• #### "Physical" versus "Musical" distances?

From Steven Charles White@21:1/5 to All on Thu Aug 27 19:52:06 2015
I'm curious what language/terminology you'd use to explain the difference between distances measured in semitones and distances measures in intervals.

Personally, I tend to use language like "physical" and "musical", respectively. So I might say that three semitones is a physical distance (because semitones exist on physical instruments such as a piano or a guitar) and that "minor third" and "augmented
second" (for example) are musical distances (aka intervals). Those examples happen both to be three semitones in size, physically.

I know that's not perfect (for example, folks might think of feet and inches when they think of physical distance) but is it good enough? What would you recommend instead?

Thanks!
Steve

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• From e7m@21:1/5 to Steven Charles White on Fri Aug 28 19:21:29 2015
On Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 9:52:09 PM UTC-5, Steven Charles White wrote:
I'm curious what language/terminology you'd use to explain the difference between distances measured in semitones and distances measures in intervals.

Personally, I tend to use language like "physical" and "musical", respectively. So I might say that three semitones is a physical distance (because semitones exist on physical instruments such as a piano or a guitar) and that "minor third" and "
augmented second" (for example) are musical distances (aka intervals). Those examples happen both to be three semitones in size, physically.

I know that's not perfect (for example, folks might think of feet and inches when they think of physical distance) but is it good enough? What would you recommend instead?

Thanks!
Steve

well, Wouldn't it all depend upon the context and there are a lot of contexts involved in this concept.

Take the semitone for example. its half of a tone.
take the aug2 or m3, they are each a tone and a half.

what does each or either of these statements mean to you?
with only that to go on, the semitone is only used to define define an interval. but the interval chosen in the example means some specific things. In the harmonic minor scale, the augmented 2nd is a scale step but the minor third can be a melodic skip
or it can represent two scald steps.

The minor third is the one of the very first melodic intervals that children naturally sing while playing yet the augmented 2nd is considered a very dificult interval to sing. They even created the melodic scale to remove this hideous interval for
singers.

The point I am alluding to is that you use the terminology that applies to the use of term in any given instance.

We use intervals to build chords, to describe melodic distances, semitones is more of an exact measurement that has its own special context, the context of using a tempered scale. we divide the octave in to 12 equal parts and we call each of distances
one semitone.

In all the instances that I can recall where I use the term semitone, it is always used as a specific measurement used in music except possibly in analyzing 12-tone music where one might use this measurement to describe an interval. But even in that case,
the fact that you use the term semitone, I find that it is talking about a specific distance between two tones. But unlike an inch, the semitone is not a specific spacial measurement. if you take an octave and measure the distance between the semitones,
the lowest semitone is larger as measured by cycles per second of vibration than the one above it and so on and so on.

So what am I really saying? Not much. But semitones do seem to be the way we can measure intervals in a musical context Beyond that, intervals will have a different meaning depending upon how they are used and the context in which we use them.

By convention, we build diminished chords in with minoor thirds. We could say that in this case the minor third would be a unit of measure. But in this case, you can only use it to build or measure 4 unites. after the 4th interval you are repeating the
same thing up an octave.

For me, personally, I would generally say that a semitone is one twelft of an octave. U can also use it to measure resolution. "the augmented 4th resolves outwardly with both tones moving one semitone (well, I would generally say a half step) outward to
a minor 6th. OR that it contracts a half step or semitone to a major 3rd.

BUT if you are analyzing 12 tone music, there are some that would use semitones to measure the distance between tones instead of terms like major or minor.

Music is contextually a nightmare. If you want to be clear, you must use what ever fits the occasion and accurately describes what you want to explain.

LJS

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• From Steven Charles White@21:1/5 to All on Sat Aug 29 16:39:19 2015
On Friday, August 28, 2015 at 7:21:31 PM UTC-7, e7m wrote:
On Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 9:52:09 PM UTC-5, Steven Charles White wrote:
I'm curious what language/terminology you'd use to explain the difference between distances measured in semitones and distances measures in intervals.

Personally, I tend to use language like "physical" and "musical", respectively. So I might say that three semitones is a physical distance (because semitones exist on physical instruments such as a piano or a guitar) and that "minor third" and "
augmented second" (for example) are musical distances (aka intervals). Those examples happen both to be three semitones in size, physically.

I know that's not perfect (for example, folks might think of feet and inches when they think of physical distance) but is it good enough? What would you recommend instead?

Thanks!
Steve

well, Wouldn't it all depend upon the context and there are a lot of contexts involved in this concept.

Take the semitone for example. its half of a tone.
take the aug2 or m3, they are each a tone and a half.

what does each or either of these statements mean to you?
with only that to go on, the semitone is only used to define define an interval. but the interval chosen in the example means some specific things. In the harmonic minor scale, the augmented 2nd is a scale step but the minor third can be a melodic
skip or it can represent two scald steps.

The minor third is the one of the very first melodic intervals that children naturally sing while playing yet the augmented 2nd is considered a very dificult interval to sing. They even created the melodic scale to remove this hideous interval for
singers.

The point I am alluding to is that you use the terminology that applies to the use of term in any given instance.

We use intervals to build chords, to describe melodic distances, semitones is more of an exact measurement that has its own special context, the context of using a tempered scale. we divide the octave in to 12 equal parts and we call each of distances
one semitone.

In all the instances that I can recall where I use the term semitone, it is always used as a specific measurement used in music except possibly in analyzing 12-tone music where one might use this measurement to describe an interval. But even in that
case, the fact that you use the term semitone, I find that it is talking about a specific distance between two tones. But unlike an inch, the semitone is not a specific spacial measurement. if you take an octave and measure the distance between the
semitones, the lowest semitone is larger as measured by cycles per second of vibration than the one above it and so on and so on.

