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A little philosophic discussion...

I've been struggling to understand the necessity of referring to fourths and fifths as "perfect," when "minor fourth" and "major fifth" would do the job just as well.

You could say, "well that's just what they were called throughout history," or "notes related as perfect intervals appear in each other's major scale" (and...?) but is there a good, logically consistent reason for them to be considered perfect?

This book from the nineteenth century is about the only reference I could find stating those intervals could be called major/minor...
they are called perfect intervals because they have such high consonance the same is used in cadences with perfect (V-I) and plagal (IV-I) using the dominant and subdominant to before ending on the tonic

i know it isnt a philosophical answer but it is essentially the most factual you can get on the topic..
Well, with fifths, both major and minor chords have perfect fifths. It wouldn't make sense to call it a major fifth, because it occurs in the minor chord too.

As for diminished and augmented fifths, diminished and augmented chords aren't really major or minor, therefore it wouldn't make sense to refer to the intervals as major or minor either, because then it would imply that the chords are either completely minor or completely major. For example, a diminished triad would be root, minor third, minor fifth. An augmented triad would be, well... something else.

This made me realize another point. You have diminished, perfect, AND augmented (three types of interval). You don't just have major and minor (two types). Most other intervals only have these two variations. I guess you can have augmented seconds and diminished sevenths, and a host of other possible exceptions, but for the most part, this is the rule (as far as I can conjecture).

I have no idea when it comes to fourths though.

they are called perfect intervals because they have such high consonance the same is used in cadences with perfect (V-I) and plagal (IV-I) using the dominant and subdominant to before ending on the tonic

i know it isnt a philosophical answer but it is essentially the most factual you can get on the topic..
Actually yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
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Quote by food1010

This made me realize another point. You have diminished, perfect, AND augmented (three types of interval). You don't just have major and minor (two types). Most other intervals only have these two variations. I guess you can have augmented seconds and diminished sevenths, and a host of other possible exceptions, but for the most part, this is the rule (as far as I can conjecture).

you are semi right with intervals.. you actually have 5 kinds of intervals: dim, aug, maj, min, and perfect.. perfect relates to a major 4th 5th or octave.. these 4ths 5ths and octaves can only become diminished and augmented they cannot be minor like your other major intervals, i would have stated this previously had some explanation for the use of the term 'perfect' branched from the use of intervals
Quote by food1010
I have no idea when it comes to fourths though.

Well, a fourth is just an inverted fifth, so it makes sense to use the same terminology.
Quote by food1010
This made me realize another point. You have diminished, perfect, AND augmented (three types of interval). You don't just have major and minor (two types). Most other intervals only have these two variations. I guess you can have augmented seconds and diminished sevenths, and a host of other possible exceptions, but for the most part, this is the rule (as far as I can conjecture).

If you flatten any minor interval by one semitone it becomes diminished and if you sharpen any major by one semitone it becomes augmented (eg. C to E, major 3rd, C to E# augmented third).
they are called perfect intervals because they have such high consonance...

That depends on who you ask/what period in history. Fourths have been and are at times considered a dissonance.

Well, with fifths, both major and minor chords have perfect fifths. It wouldn't make sense to call it a major fifth, because it occurs in the minor chord too.

Why couldn't a minor chord contain a major fifth? It's enough to say that the third determines whether the chord is major or minor, as we already do.
Quote by Dodeka
Why couldn't a minor chord contain a major fifth? It's enough to say that the third determines whether the chord is major or minor, as we already do.
You do agree that the fifth has a part in it, right? You wouldn't call an augmented chord major would you?
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Quote by food1010
You do agree that the fifth has a part in it, right? You wouldn't call an augmented chord major would you?

Triads contain fifths, yes, but whether they're major or minor depends on the third; it wouldn't matter if the fifth is called major or perfect.

An augmented chord is a major triad containing an augmented fifth. An augmented fifth would still be an augmented fifth even when a perfect fifth becomes a major fifth. Therefore, that chord name wouldn't need to be modified, either. The "augmented" just signifies the fifth was raised.
Last edited by Dodeka at Dec 28, 2009,
But then a chord with a minor 3rd and a minor 5th would surely be called... a minor chord(rather than diminished)?

