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Major and Minor 2nds


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#1 RedStarMan2112

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 10:36 PM

Hello. Been lurking for years, and finally surfacing. Now that the swamp is being drained, I have to go somewhere. ;)

Long story short, I have been playing guitar with tabs, and noodling on the keyboard for a couple of years. I decided that I wanted to start to learn theory and develop relative pitch, so that I can start to figure out songs without tabs.

I have the Earmaster pro software, and in running through it I do a pretty good job of identifying the differences between major 5ths, 3rds and octaves. Big spaces between those notes, so it's pretty easy.

What I'm stuck on is telling the difference between Major and Minor 2nds. Full and half steps. You'd think that after playing scales it would just be easy, but it isn't.

Has anyone here attempted this? I think I'm asking because I'm trying to understand if I'm just dense, or if other musicians find this hard too.

Does anyone have any learning experience to share? Ideas and stuff? Thanks.

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#2 Maverick

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 11:48 PM

Not sure if I've ever fretted (pun intended) over those intervals.

#3 Lucas

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 12:29 AM

Welcome RSM2112

I've been playing the guitar since I was a kid ( started in 1979 ), and I've gotta admit that I have never learned anything based on consciously analyzing the intervals ... I just zone out the world, focus, listen and have it come out on the guitar ..

Over time I've just come to know what is what based on repetition

Sorry if I'm not being much help :lol:

#4 Geddy Jazz

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 08:03 AM

View PostLucas, on 07 June 2017 - 12:29 AM, said:

Welcome RSM2112

I've been playing the guitar since I was a kid ( started in 1979 ), and I've gotta admit that I have never learned anything based on consciously analyzing the intervals ... I just zone out the world, focus, listen and have it come out on the guitar ..

Over time I've just come to know what is what based on repetition

Sorry if I'm not being much help :lol:
I bet Gedd and Alex did just about the same as you.....

#5 JARG

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 10:08 AM

View PostRedStarMan2112, on 06 June 2017 - 10:36 PM, said:

Hello. Been lurking for years, and finally surfacing. Now that the swamp is being drained, I have to go somewhere. ;)

Long story short, I have been playing guitar with tabs, and noodling on the keyboard for a couple of years. I decided that I wanted to start to learn theory and develop relative pitch, so that I can start to figure out songs without tabs.

I have the Earmaster pro software, and in running through it I do a pretty good job of identifying the differences between major 5ths, 3rds and octaves. Big spaces between those notes, so it's pretty easy.

What I'm stuck on is telling the difference between Major and Minor 2nds. Full and half steps. You'd think that after playing scales it would just be easy, but it isn't.

Has anyone here attempted this? I think I'm asking because I'm trying to understand if I'm just dense, or if other musicians find this hard too.

Does anyone have any learning experience to share? Ideas and stuff? Thanks.

From my understanding, only 3rds can be major or minor. If there are 3 half steps from the root to the 3rd it's a minor 3rd (using C as the root, for example, it would be C-C#-D-Eb), If there are 4 half steps from the root to the 3rd it's a major 3rd.


ETA: And it makes total sense why you're not having a hard time with 3rds and 5ths -- those intervals provide a ton of aural information about a chord. The 3rd will tell you if you're listening to a major or minor chord and the 5th will tell you if you're listening to a diminished, augmented, or perfect chord. The other intervals are more atonal. The intro to Natural Science makes great use of sus2 chords, which are tonally ambiguous, and give the into guitar chords a very "unresolved" feel.

Edited by JARG, 07 June 2017 - 10:28 AM.


#6 HemiBeers

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 10:20 AM

Back in my day, we didn't have interwebnet and tabby tabs and all that! :codger: So we learned by ear...and we liked it!

Seriously, tabs are great way to quickly learn songs but don't treat them as gospel...many times they're incorrect. And it's fun to improvise on stuff just using your ears and instincts. Since I had lots of classical training as a kid, I got really bored with trying to perfect...every....single...note. So don't be afraid to get creative and do your own thing with songs.

