What are Whole Steps (Whole Tones) and Half Steps (Semitones)?

A whole step (or whole tone in British English) is a distance of two sharps or two flats. A half step (or semitone in British English) is a distance of one sharp or one flat. For example, the distance between C and D is a whole step, because between C and D there is a distance of two sharps (from C to C# and from C# to D).

Simple, isn’t it? To make it even clearer, nothing better than a few exercises:

What is the distance between the G and B notes? Let’s check how many sharps (semitones) there are between G and B:

distance whole step half step

Therefore, there is a distance of 4 sharps, totaling 2 whole tones (or 4 semitones). Now that you know how to tell the distance between notes, try to find the distance between D and F. Then check it out below.

tones semitones distance

Therefore, the distance is 3 semitones.

On the instruments: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, ukulele, among others, each fret of the instrument corresponds to a semitone.

Go to: Guitar notes and piano notes

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