In the article “augmented, diminished and perfect intervals”, the nomenclatures augmented and diminished were only applied for the 4th and 5th degrees. However we will see now that these names can be used for other degrees too. In this case, for degrees that already have the “major” and “minor” denominations, the augmented nomenclature will mean a semitone above the “major” nomenclature. For example:
- The major second degree has one tone of tonic distance. The augmented second degree has one and a half tone of tonic distance.
- The major third degree has two tones of tonic distance. The augmented third degree has two and a half tones of tonic distance.
In the same way, “diminished” nomenclature means a semitone below the “minor” nomenclature. Examples:
- The minor third degree has one and a half tone of tonic distance. The diminished third degree has one tone of tonic distance.
- The minor seventh degree has 5 tones of tonic distance. The diminished seventh degree has 4 and a half tones of tonic distance.
Summarizing the concept of degrees
Well, let’s summarize all that we saw until now about degrees, to make it really clear.
In case of you still have any difficulty thinking in tones and semitones, follow this study with the diagram below (where ST means “semitone” and T means “Tone”):
For all degrees we will have the following distances:
Using the example of C as first degree:
Major 2nd – it is 1 tone front the tonic (D)
Minor 2nd – it is a half tone from the tonic (Db)
Augmented 2nd – it is 1 and a half tone from the tonic (D#)
Diminished 2nd – It does not exist
Observation: We chose to write the accidents related to D here because this is the note of the second degree in relation to C. We could have written, for example, Eb instead of D#, but this idea here is to think in D.
Major 3rd – it is 2 tones from the tonic (E)
Minor 3rd – it is 1 and a half tone from the tonic (Eb)
Augmented 3rd – it is 2 and a half tones from the tonic (E#)
Diminished 3rd – it is 1 tone from the tonic (Ebb)
Observation: Only to emphasize, we put all the accidents here related to E, because it is the third degree of C. For this Ebb appeared instead of D. This way, the logic is clearer. We will go on following this induction.
Other musical intervals
Perfect 4th – it is 2 and a half tones from the tonic (F)
Augmented 4th – it is 3 tones from the tonic (F#)
Diminished 4th – it is 2 tones from the tonic (Fb)
Perfect 5th – it is 3 and a half tones from the tonic (G)
Augmented 5th – it is 4 tones from the tonic (G#)
Diminished 5th – it is 3 tones from the tonic (Gb)
Major 6th – it is 4 and a half tones from the tonic (A)
Minor 6th – it is 4 tones from the tonic (Ab)
Augmented 6th – it is 5 tones from the tonic (A#)
Diminished 6th – It is 3 and a half tones from the tonic (Abb)
Major 7th – it is 5 and a half tones from the tonic (B)
Minor 7th – it is 5 tones from the tonic (Bb)
Augmented 7th – it is 6 tones from the tonic (B#)
Diminished 7th – it is 4 and a half tones from the tonic (Bbb)
Perhaps it may seem unnecessary this definition that we showed now, this is why the augmented second degree is the same as the minor third degree, for example. This could look like a created thing only to confuse us. Well, actually, there is no need of using this “augmented” and “diminished” nomenclature for the degrees that already have “major” and “minor” definition. But, it can help us.
Just a second: “Help us! – Did you say it right?!”
That is it. Imagine that we want create a chord that has a specific triad. Let’s create this triad with the diminished fifth instead of the perfect fifth, ok? Let’s say Do (C) minor with diminished fifth. As it is a minor chord, we already know that the third degree is minor:
First degree: C
Minor third degree: Eb
Diminished fifth: Gb
This is our Do (C) minor with diminished fifth.
Let’s say now that the vocalist of the band asks to add the A note to this chord. Everything is ok. We added the A note, but how will we call this chord? The A note is major sixth degree, so the chord will be called: “minor C with diminished fifth and major sixth”.
Ok, until here we didn’t use any new concept. This chord has only 4 notes (tetrad) and gained a huge and complicated name. The common tetrads that we know have simple names (like B minor seventh, F major seventh, etc.), but our Dm6(b5) it is hard to visualize because of this name. Let’s apply, then, the concepts that we just saw. The major sixth degree can also be called as diminished seventh degree. This is interesting to visualize, because in our tetrad would have basic degrees 1, 3, 5 and 7 (what is more common and easy to visualize instead of 1, 3, 5 and 6).
Nice. But… Did this make anything in our nomenclature? Yes! As we have a common tetrad (degrees 1, 3, 5 and 7) and two of these degrees are diminished (fifth and seventh), it was decided that this chord would be called “diminished chord”. In other words, instead of “minor C with diminished fifth and major sixth” we have “C diminished”.
That was just a example of application to this terminology. There are other situations where you will also see these concepts, so it is good that you know this nomenclature to not be scared when you see “augmented third degree” written in some place, for example. It is just a reference question.
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