys on a piano. Within this diatonic context a fifth and a fourth can only be one thing (perfect), but a 2nd (and others) can be both major and minor. In the diatonic scale there is no need for diminished and augmented designations.

    I tend to think the fifth and fourth and octave are also considered perfect because they sound that way. They have a consonance to the ear which has been long recognized by students of music.

    (I seem to remember reading once that the perfect intervals, and especially the octave, made waves in the human ear canal in a certain pattern that caused us to recognize them as consonant, and that another creature with different ears would perhaps not hear octaves as equivalent. I can't find where I read that right now, though, so I may have it wrong.)

  15. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    +1 on this.

    OUPS, I think Eric just wrote before me the same kind of thing which reinforce the info.

    I would like to add that these kind of intervals are based on the major scale which is the mother of all scales i would say.
    They are always measure from the root.

    I would also like to add that there are intervals more importants then others like the fourth and the fifth and they are call "perfect". Perfect fourth or perfect fifth. There is also the perfect unisson and the perfect octave.

    These intervals can be raised and they become an augmented interval.
    The fifth can also be lowered and becomes a diminushed interval.

    Hope this helps, continue on your book ;-)
  16. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    Diatonic simply means seven-tone, just like pentatonic means five tone. So in a diatonic context, a fifth is perfect just because in a seven tone scale, that note combination lands on the fifth note in the scale.

    In a pentatonic major scale, that note combination happens somewhere else, but that doesn't make the combination any less perfect.

    An augmented fifth or a diminished fifth is therefore a member of a diatonic scale - otherwise the fifth wouldn't be called a fifth.

    I doubt that other creatures would hear octaves as dissonant. It's basic physics.

    Think of a soundwave - it goes from 0 to 1 and back to 0. An octave is a doubling of frequency, so it does the same, but twice as fast.

    root / octave
    0 / 0 = 0
    0.5 / 1 = 1.5
    1 / 0 = 1
    0.5 / 1 = 1.5
    0 / 0 = 0

    That's amazingly orderly and it loops back in a very short period of time (I got back to the beginning after 4 steps). All creatures would perceive that order - they may not APPRECIATE that order, but they'd perceive it - it would cause their ear to vibrate in a 0, 1.5, 1, 1.5, 0 pattern.

    One day I'll write a book with all this knowledge I have floating in my heads & blow your minds...
  17. Actually, seven-tone would be heptatonic, not diatonic. Diatonic usually implies use of some permutation of the heptatonic major (or minor) scale, but it doesn't itself mean seven-tone. Penta- does mean 5, but dia- doesn't mean 7.
  18. emor


    May 16, 2004
    Creative Melodic Techniques Used In Jazz Improvisation
    by Phil Rizzo (1973) pg. 69:

    "A perfect interval occurs when both tones of the interval occur in the major scale of each tone. A major interval occurs when the upper tone appears in the scale of the lower tone, but the lower tone does not appear in the scale of the upper tone."
  19. ayryq


    Jan 9, 2009
    That's true and interesting. I never thought of it that way. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that isn't WHY it's perfect, major, or minor, though.

    I can't for the life of me find where I read this. Each frequency is recognized by us according to what part of the basilar membrane (in the ear) it stimulates. The basilar membrane is a spiral (actually a nautilus-esque spiral which contains the Fibonacci sequence!) and I thought I read that octaves lined up: If you went up an octave you stimulated the same point on the spiral, just on a higher "ring." BUT I can't find that written anywhere in my library or on the web, so I'll withdraw that comment for now as probably originating from my hindquarters.

    This is true and the right way to think of perfect intervals
  20. One thing I've heard said is that the perfect intervals are the ones that don't change quality when inverted. Inversions changes a major interval to a minor, a minor to a major, an augmented to a diminished, and a diminished to an augmented; but a perfect interval remains a perfect interval when inverted. FWIW.

    Another thing i've heard is that when you look at representing intervals by means of ratios, the ratios that represent the perfect intervals use the smallest integers--1:1, 2:1, 3:2, 4:3.

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