Steps and skips
In music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, a step, or conjunct motion, is a linear or successive interval
Interval (music)
In music theory, an interval is a combination of two notes, or the ratio between their frequencies. Two-note combinations are also called dyads...

 between two pitches
Pitch (music)
Pitch is an auditory perceptual property that allows the ordering of sounds on a frequency-related scale.Pitches are compared as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies,...

 which are consecutive scale degrees. Any larger interval is called a skip (also called a leap), or disjunct motion. In the diatonic scale
Diatonic scale
In music theory, a diatonic scale is a seven note, octave-repeating musical scale comprising five whole steps and two half steps for each octave, in which the two half steps are separated from each other by either two or three whole steps...

, a step is either a minor second
Minor second
In modern Western tonal music theory a minor second is the interval between two notes on adjacent staff positions, or having adjacent note letters, whose alterations cause them to be one semitone or half-step apart, such as B and C or C and D....

 or major second
Major second
In Western music theory, a major second is a musical interval spanning two semitones, and encompassing two adjacent staff positions . For example, the interval from C to D is a major second, as the note D lies two semitones above C, and the two notes are notated on adjacent staff postions...

, with all intervals of a minor third
Minor third
In classical music from Western culture, a third is a musical interval encompassing three staff positions , and the minor third is one of two commonly occurring thirds. The minor quality specification identifies it as being the smallest of the two: the minor third spans three semitones, the major...

 or larger being skips.

For example, C to D (major second) is a step, whereas C to E (major third
Major third
In classical music from Western culture, a third is a musical interval encompassing three staff positions , and the major third is one of two commonly occurring thirds. It is qualified as major because it is the largest of the two: the major third spans four semitones, the minor third three...

) is a skip.

More generally, a step is a smaller or narrower interval in a musical line, and a skip is a wider or larger interval, with the categorization of intervals into steps and skips is determined by the tuning system
Musical tuning
In music, there are two common meanings for tuning:* Tuning practice, the act of tuning an instrument or voice.* Tuning systems, the various systems of pitches used to tune an instrument, and their theoretical bases.-Tuning practice:...

 and the pitch space
Pitch space
In music theory, pitch spaces model relationships between pitches. These models typically use distance to model the degree of relatedness, with closely related pitches placed near one another, and less closely related pitches placed farther apart. Depending on the complexity of the relationships...


Linear motion in which the interval between any two consecutive pitches is no more than a step, or, less strictly, where skips are rare, is called stepwise or conjunct melodic motion
Melodic motion
Complex melodic motion is the quality of movement of a melody, including nearness or farness of successive pitches or notes in a melody. This may be described as conjunct or disjunct, stepwise or skipwise, respectively and involves the use of the complex number, i, in its calculation.Bruno Nettl ...

. Melodic motion characterized by skips is called skipwise or disjunct.

Half steps

Measured in half steps the difference between steps and skips becomes fairly clear:
  • Unison
    In music, the word unison can be applied in more than one way. In general terms, it may refer to two notes sounding the same pitch, often but not always at the same time; or to the same musical voice being sounded by several voices or instruments together, either at the same pitch or at a distance...

    : 0
  • Steps: 1-2
  • Skips: 3+


A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

 may be characterized by its degree and type of conjunct and disjunct motion. For example, Medieval
Medieval music
Medieval music is Western music written during the Middle Ages. This era begins with the fall of the Roman Empire and ends sometime in the early fifteenth century...

 plainchant melodies are generally characterized by conjunct motion with occasional thirds, fourths, and generally ascending fifths while larger intervals are quite rare though octave leaps may occur between two separate phrases
Phrase (music)
In music and music theory, phrase and phrasing are concepts and practices related to grouping consecutive melodic notes, both in their composition and performance...

. Renaissance
Renaissance music
Renaissance music is European music written during the Renaissance. Defining the beginning of the musical era is difficult, given that its defining characteristics were adopted only gradually; musicologists have placed its beginnings from as early as 1300 to as late as the 1470s.Literally meaning...

 melodies are generally characterized by conjunct motion, with only occasional leaps of more than a fifth
Perfect fifth
In classical music from Western culture, a fifth is a musical interval encompassing five staff positions , and the perfect fifth is a fifth spanning seven semitones, or in meantone, four diatonic semitones and three chromatic semitones...

 and then rarely anything but a sixth or octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

. In contrast, melody in the 20th century varied greatly including the diatonic idiom of the 18th century (Classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

), the variety of idioms from the 19th century (Romantic
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

), and newer nondiatonic scales in the 20th century. Some of these later idioms included many or predominately leaps.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.