More than enough reasons have been given in this thread. It makes it easier and it makes most sense.
Quote by Declan87
But then a chord with a minor 3rd and a minor 5th would surely be called... a minor chord(rather than diminished)?

Minor and major chords are so called because their thirds set them apart while their fifths are understood to be common. Augmented chords are so called because their fifth set them apart while their third is understood to be shared with a major chord. A diminished chords could be called a minor fifth chord.

Quote by Declan87
More than enough reasons have been given in this thread. It makes it easier and it makes most sense.

I can't find any of these reasons that hold up very well. How is it easier or make more sense? It just appears to be a needless complication.
Quote by Dodeka

Minor and major chords are so called because their thirds set them apart while their fifths are understood to be common. Augmented chords are so called because their fifth set them apart while their third is understood to be shared with a major chord. A diminished chords could be called a minor fifth chord.

I can't find any of these reasons that hold up very well. How is it easier or make more sense? It just appears to be a needless complication.

TBH, I think questioning and/or arguing over the system that's in place is a needless complication.
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Last edited by GuitarMunky at Dec 28, 2009,
Quote by Anteaterking
In even tempered systems, the intervals of a fourth and a fifth have no beats between the two notes.

Which even tempered systems? 12? The fourth and fifth are close to pure in 12-edo, but I can name even tempered systems in which the fifth isn't as pure as other intervals. 19-edo and 31-edo, for examples. Does "perfect" only mean close to Just then? What do we call fourths and fifths that aren't close to Just?

That's actually what raised the question for me. In this video (at about 6:40), we have a demonstration of 19-edo in which the minor third and major sixth are called perfect instead of fourths and fifths, due to their being very close to the 5-limit ratios. These intervals became doubly-prefixed. Fourths and fifths, singly prefixed before, are left with what?

If perfect is used to signify intervals that are close to Just, what if those intervals happen to not be fourths or fifths? What do we call them? There's no reason major and minor (which mean nothing more than wider and narrower) can't be applied to them.
Last edited by Dodeka at Dec 28, 2009,
The question has already been answered well. They're perfect because they have the "perfect" level of consonance. Saying this is a needless complication is like saying "Why call Grade A eggs 'Grade A' just because they're higher quality? We should call all eggs 'eggs'".
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I was under the impression that they were that way because of how consonant they were. "Perfect", in my mind, always implied a stable point for a scale. Fourths, Fifths, and Octaves are those stable points.

And, now that I've been thinking about it, it wouldn't fit in the 12-TET system to have diminished, minor, major AND augmented fifths/fourths. We would need to add two notes (one for minor/major fifth/fourth). The equal temperament would be thrown off.

EDIT: In that video, at 1:30 he says that he's not using 18-tones because it lacks a perfect fifth... this implies that even in the 19-tone system it still has a perfect fifth AND a perfect fourth (cause it's an inverted fifth).

And, yes, I would agree that "perfect" tones are the closest tones to being Just in a system.
Last edited by DiminishedFifth at Dec 28, 2009,
Quote by Kevy Absolution
The question has already been answered well. They're perfect because they have the "perfect" level of consonance.

I've already addressed why this isn't the case: the fourth is at times treated as a dissonance. In some situations, the augmented fourth is instead a consonance.

The question remains with a glaring absence of answers.
Quote by DiminishedFifth
And, now that I've been thinking about it, it wouldn't fit in the 12-TET system to have diminished, minor, major AND augmented fifths/fourths. We would need to add two notes (one for minor/major fifth/fourth). The equal temperament would be thrown off.

That is false. How could the temperament be thrown off? It is what it is.

A diminished fourth would remain as it is now; enharmonic to a major third. A major fourth (tritone) and minor fifth would be enharmonic. Everything fits.
Quote by Dodeka

That is false. How could the temperament be thrown off? It is what it is.

A diminished fourth would remain as it is now; enharmonic to a major third. A major fourth (tritone) and minor fifth would be enharmonic. Everything fits.

