What is the difference between major and minor in music?

2 Answers | Add Yours

stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The terms major and minor are used to identify the combination of a pattern of tones that make up a scale. In Western music, a scale is made up of eight pitches, with the first and eighth being one octave apart in pitch.

To visualize the changes between pitches as one changes notes in a scale, think of a piano keyboard. The difference in sound between any two immediately adjacent keys is called one half-step. This means that the difference in sound between a white key and the black key right next to it is one half-step. The difference in sound between keys that have one key between them is called one whole step.

A major scale follows a pattern of having whole step intervals between the first and second, second and third, fourth and fifth, fifth and sixth, and sixth and seventh pitches. A major scale uses a one-half step change in pitch between the third and fourth pitches and between the seventh and eighth pitch, the octave from the first pitch. On the piano keyboard, the C Major scale could be played as middle C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.

A minor scale changes differs from the pattern of intervals followed in a major scale in the following ways: the interval between the second and third pitches is a half-step instead of a whole step, the interval between the third and fourth pitches is a full step instead of a half-step, the interval between the fifth and sixth pitches is a half-step instead of a whole step, the interval between the sixth and seventh pitches is a whole step, and the interval between the seventh and eighth pitches is a whole step. On the piano keyboard, the C Minor scale could be played as middle C, D, E flat, F, G, A flat, B flat, C.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,991 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question