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Music Theory for Guitar - Intervals - the Tritone or the Diminished Fifth

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Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - Intervals - the Sevenths Next page: Music Theory for Guitar - Intervals - inversions

Intervals - the Tritone or the Diminished Fifth

The last interval we will cover in this first part on intervals, is the Tritone, or the Diminished Fifth.

The tritone is three whole steps above the root. It can also be labeled an augmented fourth, as it is a fourth with the fourth note raised a half step compared to the perfect fourth. The Diminished Fifthhas two whole steps and two half steps. It is called diminished because the fifth is lowered a half step compared to the perfect fifth. One does not need an advance knowledge of mathematics to see that two whole steps and two half steps equals three whole steps. And that is why I have included them in the same example: The ear don't chop an interval into whole and half steps. And they sound the same. There is only one tritone in the C-major scale: F-B.

Go to my Ear Training Lesson for the the diminished fifth in the C-major scale: B-F

Notice that the tritone is F-B, and the diminished fifth is B-F, and remember that the distance between the notes in a tritone and a diminished fifth is the same. The Tritone / Diminished fifth divides the scale into two equal parts. You should also notice that both F and B are included in a G7 chord, and as we will see later: These are the two most important notes in this chord.

The Tritone in the V7-I change

The tritone / diminished fifth is a dissonant interval. But does not sound unfriendly or aggressive. But they are not comfortable either. They sound vague, restless and homeless, and they ask to be resolved and taken home. That is why it is so important as part of the G7-chord. It creates a tension that is resolved when going to the root chord, C-major. Listen to the example given to the right, where the B goes up to C and the F goes down to E. These two minor second movements, one up and one down, is really what creates the V7-I change. We will come back to this in a later lesson.

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