Perfect fifth

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In classical music from Western culture, a fifth is a musical interval encompassing five staff positions (see here for more details), and the perfect fifth is a fifth spanning seven semitones. For example, the interval from C to G is a perfect fifth, as the note G lies seven semitones above C, and there are five staff positions from C to G. Diminished and augmented fifths span the same number of staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones (six and eight).

The perfect fifth may be derived from the harmonic series as the interval between the second and third harmonics. In a diatonic scale, the dominant note is a perfect fifth above the tonic note.

The perfect fifth is more consonant, or stable, than any other interval except the unison and the octave. It occurs on the root of all major and minor chords (triads) and their extensions. Up until the late 19th century it was often referred to by its Greek name, diapente,[1] and abbreviated P5. Its inversion is the perfect fourth.

Contents

Alternative definitions

The term perfect identifies the perfect fifth as belonging to the group of perfect intervals (including the unison, perfect fourth and octave), so called because of their simple pitch relationships and their high degree of consonance.[2] Note that this interpretation of the term is not in all contexts compatible with the definition of perfect fifth given in the introduction. In fact, when an instrument is tuned using Pythagorean tuning or meantone temperament, one of the twelve fifths (the wolf fifth) sounds severely dissonant and can hardly be qualified as "perfect", if this term is interpreted as "highly consonant". However, the wolf fifth meets the above mentioned definition of perfect fifth.

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