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Joe McGowan Music

Tones and Semitones

How to Pass National 5 Music, Concepts at Work (page 4)

Play/sing a few tones and semitones and listen carefully to their characteristic sound. Notice that semitones seem to ‘lean’ towards the second note, slightly discordantly, whereas tones are more harmonious.

A classic semitone sound can be heard in the main ‘shark’ theme (played on cello) from the film ‘Jaws.’ (Music by John Williams, 1975.) Click here to listen to this.


ctivity Time Exercise

Other ‘fractions’ of a tone such as quarter tones (called microtones) can be achieved by, for example, bending a note on a stringed instrument.

Most pitched musical instruments are capable of producing tones and semitones.

Audio Example 1. Click ‘play’ to hear the example below

All of the adjacent keys on a piano or keyboard are a semitone apart (see the Reference Page of this website). Two semitones make a tone. 12 successive semitones produce a one octave chromatic scale.

Audio Example 2. Click ‘play’ to hear the example below

One octave chromatic scale beginning on the note C

National 5 Music

Tone and Semitone