But when did major and minor intervals become enharmonic? Last I checked a major second and minor third weren't enharmonic. You would need to add a note for the major/minor fourth/fifth.
Quote by DiminishedFifth
But when did major and minor intervals become enharmonic?

As soon as one calls a perfect fourth a minor fourth, and a perfect fifth a major fifth...while using 12-edo. No pattern is broken; major intervals invert to minor ones across the board. In 12-edo, the half-octave inverts to itself. That's just a property of the tuning, not the interval naming system. In other tunings, the major fourth and minor fifth aren't enharmonic.

Quote by DiminishedFifth
Last I checked a major second and minor third weren't enharmonic. You would need to add a note for the major/minor fourth/fifth.

Last I checked, an augmented second and diminished third weren't enharmonic, either.
Whats the point?

Does a perfect fifth sound 'major' to you? Not to me.. Hence we don't call it thus. Does it sound minor? No, not that either. Perfect.
Same thing with a fourth.

A major interval becomes a minor if you flatten it, take it a half step down. In your invented terminology, it doesn't. The major fifth becomes a diminished fifth, or an augmented fourth.
There can't be just a major interval, without a minor counterpart and vice versa. It would be quite confusing if we had a minor fourth, but no major, only an augmented, and more so with a fifth, which is major, but no minor fifth exists, only diminished and augmented.

Another thing, yes, a triad is defined by the third. Why do you think this is? It's because the fifth is neither major, nor minor. Now if we play a minor third and a diminished fifth.. You get a diminished triad. The fifth does have a say. If we changed it's name to a major fifth, it would be confusing.

Perfect fifth is by far the most correct description in my eyes
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Quote by destroy_techno
Whats the point?

Just wondering is if greater consistency would be achieved in applying major/minor terminology to fourths and fifths.

Quote by destroy_techno
Does a perfect fifth sound 'major' to you? Not to me.. Hence we don't call it thus. Does it sound minor? No, not that either. Perfect.
Same thing with a fourth.

What do "major" and "minor" sound like? Major just means wider, and minor, narrower.

If you do want to bring subjectivity into this, major intervals are generally regarded as "brighter," and minor ones, "darker." Minor fourths and major fifths are consistent with this notion.

Quote by destroy_techno
A major interval becomes a minor if you flatten it, take it a half step down.

That's true.

Quote by destroy_techno
In your invented terminology, it doesn't. The major fifth becomes a diminished fifth, or an augmented fourth.
There can't be just a major interval, without a minor counterpart and vice versa. It would be quite confusing if we had a minor fourth, but no major, only an augmented, and more so with a fifth, which is major, but no minor fifth exists, only diminished and augmented.

That is false. A major fifth lowered becomes a minor fifth. A minor fourth raised becomes a major fourth. It all works the same way as with other intervals.

Quote by destroy_techno
Another thing, yes, a triad is defined by the third. Why do you think this is? It's because the fifth is neither major, nor minor. Now if we play a minor third and a diminished fifth.. You get a diminished triad. The fifth does have a say. If we changed it's name to a major fifth, it would be confusing.

Major and minor triads are differentiated by their third. They share a common fifth. It doesn't matter if it's called major. Augmented fifth triads have an augmented fifth, and minor fifth triads have a minor fifth. There are no breakdowns in our descriptive abilities.

None of this has any bearing on how much sense it would make to apply "major/minor" to fourths and fifths.
Last edited by Dodeka at Dec 28, 2009,
So then an augmented fourth and major fifth would be enharmonic? And a diminished fifth and minor fourth?

I guess it could work, although I don't see anything wrong with the current system, so there' be no point in changing it.

It seems like it might get messy with stacking thirds though...
Quote by isaac_bandits
So then an augmented fourth and major fifth would be enharmonic? And a diminished fifth and minor fourth?

In 12-edo, yes; that's how it would come out.

Quote by isaac_bandits
I guess it could work, although I don't see anything wrong with the current system, so there' be no point in changing it.

The current system isn't messed up to an unworkable extent.

Quote by isaac_bandits
It seems like it might get messy with stacking thirds though...

