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Whole Steps and Half Steps Explained

The distance between any two notes can be defined by steps - half steps, whole steps, semi-tones, whole tones.

PUBLISHED: Feb 1, 2013 UPDATED: Jun 7, 2019 • VIEWS: 9 • LESSON CODE: ML-basic-10

Instruments: music ANY Subjects: beginnertheoryscales

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Whole Steps and Half Steps Explained

The distance between any two notes can be defined by steps - half steps, whole steps, semi-tones, whole tones. From this series of steps you can get the names of the notes of ANY of the fifteen major scales.

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Half Steps, Whole Steps, Semitones, Whole Tones

The distance from one note to the next note in the Chromatic scale is a semitone, also called a half step or a half tone ( H ), is the smallest musical interval commonly used in Western tonal music, A half-step can also be referred to as a step or one step ( 1 ) when using a numeric notation indicating the number of steps between notes. On piano that is the next key, black or white to the right or left. The next key or note to the right is a 1/2 step higher. The next key or note to the left is a 1/2 step lower. For an instrument like guitar or ukulele the next fret higher or lower is a 1/2 step.

Using the Chromatic Scale below, all twelve notes in one octave starting from C. The notes C to C# is one half step ( H or 1 ).

C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C’

E to F is one half step ( H ).

C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C’

Two half steps are a whole step or whole tone ( W or 2 ). This can also be referred to as two steps ( 2 ). For guitar or ukulele this is two frets higher or lower along the same string.

C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C’

Scales are made up of a series whole steps and half steps forming a step pattern.

The major scale’s step pattern is W W H W W W H OR 2 2 1 2 2 2 1.

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Related Lessons

Related Lessons for Whole Steps and Half Steps Explained at this time.

The Chromatic Scale • Updated: Nov 26, 2018

The only scale in music with ALL twelve notes of one octave. Not much use for improvisation or solos – but a great scale for learning the notes of the ukulele fingerboard, figuring out scales, chords and more...

Six Essential Scales for `Ukulele • Updated: Apr 3, 2020

The six essential scales are: Blues, Major Pentatonic, Mixolydian, Dorian, Aeolian, and Ionian. From the six essential scales, you can get through a wide variety of traditional and contemporary music.

A scale is simply a collection of pitches or notes, not really a "this is a Jazz scale", "this is a Blues" or "this is a Rock scale". It's how a scale is used that really matters not its name.

Most music starts with a scale. The melody, chords, licks and riffs all can be related back to a particular scale or scales.

The Major Scale • Updated: Feb 11, 2016

Called the learning scale for a reason. The major scale is a great scale for learning how music and chords work. It’s a core scale from which a majority of your core, essential scales can be derived. There are 15 major scales.

Related Songs

Related Songs for Whole Steps and Half Steps Explained at this time.

Any Song Will Do
Updated: Dec 7, 2015

When any song here can be used for the concepts in the lessons.

Related Lesson Series

Related Lessons Series for Whole Steps and Half Steps Explained at this time.

Music Basics
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

Lessons in the General Music series. The principles of how music works.

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