A Study On Intervals

Aug09

What are intervals? An interval is the distance between any two notes. What you are doing, in essence, is assigning a numeric quality to the notes. They are the building blocks of music. It is creating a formula that is used by any educated musician. Some people ask “Why do I need theory?”. Well here is why. Music is a language and at some point you have to come to agreements to where all musicians can understand what you are talking about. If we did not have theory then the music would not be in existence. I can go to another country where no one knows any English and put a staff in front of a musician and they could read it. It is kinda like how scientists use Latin as their language. Well music is also a language. This is what music consists of (quoted from The Complete book of Jazz Theory by Mark Levine):

This is what music consists of:

“1% magic
99% stuff that is
explainable;
analyzable;
categorizeable;
doable”

So I thought that, from popular request, I would cover usable theory in this column. Like I said, intervals are the distance between two notes. So you can pick any note to start and that will be your root note. These are the intervals in chromatic order. At first, only read the left two columns, ignore everything in the right columns for the moment.

Intervals

Now when you have intervals like nine and thirteen what you are doing is going up an octave, but keep counting. SO a root is 8, a 2nd is a 9th, a fourth is an 11th, and a 6th is a 13th. You will only see 9, 11, and 13 as the other intervals are already there because they are required to be there to make a 7th chord. The intervals in parenthesis are optional as guitar only has six strings so sometimes you have to omit tones.By using intervals you can build any chord or scale anywhere on the neck, in any key. So if you want a major scale you would have a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. The way you build chords is by taking the 1, 3, 5, & 7 out of the scale you are using. Here is a chart on different chords and scales built by intervals. This chart only touches on the tip of the iceberg there are much more thorough lists out there, these are a few chords and scales. The Guitar Grimoire series has a fairly thorough list as well. Sometimes you may see a different spelling for the same note, such as a minor sixth is the same as an augmented fifth, see augment means to sharp, or go forward. Something like in a Diminished 7 chord you will need a double flated 7 written as bb7 so if you take a minor seven and subtract one you have a major six, but in order to call it a seven chord we have to fit it into a bb7.

Chord intervals

Below is an Interval chart showing you all the intervals on the neck rooted off of F:

F interval chart

If you notice the one is a different color. It is different so you could easily find the root. So if we want to build say a Major triad rooted off the fifth string you can play 1st fret on the 6th string, then play the 5th fret on the 6th string so you have your 1 and your 3, now we need a five, it is on the 3rd fret 5th string, then your octave is on the 3rd fret 4th string, now we play the third which is on the 2nd fret third string, then the 5 which is on the 1st fret 2nd string then the root 1st fret 1st string and finally our third on the 5th fret 1st string.

Now the great thing about intervals is there are so many ways you can voice any chord or scale on the neck, the main thing is to memorize the formula and be creative building it. Obviously we don’t always play rooted off of F. Suppose we want to build a major scale off of G, it is simple we take our root on F and we move it up 2 frets to G so we can create a new map rooted off of g, the formulas stay the same you just move the root. Here is a chart rooted off of G:

G interval chart

So to build a G major scale we need a 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and octave we can say on the 6th string play the 3rd 5th and 7th frets, then on the 5th string play 3rd, 5th and 7th frets, then on the 4th string we shift to 4th, 5th, and 7th fret, 3rd string we play the same thing 4th, 5th, and 7ty fret, then on the 2nd fret I useually shift up to the 5th fret and play 5th, 7th and 8th frets, same on the first string 5th,7th, then 8th. So we have built a major triad in F, and a Major scale in G.

Good luck with your new found skill on building chords and scales, practice playing these chords and scales in as many different places as possible, the important thing is to look at the fretboard as a giant map. The first note you play does not have to be the root either, you can start on the third or any note you want. Use visualization to visualize where youre intervals are. Thank you Krystel for making these wonderful charts, I would have no hope with computer graphics, I was going to write it out and scan it.

Share:
About Jimmy Hudson

Jimmy Hudson is the Head Guitar Instructor and Co-Founder of the American Guitar Institute. He spends most of his time studying music, recording, and creating new teaching concepts for the guitar. He has been teaching for almost ten years now and playing for well over fifteen. Jimmy has taught guitar on every level from private lessons in stores, studios, in clinics, on the web, and in school systems.

Comments [1]

  1. Minor errors –
    “then on the 2nd fret I useually shift up to the 5th fret and play 5th, 7th and 8th frets, same on the first string 5th…”
    Typo in “usually” and where you wrote “the 2nd fret,” you meant “the 2nd string.”

    I noticed them because I was paying attention because your teaching is clear and much appreciated!
    Thank you.

Leave a Comment

*