in short i have the following question: What is the historical/scientific reason behind the naming convention of major/minor second instead of naming the major second "perfect" second?

More specific: I am aware that minor/major means different things for intervals and scales. As far as i got it the following is correct:

  • All intervals in a major scale are either perfect or major
  • A minor interval is equal to its major counterpart with the highest note being lowered by a semitone (so it is one semitone smaller)
  • This does not imply that all intervals in a natural minor key are either minor or perfect

However it is also true that all except the second interval in a natural minor scale (which is a major second) are minor intervals or perfect (prime,octave,fourth,fifth are perfect; third, sixth, seventh are minor). To me this seems a little bit arbitrary.

What is the scientific/historical reason for this? Is there any material you could recommend to help me understand how this came up?

All i could find in standard music theory textbooks is definitions that completely ignore the fact that this is not a very intuitive way of naming the second interval. I figured it might have something to do with the order of overtones in the overtone series but also was not able to find something specific.

Also i found this (somehow related) question by another user: Confusion about major and minor second intervals but it did not answer my question (it seems there was just some confusion about the major/minor terminology for scales and intervals)

P.S.: I learned music theory mainly in german language where many things have slightly different names. If something is unclear it might be a translation error so just let me know and i will try to clarify things.

Thank you for reading. I would highly appreciate your help with this.



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