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Musical Intervals – Complex Or Composed?


flower smallIntervals that we have discussed until now are called Main or Simple. We have also briefly mentioned compound intervals, however little has been explained on what they are. Compound usually means that something is made from several pieces. This is also the case of compound intervals. These are intervals greater than perfect octave. Therefore, it is easy to recognize compound intervals by dividing them into a perfect octave and another simple interval. The table below contains symbols, names and composition of compound musical intervals. One can also compare the sound of a complex and a simple interval starting from the same note.





 Compound Interval

 Simple Interval


minor ninth

P8 + m2


major ninth

P8 + M2


minor tenth

P8 + m3


major tenth

P8 + M3


perfect eleventh

P8 + P4

A11 or  d12

  augmented eleventh or diminished twelfth 

  P8 + A4 or P8 + d5


  perfect twelfth

P8 + P5


  minor thirteenth

P8 + m6


  major thirteenth

P8 + M6


minor fourteenth

P8 + m7


  major fourteenth

P8 + M7


 perfect fifteenth

P8 + P8


It is worth to remember that in order to get proper interval symbol first we add simple intervals that make the respective compound interval, and from this result we subtract 1. The subtraction is necessary because while adding we “double” one sound – the final one for the first simple interval and the starting one for the second simple interval. The “doubled” sound is displayed in the picture below (green) – hopefully it will help you in learning :)
 complex interval small

These are essential things to know about compound intervals. If you feel ready for a little practice, try your skills in the interval recognition section. Remember that options allow you to choose any interval combination – simple intervals, compound intervals, or simply intervals that cause you some trouble. The only limit is your fantasy ;) If you want to try out a simple-compound interval comparison, go to Interval Comparison exercise and listen to several pairs of intervals in this combination.

In any case, remember that for a good musician theory without practice is not enough! Remember to practice regularly.