Pronunciation: SEH-mee-tone

What is Semitone?

A semitone is also known as a halftone or half step in Western music. It is defined as the smallest distance between two notes.

Key Takeaways

  1. A semitone is also called the half note or half step in Western musical terminologies.
  2. A semitone is considered to be the smallest interval of notes.
  3. Semitone creates the most dissonant sound when played harmonically.

Understanding Semitone

Considered to be the smallest interval in any kind of music normally heard, it is used intentionally to create a dissonant sound when used harmonically.

For example, a semitone is G to a G-sharp or an E to an E-sharp, and so on. In an octave, there are 12 semitones. The condition of having semitones in a musical composition is called Hemitonia; whereas a composition without is called an Anhemitonia. Therefore, a musical scale with semitones is called Hemitonic.

When playing the piano, a semitone is the distance between a white key to the black key nearest it on the piano keyboard. In the instance of B to C, or E to F, both notes of the semitone are white.

Related Terms

Chromatic A chromatic scale is a 12-pitch scale, each being a semi note or half-step, which are above or below the last note. more

Pentatonic Scale Pentatonic is a musical scale that consists of 5 notes per octave, as opposed to the 7 notes commonly found on a… more

Anacrusis An anacrusis is a note or a series of notes found before the beginning of the body of the musical composition. more

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