# Intervals in scale context

Does the intervals in a scale context sounds different from playing it without any notes in the middle? example to clarify: if i played the major scale ascendingily (C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C) does every interval in it sound the same when i play it like (C-D),(C-E),(C-G),etc..? Im confused i feel like they sound different.

• Can you explain what you mean by "they sound different"? Being those intervals different, they should sound different. Jan 5, 2022 at 9:16
• Perfect forth for example, if you played C-D-E-F ascendingily the F (perfect forth) will sound different from playing it C then F (skipping the notes in the middle). am i right ?
– Edd
Jan 5, 2022 at 9:43
• Well, playing 4 notes or playing just the first and the last is not the same: in the first case you are listening to 3 intervals, in the latter you're listening to just one. But the F will still be a perfect fourth from the C. Do you mean that when you play the scale you are perceiving a different F than when directly jumping from C to F? Jan 5, 2022 at 9:46
• Depending on the tuning, there might be two or more slightly different perfect fourth intervals. So yes, it's possible for intervals to be different depending on the context, but this difference doesn't necessarily depend on whether you get there by a series of steps or by a leap. Jan 5, 2022 at 9:59
• @musicmante Yes that's what i mean
– Edd
Jan 5, 2022 at 10:40

The only reason they 'sound the same' is that they're all diatonic - they all belong to the key of C.

The consecutive intervals (C>D, E>F, A>B etc.) are either one tone or one semitone. Starting from C, and using that as the lower note, all intervals are different. C>D =tone. C>E = M3, C>F = P4, C>G = P5. I don't understand how, say, C>D can sound anything like say, C>B !!

From your comment, play C D E F then just play C F. That C and that F haven't changed at all, and the two will sound the same (maybe not to you!!) played with D E in between or straight off.

Possibly you're playing on a non-12tet instrument, where just about every interval will vary, very slightly. On piano or guitar, both 12tet instruments, each and every note will always sound the same, whereas on, say, violin or trombone, which can play notes in just intonation, (for example), notes can be played, that sound at slightly different pitches from those found in 12tet.

• Thanks you. But i mean in my comment if i played C>D>E>F melodically not harmonically the F will sound different from playing C>F melodically too, right ?
– Edd
Jan 5, 2022 at 10:23

You don't specify what instrument you're playing, but the wording makes it sound like there's no way that the pitches are actually changing, just your perception of them. (If this were an instrument like a violin or flute, which can adjust the intonation of individual notes, then maybe the F is actually different when approaching with intervallic vs scalar motion).

If this is a question about perception, then it's difficult to answer because perception is inherently subjective. But there might be a reasonable explanation. The phenomenon is: "If I play C-D-E-F, and then C-F, the F that I approach by a fourth sounds different in some way than the F that I approach stepwise." The explanation might be that juxtaposing two things right next to each other makes their difference more obvious than when separating them with degrees of change.

To use a visual analogy: Here's a quick image of colored squares:

The top row is a list related colors, gradually changing from light to dark. On the second row, I juxtapose the lightest color alongside the darkest. That bottom square is in fact the same color as the farthest one to the right, but we feel that it's slightly different because of its context. There are similar optical illusions like the "checker shadow" or Cornsweet illusion in which colors that are the same appear different because of their surrounding context.

Another, more complicated, explanation, relies on tonal function. If you'll indulge my microsoft-paint skills again:

Here is an image with two stick figures. The one of the left is standing upright; the one on the right is leaning to the right. The leaning stance means something to us; the figure on the right seems to be leaning "away" from the one of the left. The situation suggests that the figure on the right wants to avoid or escape from the one on the left. Here's another image:

This time both stick figures are the exact same ones; I just moved the upright figure to the right of the leaning one. This time we perceive the leaning figure in a totally different way. Since it's leaning "toward" the upright figure, it expresses aggression or attraction.

Similarly, it's possible that when you play "C-D-E-F," the scalar motion (combined with our centuries-ingrained sense of tonal harmony) leads us to expect a "G" next, but when you play "C-F," you're willing to hear it in a more static, plagal way—that is, your ear is content to "stop" on "F," perhaps even construing it as part of an F major chord. So in the scalar version, you hear the "F" as "leaning" towards an implied "G," but in the intervallic version it "stands upright" and leads nowhere.

When you say notes "sound different," that means the listener's experience of them is different. This is certainly possible, as music is a language, and the order of musical relationships can affect their perceived meaning.

There are issues with tuning. On the piano, some scale intervals are a little "off," while the perfect 4th is very close to harmonic tuning.

Relative changes and relationships are very important in music, so I think you sense of this makes sense.

..if i played the major scale ascendingily (C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C) does every interval in it sound the same when i play it like (C-D),(C-E),(C-G),etc..?

If you put that into relative terms write it out with intervals...

(C M2 D M2 E m2 F M2 G M2 A M2 B m2 C)

(C M2 D),(C M3 E),(C P5 G)

...`M2` is major second, `m2` minor second, `M3` major third, `P5` perfect fifth.

So, you can see that only the `C-D` is the same between the two cases.

One way to describe the difference is conjunct or scalar motion versus disjunct or chordal motion which can also be called arpeggiation.

Conjunct/scalar will be all in half and whole steps, `m2` and `M2`, but the disjunct/chordal/arpeggiation will be lots of thirds and fourth/fifths.

If I follow your description, when you sing, for example `C D E` versus `C E`, you have a different "sound" for those two arrivals on `E`, but I suspect the difference is not that you have two different pitches for the `E`s, but that getting to `E` by conjunct steps versus a disjunct leap, gives it a different "sound" or "feel". Personally, I might say the conjunct approach is a bit "softer" and the disjunct leap is a bit more "assertive", or something along those lines.

The effect may be even more noticeable between `(C D E F)` and `(C-F)` where `F` is approached by a half step versus perfect fourth.

No, on the same instrument, played by the same person, the F on the top of C - F is exactly the same as the F on the top of C - D - E - F. I really don't think trying to analyse any possible difference will be useful.

Here's a possibly more productive question.

Play the C major scale C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C. Now, with that scale still in your head, play the Perfect 4th C - F. Now play D - G, another Perfect 4th. Try E - A and G - C as well. (Not F - B, that isn't a Perfect 4th, it's a Diminished 4th.)

In the context of C major, do all those Perfect 4ths feel different?

• They probably will do - to the OP. Hence the question!
– Tim
Jan 5, 2022 at 16:56
• But, this is a different case, because those perfect fourth will all be obviously different by pitch. The crux of the OP's question seems to be the type of motion to arrive at a certain pitch. Jan 5, 2022 at 17:07
• And by relationship to a C major framework. A much more definite and interesting difference than whatever @Edd is (almost certainly) just imagining he hears in the original question. Jan 5, 2022 at 18:36