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Semitones (Half Steps)

A semitone (or “half step” in the USA) is the smallest distance between two different notes.

Let’s use the piano keyboard to look at some examples of semitones.

piano keyboard

If two notes are as close as possible on the piano keyboard, the distance between them is a semitone

Find E and F next to each other on the piano keyboard.

The distance between E and F is a semitone; there is no other note between these two notes.

E to F = semitone

 Now find A and B flat. The distance between A and B flat is also a semitone.

A to Bb = semitone

Tones (Whole Steps)

If there is one note between the two notes we are looking at, the distance between those two notes is called a tone. A tone is the same distance as two semitones.

Find G and A on the keyboard. G-A is a tone. We can squeeze a G sharp/A flat between them.

G to A = tone

E-F sharp is a tone. F natural sits between them. 

E to F sharp = tone

There is a sharp/flat note between every letter of the musical alphabet except between E and F, and between B and C.

List of Semitones (Half Steps)

Here is a list of the most common semitones:

C – C#/Db (C# and Db are the same note on the piano keyboard)

C#/Db – D

D – D#/Eb

D#/Eb – E

E – F

F – F#/Gb

F#/Gb – G

G – G#/Ab

G#/Ab – A

A – A#/Bb

A#/Bb – B

B – C

List of Tones (Whole Steps)

C – D

C#/Db – D#-Eb

D – E

D#/Eb – F

E – F#/Gb

F – G

F#/Gb – G#/Ab

G – A

G#/Ab – A#/Bb

A – B

A#/Bb – C

B – C#/Db

Tones and Semitones Exercises

Hover your mouse over the question to reveal the answers (tap on mobile devices).

Describe each pair of notes as either a tone (whole step) or a semitone (half step).

Ex. 1

tones-semitones 0 0tones-semitones 0 1tones-semitones 0 2tones-semitones 0 3tones-semitones 0 4tones-semitones 0 5tones-semitones 0 6tones-semitones 0 7tones-semitones 0 8


tones-semitones2 0 0tones-semitones2 0 1tones-semitones2 0 2tones-semitones2 0 3tones-semitones2 0 4tones-semitones2 0 5tones-semitones2 0 6tones-semitones2 0 7tones-semitones2 0 8