The Listening Service

The Semitone

The Semitone



Tom Service considers the semitone. Music's most fundamental building block, it can mean sorrow when it falls, triumph when it rises, but also provoke fear (in the theme from Jaws). It can become a glittering decoration when repeated as a trill. Tom also talks to musicologist Sarha Moore about its varied significances in musical traditions of the Middle East and India, and also its special effect in the riffs of Heavy Metal rock music. In the Sound of Music, Julie Andrews sang 'Tee - a drink with jam and bread - that will bring us back to Doh' - but what makes that 'tee' note pull us so inexorably back (by a semitone) to 'doh' - the tonic? Tom calls the semitone 'the piquant spice that drives the change from one key to another' - powerful effects from a little interval.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Tom Service
Producer Philip Tagney