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1.5: Chromatic and Diatonic Half Steps

  • Page ID
    51973
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    Music notation contains two types of half steps: chromatic and diatonic. Chromatic half steps contain the same alphabet letters. For instance, C and C#, Eb and E, and G and G# are all pairs of chromatic half steps. Diatonic half steps also contain half step motions but use adjacent letters in the musical alphabet. E and F, F# and G, and A and Bb are pairs of diatonic half steps.

    Study the figure below. Which are chromatic half steps and which are diatonic half steps?

    Picture 0.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    Answer: C to C# is a chromatic half step. D to Eb and E to F are diatonic half steps.

    Here are some examples of chromatic half steps in music notation. Notice that half steps can ascend or descend.

    Ascending (C to C#, chromatic half step):

    Picture 5.jpg
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\):

    Ascending (Bb to B natural, chromatic half step):

    Picture 4.jpg
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\):

    Descending (D to Db, chromatic half step):

    Picture 6.jpg
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\):

    Likewise diatonic half steps can ascend or descend.

    Ascending (A# to B, diatonic half step):

    Picture 8.jpg
    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\):

    Ascending (B to C, diatonic half step):

    Picture 9.jpg
    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\):

    Descending (E to D#, diatonic half step):

    Picture 13.jpg
    Figure \(\PageIndex{7}\):

    This page titled 1.5: Chromatic and Diatonic Half Steps is shared under a CC BY 3.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Terry B. Ewell & Catherine Schmidt-Jones (Connections) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.