I took some music theory classes in college and it turned music into almost a mathematical process. It's kinda nice to know that stuff but it takes alot of the fun out of it. So don't think too much and just play.

Edited by HemiBeers, 07 June 2017 - 10:25 AM.


#7 edhunter

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 11:14 AM

View PostJARG, on 07 June 2017 - 10:08 AM, said:

View PostRedStarMan2112, on 06 June 2017 - 10:36 PM, said:

Hello. Been lurking for years, and finally surfacing. Now that the swamp is being drained, I have to go somewhere. ;)

Long story short, I have been playing guitar with tabs, and noodling on the keyboard for a couple of years. I decided that I wanted to start to learn theory and develop relative pitch, so that I can start to figure out songs without tabs.

I have the Earmaster pro software, and in running through it I do a pretty good job of identifying the differences between major 5ths, 3rds and octaves. Big spaces between those notes, so it's pretty easy.

What I'm stuck on is telling the difference between Major and Minor 2nds. Full and half steps. You'd think that after playing scales it would just be easy, but it isn't.

Has anyone here attempted this? I think I'm asking because I'm trying to understand if I'm just dense, or if other musicians find this hard too.

Does anyone have any learning experience to share? Ideas and stuff? Thanks.

From my understanding, only 3rds can be major or minor. If there are 3 half steps from the root to the 3rd it's a minor 3rd (using C as the root, for example, it would be C-C#-D-Eb), If there are 4 half steps from the root to the 3rd it's a major 3rd.


ETA: And it makes total sense why you're not having a hard time with 3rds and 5ths -- those intervals provide a ton of aural information about a chord. The 3rd will tell you if you're listening to a major or minor chord and the 5th will tell you if you're listening to a diminished, augmented, or perfect chord. The other intervals are more atonal. The intro to Natural Science makes great use of sus2 chords, which are tonally ambiguous, and give the into guitar chords a very "unresolved" feel.

This isn't quite technically correct. 2nds, 3rds, 6ths and 7ths can be major or minor. 4ths and 5ths are perfect, augmented or diminished. But realistically in terms of chords you're right, since chords are comprised of stacked 3rds, and the chord is identified by the major or minor-ness of those 3rds.

A simple way to help identify seconds would be to use the Jaws theme for a minor 2nd, and the 2 bass notes from a part like "Imagine a man" from Manhattan Project, or "Wheels can yake you around" from Between the Wheels for a major 2nd.

Early on I used the intro to Louie Louie to identify 4ths, the spacey synth break in Jacobs Ladder to identify 5ths, the intro LICK from Def Leopards "Women" for minor 6ths, the NBC theme for major 6ths, and the intro to Finding My Way for minor 7ths

Edited by edhunter, 07 June 2017 - 12:00 PM.


#8 stoopid

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 02:17 PM

View PostHemiBeers, on 07 June 2017 - 10:20 AM, said:

I took some music theory classes in college and it turned music into almost a mathematical process. It's kinda nice to know that stuff but it takes alot of the fun out of it. So don't think too much and just play.

Not sure if I've shared this before, at the risk of repeating myself...

A long while ago I was in a hard rock band with a jazz musician, who was also a guitar instructor on the side.  I decided to pay him for an hour to go over 'music theory' with me.  I had/have no formal music training and knew some, but overall very little, about WHY things worked.  Anyway, as if we had both dosed prior to the session, an hour later we came back down with pages of notes and diagrams written out and faint recollection of some useful demonstrations by him on guitar.  The lesson concluded with me saying "well, that's all just math."  To which we both laughed, packed up our shit, and I haven't given theory much attention since.  

That was about 17 years ago, and I've continued to crawl through being a home recording musician and engineer just fine without needing to know why this or that works.  I'm of the feeling that if it sounds good, it's working.  I imagine if I were in a band or doing gigs as a hired gun I'd need to know significantly more than I do now, but as some guy writing music for enjoyment in their computer room knowing enough is... enough.

Edited by stoopid, 07 June 2017 - 02:20 PM.


