What Is Whole Step, Half Step And How Is It Related To Chromatic Scale?

Lesson 4: Chromatic Scale, Whole Note & Half Note

Read about the chromatic scale pattern and the relationship between the whole steps and half steps.

What is the chromatic scale?

The chromatic scale is a musical series with twelve notes each having a different pitch and placed semitones apart.

There’s a standard rhythmic arrangement between the natural notes and the enharmonic equivalents based on the predefined frequency range.

If we arrange all the notes based on the standard formula, we should hear a chromatic scale as shown in the illustration.

C, C♯/ D♭, D, D♯/E♭, E, F, F♯/G♭, G, G♯/A♭, A, A♯, B, C

Chromatic Scale
Chromatic Scale

What is half step or semitone?

A half step, semitone or a half-tone is the smallest musical interval commonly used in Western music.

Here’s one more definition.

A semitone is an interval between adjacent notes in a 12-tone chromatic scale.

Musical notes spaced a semitone apart sounds dissonant when sounded in succession.

The half-step is the distance between the adjacent black and white keys.

The musical note change from white key (C) to the black key (C♯) is known as a half step. Similarly moving from black key (C♯) to the white key (D) is a half step.

Note: We will discuss about the sharp and flat symbols in our next lesson. Until then just consider them as the notes with different pitch.

Whole Step & Half Step
Whole Step & Half Step

What is the whole step?

A whole tone comprises two semitones.

Moving from a white key to another white key is a whole step, except the note switch between BC and EF which are half steps.

Let’s understand with an illustration.

So, the musical note change from C to D, D to E, F to G, G to A, A to B are all considered a whole step.

However, the distance between musical note B and note C is always a half step. Similarly, the distance between musical note E and note F is always a half step.

The notes like E♯, F♭, B♯, and C♭ doesn’t exist for practical reasons because there is no such place for these notes in the chromatic scale.

The interval switch between each note in a chromatic scale may sound good or bad based on the interval scheme, consonant, and dissonant characteristics of the notes.

Now the question is:

What are these symbols – sharp ♯ and flat ♭?

Thanks for reading my 74th article in the series 100-day music blogging challenge. Stay tuned for more such informative articles.

100 Days Music Blogging Challenge Music Theory Lessons

Author: Bharat

Hi, I'm Bharat. An artist, blogger, musician and digital marketing professional dedicated to sharing musing and stories about music, art and mindful resonance! Follow me @bharatpc

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