Music Theory Education


12. Tones and Semitones

12. tones and semitones

Grade 1. lesson 12 tones and semitones

What are tones and semitones?


To help to understand, it will make it easier if we use part of the piano keyboard.

Piano keyboard showing tones and semitones


The eight keys used here from C to C are the keys you will find in the scale called

C Major.
There are five pairs of Tones, and Two pairs of Semitones.

The letter T stands for 'Tone' and the letter S is for 'Semitone'

The smallest distance between two notes is a semitone.

You will see on the piano keys, between E/F and between B/C there is no black key.

therefore, these two pairs of white keys are a semitone

All the other keys have a black key between the white keys, so they are a tone.

scale showing tones and semitones


Tones and Semitones in Major Scales


Scale of C major showing Root note tones and semitones

                                                                              Root     T         T         S          T         T         T          S          


Why did we call the first note Root?

Because there are eight notes in a Major Scale.

The first note is the Tonic, a vocalist would refer to this note as 'doh'
  as in the singing scale   'doh  ra  mi  fa  soh  la  te  doh'

R.The R stands for Root, it means the first note in the scale is the Root Note,
also called the 'Tonic Note'

T. The T stands for Tone, meaning there is another note between the two notes.

S. The S stands for Semitone, meaning there is no note between the two notes.

The eight notes of the Major Scale can be divided into two groups containing four notes.

Two tetrachords


        Each of these groups are called a 'Tetrachord'

The word (Tetra) is Greek which means 4.

chord = a string of notes.

The pattern of    R  T  T  S   T  T  T  S  

If you follow this pattern, making sure you play the semitones in the correct place,
you will be able to play all the major scales, starting on any key.

It's great! try it out for yourself...

music theory lessons grade one


Music Theory Lessons Grade 1

Containing 18 detailed Lessons

This book contains all the information for tones and semitones
required for grade one examination, set in lesson12 of this book

  The contents of this music theory lessons book being superb value ideal for all students
  embarking upon learning Music Theory.

  The proven results from many of our students, will guarantee you discover the easy approach
  to learning Music Theory along with playing any instrument is something to be enjoyed.
  Discover the entertainment and pleasure you receive while working your way
  through these so easy to follow lessons.

  Join the many students who have purchased Music Theory Lessons and gained the highest
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  This book along with the grades 1 to 5 is following closely with the syllabus of the ABRSM

Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music

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When writing music in any key other than the C Major, we need to use the

Sharps, flats, and Naturals.

This is because of the Tones and Semitones.

So, let's take a look at some notes using these signs.


tones and semitones



Tones and Semitones

Tones and Semitones



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