#9 Mystic Slipperman

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 02:37 PM

Theory is useful to understand and have in your back pocket, so to speak...

That said, I have never enjoyed the idea of it running my life. :D


Major and minor seconds... hmmm... Minor 2nds are often used in jazz, not so much in rock. That said, you can hear a minor 2nd in the opening chord of Chicago's "I've Been Searching So Long" .. it's an E minor 9 chord, and there's an F# and G played at the same time.  They're dissonant but really cool intervals when used in certain chords, and they tend to sound better with clean sounds, rather than distorted ones.  

With Major 2nds, I usually trained myself to recognize from certain vocal harmonies.   Opening guitar/organ chords of Yes' "Perpetual Change" have a G suspended chord which has a major 2nd in it (C and D at the same time).   Less dissonant but still close.

I hope that helps!

Edited by Mystic Slipperman, 07 June 2017 - 02:38 PM.


#10 RedStarMan2112

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Posted 08 June 2017 - 01:58 PM

Thanks everyone. While I know that I'm not going to play jazz or compose symphonies, I have a hard time telling notes apart. What's higher versus lower, never mind the notes themselves.

Which is why I'm doing this now, with some discipline. It actually clicked last night and I did pretty good telling the difference between individual notes in a half vs a full step.  The next exercise was telling the difference chords. a half step  vs a full Like( (a,a#) or (a,b)) played at the same time. That was actually easier than the individual notes. the full step has more space in it.

I can see where theory can turn you into a robot. Look at John Petrucci. Love him but he's Mr Math Metal.  I just want to get good at hearing and playing by ear.

Edited by RedStarMan2112, 08 June 2017 - 01:59 PM.


#11 JARG

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Posted 08 June 2017 - 02:12 PM

View PostRedStarMan2112, on 08 June 2017 - 01:58 PM, said:

Thanks everyone. While I know that I'm not going to play jazz or compose symphonies, I have a hard time telling notes apart. What's higher versus lower, never mind the notes themselves.

Which is why I'm doing this now, with some discipline. It actually clicked last night and I did pretty good telling the difference between individual notes in a half vs a full step.  The next exercise was telling the difference chords. a half step  vs a full Like( (a,a#) or (a,b)) played at the same time. That was actually easier than the individual notes. the full step has more space in it.

I can see where theory can turn you into a robot. Look at John Petrucci. Love him but he's Mr Math Metal.  I just want to get good at hearing and playing by ear.

In that case you don't need to worry about theory. Ear-training just takes time and practice.

#12 HemiBeers

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Posted 08 June 2017 - 07:01 PM

View PostRedStarMan2112, on 08 June 2017 - 01:58 PM, said:

Thanks everyone. While I know that I'm not going to play jazz or compose symphonies, I have a hard time telling notes apart. What's higher versus lower, never mind the notes themselves.

Which is why I'm doing this now, with some discipline. It actually clicked last night and I did pretty good telling the difference between individual notes in a half vs a full step.  The next exercise was telling the difference chords. a half step  vs a full Like( (a,a#) or (a,b)) played at the same time. That was actually easier than the individual notes. the full step has more space in it.

I can see where theory can turn you into a robot. Look at John Petrucci. Love him but he's Mr Math Metal.  I just want to get good at hearing and playing by ear.
A few tricks I do to learn by ear. Find and play the bass note in the chords along with the song it's a good chance they're the root of the chord, or pretty close. The intro to Jacob's ladder is a good example. Find the bass note and then all the chords are major barre chords based on that root (except one). Then try to learn songs by ear and if you get stuck on a something, cheat and check out some tabs.

Even if it's incorrect, so what if it sounds good. I've been playing alot of Rush songs somewhat incorrectly for years, but it still sounds close enough to me.

Edited by HemiBeers, 08 June 2017 - 07:07 PM.


#13 Entre_Perpetuo

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Posted 08 June 2017 - 10:00 PM

Minor second is Jaws, Major second is not Jaws. That's how I remember. That and the major second just sounds happier and brighter.

