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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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Next UK ABRSM Paper-based Theory Exams Grades 6-8:
Tue 16th November 2021 [Grades 1-5 available online on demand from Aug 2021]
Next UK Trinity Paper-based Theory Exams Grades 1-8:
Sat 6th November 2021

Grade One Music Theory - Lesson 10: Tones and Semitones

Suitable for:  ABRSM Grade 1   Trinity Grade 1   GCSE   AP Music Theory Beginners 


Semitones (Half Steps)

A semitone (or "half step" in the USA) is the smallest distance between two different notes.

Let's use the piano keyboard to look at some examples of semitones.

piano keyboard

If two notes are as close as possible on the piano keyboard, the distance between them is a semitone

Find E and F next to each other on the piano keyboard.

The distance between E and F is a semitone; it's not possible to squeeze another note in between them, because there is nothing between them on the piano keyboard.

no notes between semitones on the keyboard - music theory


 Now find A and B flat. The distance between A and B flat is also a semitone.

no notes between semitones on a keyboard - music theory


Tones (Whole Steps)

If there is one note between the two notes we are looking at, the distance between those two notes is called a tone. A tone is the same distance as two semitones.

Find G and A on the keyboard. G-A is a tone. We can squeeze a G sharp/A flat between them.

one note between tones on a keyboard - music theory


E-F sharp is a tone. F natural sits between them. 

example of a tone (whole step) - music theory


List of Semitones (Half Steps)

Here is a list of the most common semitones:

C - C#/Db (C# and Db are the same note on the piano keyboard)

C#/Db - D

D - D#/Eb

D#/Eb - E

E - F

F - F#/Gb

F#/Gb - G

G - G#/Ab

G#/Ab - A

A - A#/Bb

A#/Bb - B

B - C


List of Tones (Whole Steps)

C - D

C#/Db - D#-Eb

D - E

D#/Eb - F

E - F#/Gb

F - G

F#/Gb - G#/Ab

G - A

G#/Ab - A#/Bb

A - B

A#/Bb - C

B - C#/Db



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