Major second


Major second
major second
Inverse minor seventh
Name
Other names whole tone, whole step
Abbreviation M2
Size
Semitones 2
Interval class 2
Just interval 9:8 or 10:9
Cents
Equal temperament 200
24 equal temperament 200
Just intonation 204 or 182
Step: major second (major tone) About this sound Play .
Minor tone About this sound Play .

In Western music theory, a major second (About this sound Play ) is a musical interval spanning two semitones, and encompassing two adjacent staff positions (see Interval (music)#Number for more details). For example, the interval from C to D is a major second, as the note D lies two semitones above C, and the two notes are notated on adjacent staff postions. Diminished, minor and augmented seconds are notated on adjacent staff positions also, but consist of a different number of semitones (zero, one, and three). They are all considered melodic steps.

The major second is the interval that occurs between the first and second degrees of a major scale, the tonic and the supertonic. On a musical keyboard, a major second is the interval between two keys separated by one key, counting white and black keys alike. On a guitar string, it is the interval separated by two frets. In moveable-do solfège, it is the interval between do and re.

Intervals composed of two semitones, such as the major second and the diminished third, are also called tones, whole tones, or whole steps[1] In just intonation, the major second can correspond to at least two different frequency ratios:[2] 9/8 (the major tone or greater tone or 204 cents), and 10/9 (the minor tone or lesser tone of 182 cents), which differ by the syntonic comma (21.5 cents). In meantone temperament and twelve-tone equal temperament these two intervals are approximated by the same interval. This also means that in 19-ET and 31-ET, which are also meantone temperaments eliminating 81/80, these intervals are the same. Many equal temperaments also distinguish between these two intervals, such as 15-ET, 22-ET, 34-ET, 41-ET, 53-ET, and 72-ET.

The major second was historically considered one of the more dissonant intervals of the diatonic scale, although much 20th century music saw it reimagined as a consonance. It is common in many different musical systems, including Arabic music, Turkish music and music of the Balkans, among others. It occurs in both diatonic and pentatonic scales.

About this sound Listen to a major second in equal temperament . Here, middle C is followed by D, which is a tone 200 cents sharper than C, and then by both tones together.

Major and minor tones

Origin of large and small seconds and thirds in harmonic series.[3]
Lesser tone on D. About this sound Play

In tuning systems using just intonation, such as 5-limit tuning, in which major seconds occur in two different sizes, the wider of them is called a major tone or (more appropriately) greater tone, and the narrower a minor tone or, (more appropriately) lesser tone.

The major tone is the 9:8 interval[4] About this sound play , and it is an approximation thereof in other tuning systems, while the minor tone is the 10:9 ratio[4] About this sound play . The major tone may be derived from the harmonic series as the interval between the eighth and ninth harmonics. The minor tone may be derived from the harmonic series as the interval between the ninth and tenth harmonics.

Notice that in these tuning systems, a third kind of whole tone, even wider than the major tone, exists. This interval of two semitones, with ratio 256/225, is simply called the diminished third (for further details, see Five-limit tuning#Size of intervals).

In any system where there is only one size of major second, such as Pythagorean tuning and all meantone temperaments, the terms minor and major (or greater and lesser) are rarely used to qualify the two different kinds of whole tones, more commonly called major second and diminished third. Similarly, major semitones and minor semitones are more often and more appropriately referred to as minor seconds and augmented unisons (or diatonic and chromatic semitones).

Unlike almost all uses of the terms major and minor, these intervals span the same number of semitones in standard equal temperament. For example, a major third and minor third are about 71 cents different in just intonation, which are approximated by intervals one semitone apart. A major tone and minor tone are about 22 cents different in just intonation, and they are both composed of two semitones. Thus, to avoid ambiguity, it is preferable to call them greater tone and lesser tone (see also greater and lesser diesis).

Two major tones equal a ditone.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Whole step, whole tone, and tone are all variously used in sources.[1][2][3][4][5][6]
    One source says step is "chiefly US."[7]
    The preferred usage has been argued since the 19th century:
    • "Mr. M. in teaching the Diatonic scale calls a tone a step, and a semitone a half step; now, who ever heard of a step in music, or in sound ? Can any one suppose that a pupil will understand the meaning of tone and semitone any sooner by calling them step or half step, … ?" (1853)
    • "… to use the term tone for a whole step is certainly objectionable …" (1897)
  2. ^ Leta E. Miller, Fredric Lieberman (2006). Lou Harrison, p.72. ISBN 0252031202.
  3. ^ Leta E. Miller, ed. (1988). Lou Harrison: Selected keyboard and chamber music, 1937-1994, p.xliii. ISBN 9780895794147.
  4. ^ a b Royal Society (Great Britain) (1880, digitized Feb 26, 2008). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Volume 30, p.531. Harvard University.



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