Really? A major third and a minor third (in either order) producing a major fifth wouldn't be a problem. Am I missing something?
Quote by Dodeka
Really? A major third and a minor third (in either order) producing a major fifth wouldn't be a problem. Am I missing something?

Maybe I was missing something.

I was thinking of this:

min3 + min3 = min5
maj3 + maj3 =/= maj5

But then I realized that seconds forming thirds already have a similar inconsistency.

My opinion is that either works, and either has some inconsistency, but is easy enough to understand, and since we use the term perfect, there's no need to change it.

Do you think that major/minor octaves would be good too?
If you say a major fourth is the same as a minor fifth, and a minor fourth is the same as a major third, then what would you call a fourth that is neither major nor minor?

In our system, there is one root, two seconds (major and minor), two thirds (major and minor), one fourth and one fifth, two sixths, and two sevenths. If you say a fourth can be major or minor, it seems you are describing a major third and an augmented fourth. There is no natural, PERFECT fourth in what you are trying to describe. At the moment, this is all I can seem to articulate in words, but no matter how I look at it, there is absolutely NO logical way that unaltered fourths and fifths could be called something other than perfect.

When you are talking about alternate temperaments, then the intervals we know as seconds, thirds, etc, are redefined or disregarded. That is irrelevant and has no place in this discussion.
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Quote by isaac_bandits
Do you think that major/minor octaves would be good too?

The octave is our basic interval of equivalence. A major octave would have to invert to a minor prime, and vice-versa. The unison is sort of a central reference, neither major nor minor (tending upward or downward). I don't think major/minor would apply to the prime; only how other intervals relate to it.

Quote by 6DgOfInTb
If you say a major fourth is the same as a minor fifth, and a minor fourth is the same as a major third, then what would you call a fourth that is neither major nor minor?

A minor fourth is not the same as a major third; a minor fourth would be used in place of a perfect fourth.

Quote by 6DgOfInTb
In our system, there is one root, two seconds (major and minor), two thirds (major and minor), one fourth and one fifth, two sixths, and two sevenths. If you say a fourth can be major or minor, it seems you are describing a major third and an augmented fourth. There is no natural, PERFECT fourth in what you are trying to describe. At the moment, this is all I can seem to articulate in words, but no matter how I look at it, there is absolutely NO logical way that unaltered fourths and fifths could be called something other than perfect.

Saying a fourth is major or minor would be to describe what would otherwise be called an augmented fourth or perfect fourth, respectively. To say there's "one fourth and one fifth" used in our system isn't true.

Quote by 6DgOfInTb
When you are talking about alternate temperaments, then the intervals we know as seconds, thirds, etc, are redefined or disregarded. That is irrelevant and has no place in this discussion.

I brought up other temperaments because there were some attempting to argue that enharmonic equivalencies somehow have a hand in dictating interval names.
Last edited by Dodeka at Dec 28, 2009,
Quote by Dodeka
What do "major" and "minor" sound like? Major just means wider, and minor, narrower.
Major intervals are generally more happy sounding than a minor interval, with the exception of maybe the seventh. The fifth is colourless on it's own. Hence the common powerchord, it's neither major nor minor, neither happy, nor sad. If we call it major, it would be understood as a happy sounding interval. which it isn't.

I have not questioned your version mathematically, the intervals fit, they just don't correspond to their name musically. A major fourth would be the tritone, which definitely is not a happy sounding interval.
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Quote by destroy_techno
Major intervals are generally more happy sounding than a minor interval, with the exception of maybe the seventh. The fifth is colourless on it's own. Hence the common powerchord, it's neither major nor minor, neither happy, nor sad. If we call it major, it would be understood as a happy sounding interval. which it isn't.

A fifth is what you could call a generally "bright" interval; a common characteristic associated with "major."

Quote by destroy_techno
A major fourth would be the tritone, which definitely is not a happy sounding interval.

It certainly can be, depending on the application. It "brightens" up the Lydian mode, for example. It's not a clear-cut dissonance (nor is the perfect or minor fourth a clear-cut consonance).
Quote by Dodeka
A fifth is what you could call a generally "bright" interval; a common characteristic associated with "major."