#14 Entre_Perpetuo

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Posted 08 June 2017 - 10:15 PM

I find theory really helpful, but much of my playing is done on saxophone in concert, marching, pep, or jazz ensembles with sheet music provided, so knowing your basic theory practically becomes a necessity if you hope to really turn the ink on the page into good music. I also find it has helped a ton in my lowly piano, guitar, and bass skills, just knowing how chord intervals work, understanding things from a basic theory perspective makes the complex instruments a lot less intimidating, that way I can focus on just getting my fingers to do what I want them to do.

and on the note of John Petrucci, I don't think too much knowledge of theory or technical virtuosity necessarily makes one play so "robotically" as he can. A good musician plays music well, with personality and feeling, from the most complex and virtuosic pieces to John Cage's 4'33'. For instance, I don't find Neil to be the greatest drummer in the world, nor Freddie Mercury to be the greatest singer in the world, based off of their technical ability and virtuosity (which I do find appealing). I come to feel this way because of the way their musicianship makes me feel, how no other drummer can excite and confound and me and capture my attention like Peart, how no other singer can connect with me like Mercury. Sure, their technical mastery of their instruments is impressive and appealing, but it's the musicianship that counts in the end.

#15 Ancient Ways

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Posted 09 June 2017 - 05:32 AM

This is a cool video on learning by ear.  This is a really good channel because of her personality and her talent and approach to talking about music.  Give this a listen.  I'm subscribed to all of her videos.


#16 goose

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Posted 09 June 2017 - 02:17 PM

View PostEntre_Perpetuo, on 08 June 2017 - 10:00 PM, said:

Minor second is Jaws, Major second is not Jaws. That's how I remember. That and the major second just sounds happier and brighter.
I was going over that last point with my son the other day as we noodled around with chords on the piano.  We made up a narrative of a character moving from joy to concern to distress to grave danger as we went from C-major to augmented, and C-minor to diminished.  He really understood what was going on after that.

#17 goose

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Posted 09 June 2017 - 04:02 PM

View PostAncient Ways, on 09 June 2017 - 05:32 AM, said:

This is a cool video on learning by ear.  This is a really good channel because of her personality and her talent and approach to talking about music.  Give this a listen.  I'm subscribed to all of her videos.

Thank so much for posting that video.  It led to me and the Lad learning to play and sing Eleanor Rigby.  :ebert:

#18 Entre_Perpetuo

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Posted 09 June 2017 - 06:08 PM

View Postgoose, on 09 June 2017 - 02:17 PM, said:

View PostEntre_Perpetuo, on 08 June 2017 - 10:00 PM, said:

Minor second is Jaws, Major second is not Jaws. That's how I remember. That and the major second just sounds happier and brighter.
I was going over that last point with my son the other day as we noodled around with chords on the piano.  We made up a narrative of a character moving from joy to concern to distress to grave danger as we went from C-major to augmented, and C-minor to diminished.  He really understood what was going on after that.

lol, that's brilliant!

#19 Fridge

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Posted 10 June 2017 - 04:26 AM

View PostAncient Ways, on 09 June 2017 - 05:32 AM, said:

This is a cool video on learning by ear.  This is a really good channel because of her personality and her talent and approach to talking about music.  Give this a listen.  I'm subscribed to all of her videos.


I've always used something similar to this on guitar...the only difference is I tend to pick out the root note on the guitar rather than singing it.

#20 Ancient Ways

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Posted 10 June 2017 - 05:36 AM

View PostFridge, on 10 June 2017 - 04:26 AM, said:

View PostAncient Ways, on 09 June 2017 - 05:32 AM, said:

This is a cool video on learning by ear.  This is a really good channel because of her personality and her talent and approach to talking about music.  Give this a listen.  I'm subscribed to all of her videos.


I've always used something similar to this on guitar...the only difference is I tend to pick out the root note on the guitar rather than singing it.
Same here.  I wish I could sing it.  Unfortunately, chronic vocal cord issues make it challenging just to talk at times.




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