So what am I really saying? Not much. But semitones do seem to be the way we can measure intervals in a musical context Beyond that, intervals will have a different meaning depending upon how they are used and the context in which we use them.

By convention, we build diminished chords in with minoor thirds. We could say that in this case the minor third would be a unit of measure. But in this case, you can only use it to build or measure 4 unites. after the 4th interval you are repeating the
same thing up an octave.

For me, personally, I would generally say that a semitone is one twelft of an octave. U can also use it to measure resolution. "the augmented 4th resolves outwardly with both tones moving one semitone (well, I would generally say a half step) outward
to a minor 6th. OR that it contracts a half step or semitone to a major 3rd.

BUT if you are analyzing 12 tone music, there are some that would use semitones to measure the distance between tones instead of terms like major or minor.

Music is contextually a nightmare. If you want to be clear, you must use what ever fits the occasion and accurately describes what you want to explain.

LJS

Thanks, LJS, that all makes sense, and helps me. With this question, I wasn't looking for ways of explaining how and when you'd use semitones vs intervals, so I shouldn't have said "how to explain the difference between", but rather "how to phrase the
fact that there are these two things, thereby implying that they oughtn't to be conflated". It's really a question about terminology, not about concepts.

I've also seen "width" used, as in "the width of a M3 is four semitones" and I like that. But I think I'll avoid the word "physical" from now on because that does feel like it has potential for confusion.

Cheers!
Steve

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• From e7m@21:1/5 to Steven Charles White on Mon Aug 31 04:50:56 2015
On Saturday, August 29, 2015 at 6:39:21 PM UTC-5, Steven Charles White wrote:
On Friday, August 28, 2015 at 7:21:31 PM UTC-7, e7m wrote:
On Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 9:52:09 PM UTC-5, Steven Charles White wrote:
I'm curious what language/terminology you'd use to explain the difference between distances measured in semitones and distances measures in intervals.

Personally, I tend to use language like "physical" and "musical", respectively. So I might say that three semitones is a physical distance (because semitones exist on physical instruments such as a piano or a guitar) and that "minor third" and "
augmented second" (for example) are musical distances (aka intervals). Those examples happen both to be three semitones in size, physically.

I know that's not perfect (for example, folks might think of feet and inches when they think of physical distance) but is it good enough? What would you recommend instead?

Thanks!
Steve

well, Wouldn't it all depend upon the context and there are a lot of contexts involved in this concept.

Take the semitone for example. its half of a tone.
take the aug2 or m3, they are each a tone and a half.

what does each or either of these statements mean to you?
with only that to go on, the semitone is only used to define define an interval. but the interval chosen in the example means some specific things. In the harmonic minor scale, the augmented 2nd is a scale step but the minor third can be a melodic
skip or it can represent two scald steps.

The minor third is the one of the very first melodic intervals that children naturally sing while playing yet the augmented 2nd is considered a very dificult interval to sing. They even created the melodic scale to remove this hideous interval for
singers.

The point I am alluding to is that you use the terminology that applies to the use of term in any given instance.

We use intervals to build chords, to describe melodic distances, semitones is more of an exact measurement that has its own special context, the context of using a tempered scale. we divide the octave in to 12 equal parts and we call each of
distances one semitone.

In all the instances that I can recall where I use the term semitone, it is always used as a specific measurement used in music except possibly in analyzing 12-tone music where one might use this measurement to describe an interval. But even in that
case, the fact that you use the term semitone, I find that it is talking about a specific distance between two tones. But unlike an inch, the semitone is not a specific spacial measurement. if you take an octave and measure the distance between the
semitones, the lowest semitone is larger as measured by cycles per second of vibration than the one above it and so on and so on.

So what am I really saying? Not much. But semitones do seem to be the way we can measure intervals in a musical context Beyond that, intervals will have a different meaning depending upon how they are used and the context in which we use them.

By convention, we build diminished chords in with minoor thirds. We could say that in this case the minor third would be a unit of measure. But in this case, you can only use it to build or measure 4 unites. after the 4th interval you are repeating
the same thing up an octave.

For me, personally, I would generally say that a semitone is one twelft of an octave. U can also use it to measure resolution. "the augmented 4th resolves outwardly with both tones moving one semitone (well, I would generally say a half step) outward
to a minor 6th. OR that it contracts a half step or semitone to a major 3rd.

BUT if you are analyzing 12 tone music, there are some that would use semitones to measure the distance between tones instead of terms like major or minor.

Music is contextually a nightmare. If you want to be clear, you must use what ever fits the occasion and accurately describes what you want to explain.

LJS

Thanks, LJS, that all makes sense, and helps me. With this question, I wasn't looking for ways of explaining how and when you'd use semitones vs intervals, so I shouldn't have said "how to explain the difference between", but rather "how to phrase the
fact that there are these two things, thereby implying that they oughtn't to be conflated". It's really a question about terminology, not about concepts.

I've also seen "width" used, as in "the width of a M3 is four semitones" and I like that. But I think I'll avoid the word "physical" from now on because that does feel like it has potential for confusion.

Cheers!
Steve

Sorry, I answered the question the way I understood it. There are so many cross context terminology with musical terms I don't know how we can accurately communicate anything precisely to everyone, but your last paragraph above is an easy one. When you
speak of "width" you have, I think, found a good answer. If one is using the term width, semitones would be the most precise way to measure the interval especially in 12 tone. In tonal music, terms like m3 or Aug4 would work better as they are normal in
the context of tonal music but other than that, either method would answer the question for anyone that was familiar with both systems of musical analysis. But my only point was that context would be the determining factor of what should be used for the
most precise matching of terms.

Nice threat, however, and I enjoyed the fact that there IS a thread to respond to after all this time. Thanks.

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