It certainly can be, depending on the application. It "brightens" up the Lydian mode, for example. It's not a clear-cut dissonance (nor is the perfect or minor fourth a clear-cut consonance).

Both depend on the following note. A fifth may be considered "bright" to some ears, but play a minor sixth or third afterward, and it does not sound so, due to it being part of the Aeolian mode.

I personally disagree with the augmented fourth sounding any happier than a perfect fourth. It may sound brighter, but the Ionian mode is generally more pleasing to hear. In my ears the augmented fourth still functions as a dissonance in this case.
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After thinking through it here is a conclusion I came to:

The interval of perfect unison is 1:1
The interval of a perfect octave is 2:1
The interval of a perfect fifth is 3:2
The interval of a perfect fourth is 4:3

These intervals use the smallest integers. Major and minor intervals use larger integers, whereas augmented and diminished intervals use the largest intervals.

According to Wikipedia, "Important intervals are those using the lowest integers, such as 1:1 (unison or prime), 2:1 (octave), 3:2 (perfect fifth), 4:3 (perfect fourth), etc."

"Important" can be subjective, but the fact that the differently named intervals fall into noticeably separate categories of ratios is pretty interesting.
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Quote by food1010
After thinking through it here is a conclusion I came to:

The interval of perfect unison is 1:1
The interval of a perfect octave is 2:1
The interval of a perfect fifth is 3:2
The interval of a perfect fourth is 4:3

These intervals use the smallest integers. Major and minor intervals use larger integers, whereas augmented and diminished intervals use the largest intervals.

And a perfect third is 5:4! Wait a minute, *no it isn't! What mysterious thing happened in there?

*Actually, it is considered a perfect major third sometimes. Why are other intervals doubly-prefixed in their Just or near-Just forms, whereas fourths and fifths aren't?! And what about the times fourths and fifths aren't close to Just (say, outside of 5 millioctaves)?
Quote by destroy_techno
Major intervals are generally more happy sounding than a minor interval, with the exception of maybe the seventh. The fifth is colourless on it's own. Hence the common powerchord, it's neither major nor minor, neither happy, nor sad. If we call it major, it would be understood as a happy sounding interval. which it isn't.

I have not questioned your version mathematically, the intervals fit, they just don't correspond to their name musically. A major fourth would be the tritone, which definitely is not a happy sounding interval.

Perfect fifths can sound happy. Play it melodically, rather than harmonically. The augmented fourth can also sound happy. Its the diminished fifth function of the tritone which is considered dark.

Do you understand a major seventh to be happy sounding interval? Go play a major seven dyad, and it doesn't sound happy at all.
And a perfect third is 5:4! Wait a minute, *no it isn't! What mysterious thing happened in there?Technically nothing different "happened." You have twelve notes which have certain relationships based on their frequencies.

This gives you no musical information. What someone (or a bunch of people over a period of time) along the line has done (inadvertently or not) is divided these thirteen (or twelve or infinite depending on how you look at it) intervals into a few different groups based on their functionality.

There's no one answer for why they did this. There is an answer but it's basically a compilation of a bunch of answers found in this thread.

At first I thought you were just looking for some ideas, but now it seems like you're just being stubborn and rejecting every idea people suggest.
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Quote by food1010
At first I thought you were just looking for some ideas, but now it seems like you're just being stubborn and rejecting every idea people suggest.

Nothing was ever presented in this thread that I hadn't already considered. I haven't rejected anything without a reason. I have tried very hard to find an angle from which to assail the logic of major/minor fourths and fifths (and support the logic of perfect fourths and fifths).

Happy/sad classifications corresponding to major/minor don't work.

Relative degrees of consonance/dissonance don't work.

Patterns of enharmonics lead us nowhere (and are tuning-specific).

So far, we don't have anything that destroys the idea of major/minor terminology being applied to fourths and fifths.
Quote by Dodeka
A diminished fourth would remain as it is now; enharmonic to a major third. A major fourth (tritone) and minor fifth would be enharmonic. Everything fits.

If we change a diminished fifth to a minor fifth, where does the diminished quality of a diminished chord come in? The equivalency and consistency makes sense yes, but it makes it a hell of a lot more complicated than it needs to be for diminished chords. Augmented chords don’t change much I gather.

I’m also having a hard time falling the tritone interval under the major and minor label, as it simply does not fall into the slot that easily (as it would under your proposed system). A tritone is not an invertible interval, the notes will always stay the same distance (six semitones) no matter which way you invert them, whereas e.g. F to Ab will be three semitones one way and nine the other. I’m guessing augmented and diminished intervals are used because equal temperament, our imperfect system of explaining the behaviour of our ears’ reaction to sound, does not have any adequate way of describing what a tritone is. I digress; nonetheless, lumping a tritone along as simply major or minor does it no justice whereas giving it the names diminished fifth and augmented fourth shows it is not just any old interval.

And what about the intervals of the major scale? In our current system, going from the tonic of the scale, we get major second, major third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, major sixth, and major seventh intervals. Using your change however, we get: major second, major third, minor fourth, major fifth, major sixth, and major seventh. The minor fourth defies established conventional associations about the major scale. I’m all for defying conventional associations myself, but in this case it means musicians have to take for granted that the major scale contains a minor interval, just because. Considering that the major scale is the reference point for pretty much every other scale on the market in western music culture, this doesn’t make too much sense.

Your idea is good and it challenges traditional fundamentals of western music theory, and who’s to say it won’t catch on in the future. However, despite your claim of consistency, my highlighted problems point out several inconsistencies that require learners and teachers to take for granted. Furthermore, your idea is breaking apart a piece of music theory that works just fine as is and doesn’t really need fixing. Consequences of accepting your idea would mean a lot of musicians relearning basic interval naming and newer musicians having to learn a more complicated system than is already in place.

I can also conclude that while you have really worked out why to change from the old to your new system, you have not considered all aspects of theory your change would affect. To be fair though, no one has really challenged you on that in this thread and I’d be interested to see if you’d considered these changes and how you would work them out or integrate them.

Finally, making a universal theory for music and harmony is seriously tough shit, and it certainly wasn’t invented overnight. What you are doing is challenging maybe a hundred years of tradition based on something fairly intangible and not very well understood (how sound works). Seriously dude, I respect you for it, it’s definitely not an easy road to wander, so don’t take any guff anybody throws at you.
Quote by st.stephen
If we change a diminished fifth to a minor fifth, where does the diminished quality of a diminished chord come in? The equivalency and consistency makes sense yes, but it makes it a hell of a lot more complicated than it needs to be for diminished chords. Augmented chords don’t change much I gather.

What we know as the "diminished" quality of such a chord arises from how we happened to label the fifth. We could just as well know it as a minor fifth quality.

Quote by st.stephen
I’m also having a hard time falling the tritone interval under the major and minor label, as it simply does not fall into the slot that easily (as it would under your proposed system).

How does it not fall into that slot easily? The wider fourth is major, the narrower fifth is minor, and they're enharmonic in 12-edo. Do we need come up with an imagined crisis to accompany that?

Quote by st.stephen
A tritone is not an invertible interval, the notes will always stay the same distance (six semitones) no matter which way you invert them, whereas e.g. F to Ab will be three semitones one way and nine the other.

How is is not invertible? What is conventionally called an augmented fourth is the inverse of what is called a diminished fifth. Likewise, a major fourth would be the inverse of a minor fifth. An interval and its inverse always add up to an octave.

Quote by st.stephen
lumping a tritone along as simply major or minor does it no justice whereas giving it the names diminished fifth and augmented fourth shows it is not just any old interval.

Where's the injustice? What is it about the fourth and fifth that they deserve a special classification? If you read through this thread, you'll notice there has been a fundamental failure to identify what truly sets them apart.

Quote by st.stephen
And what about the intervals of the major scale? In our current system, going from the tonic of the scale, we get major second, major third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, major sixth, and major seventh intervals. Using your change however, we get: major second, major third, minor fourth, major fifth, major sixth, and major seventh. The minor fourth defies established conventional associations about the major scale. I’m all for defying conventional associations myself, but in this case it means musicians have to take for granted that the major scale contains a minor interval, just because. Considering that the major scale is the reference point for pretty much every other scale on the market in western music culture, this doesn’t make too much sense.

Perhaps you're forgetting that the minor scale contains major interval(s). Major scales need not contain all major intervals just as minor scales need not contain all minor intervals.

Quote by st.stephen
Your idea is good and it challenges traditional fundamentals of western music theory, and who’s to say it won’t catch on in the future. However, despite your claim of consistency, my highlighted problems point out several inconsistencies that require learners and teachers to take for granted. Furthermore, your idea is breaking apart a piece of music theory that works just fine as is and doesn’t really need fixing. Consequences of accepting your idea would mean a lot of musicians relearning basic interval naming and newer musicians having to learn a more complicated system than is already in place.

I can also conclude that while you have really worked out why to change from the old to your new system, you have not considered all aspects of theory your change would affect. To be fair though, no one has really challenged you on that in this thread and I’d be interested to see if you’d considered these changes and how you would work them out or integrate them.

Finally, making a universal theory for music and harmony is seriously tough shit, and it certainly wasn’t invented overnight. What you are doing is challenging maybe a hundred years of tradition based on something fairly intangible and not very well understood (how sound works). Seriously dude, I respect you for it, it’s definitely not an easy road to wander, so don’t take any guff anybody throws at you.

The topic really isn't about if or why we should convert - it's largely academic. Though I still cannot unearth a consistent reason for fifths and fourths to be called perfect, I'm not going to be taking a hard line on the matter and advocating a changeover.
Last edited by Dodeka at Dec 29, 2009,
I really don't know but maybe it had something to do with chords?

Most basic triads and sevenths only contain intervals (from the root) with the chord name as a suffix or perfect intervals. For example:

Major triad - major third, perfect fifth
Minor triad - minor third, perfect fifth
Major seventh - major third, perfect fifth, major seventh
Minor seventh - minor third, perfect fifth, minor seventh

All these chord contain intervals that share the same name as the chord. These are the intervals that determine the name of the chord - if the triad has a minor 3rd it is minor, if it has a major third and a major seventh it becomes a major seventh chord.

However, if you called a perfect 5th a major 5th then minor chords would contain major 5ths which would seem wrong. Because both major and minor triads contain the 5th it would be impossible to use major and minor for 5ths without having a minor chord containing a major interval or vice versa.

The pattern changes for diminished and augmented chords but again there is a pattern:
Diminished triad - minor 3rd, diminished 5th
Augmented triad - major 3rd, augmented 5th

In the case of these chord they do not exclusively have one type of interval ending, however, the 5th is what gives the chords their different, the 5th is the interval that determines what kind of chord it is, so it would make sense for the chord and the 5th to have the same name. This wouldn't work with M/m5ths because a diminished chord would contain a minor 5th while an augmented chord would still have an augmented 5th, the symetry would be ruined.

Just an idea
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A little philosophic discussion...

I've been struggling to understand the necessity of referring to fourths and fifths as "perfect," when "minor fourth" and "major fifth" would do the job just as well.
It's not a "necessity". It's and accepted convention. And calling them "perfect" rather than major or minor, functions better. Here's why:

Second, third, sixth and seventh degrees are considered major or minor because those are the two flavours you are likely to see. Either the note from the major scale (major) or a semitone down from that.

Fourth and fifth degrees are named perfect, because it's not a rarity to see those degrees lowered or raised a semitone from the degree found in the major scale. Hence there are three flavours that are reasonably common in occurrence for them.

At least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
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It's not a "necessity". It's and accepted convention. And calling them "perfect" rather than major or minor, functions better. Here's why:

Second, third, sixth and seventh degrees are considered major or minor because those are the two flavours you are likely to see. Either the note from the major scale (major) or a semitone down from that.

Fourth and fifth degrees are named perfect, because it's not a rarity to see those degrees lowered or raised a semitone from the degree found in the major scale. Hence there are three flavours that are reasonably common in occurrence for them.

At least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

There're only two qualities of fourth which come up commonly. The perfect and augmented.