Music Theory: Intervals...
Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



 
Geeks Note: Intervals form the backbone of the language of musicians. If you are going to do ANYTHING with your guitar other than let it collect dust in the corner, you need to have a rock solid understanding of intervals. If you have any hope or dream of writing your own stuff, intervals will be your oxygen. Luckily, intervals are easy to understand, once you understand them.... AND ... the next lessons will compound on Intervals so you understand them better. Finally, since I'm lazy, there IS a cheat sheet....

For this section I STRONGLY RECOMMEND you have your guitar in hand so that you can finger the frets and play the Intervals while I am explaining them.


Learning Objectives
By the end of this lesson, here is what you should have learned:
  1. Understand why Scales are "spiral" and not "circular".
  2. Understand what an Octave is and be able to find an Octave on your Fretboard.
  3. Understand how Intervals are "relative" and not "fixed" and how to interpret them.
  4. Learn how to interpret what Interval names mean to what you are playing on your Fretboard.
  5. Understand what an Interval is called is important to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with other musicians.
  6. Understand what Flats and Sharpes are and how to find them on your Fretboard.


So far we've talked about notes and scales and have hinted at Intervals (whole step, half step, tone, semi-tone, fret). Now we will delve into Intervals and start understanding the heck out of them. Don't worry, this won't be painful. My Kung-Fu is strong....

This is the Chromatic Scale:

A - A# - B - C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G#


Now, we add the A note to the end, so that we are spiraling back to where we start, still have the Chromatic Scale (and use this one for the rest of the lesson):

A - A# - B - C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G# - A


There are twelve notes in the Chromatic Scale plus the Root note, an octave higher. A few times I have said the Chromatic Scale "spirals" back to the Root Note, an octave higher. I hope this simple graphic helps illustrate it. Do not EVER think that a scale is "circular". Scales are not circular, scales "Spiral". Each time you encounter the Root note, you are an Octave higher or lower, depending on which way you travelled.

Understanding the Octave is important. I just want you to understand that when I refer to "THE Octave" I am refering to a note twelve intervals higher. When I talk about "AN Octave", I am talking about a range of twelve intervals.


Now, back to the Chromatic scale with the "Octave" added. This scale has twelve (12) Intervals.

There "Intervals" are the "Spaces Between The Notes" for want of a better definition. More precisely, an Interval is the MOVEMENT ACROSS THE SPACE BETWEEN THE NOTES

When we move from A to A# we moved across the one space between two adjacent notes. That is to say, we moved one interval. Moving that one interval has a name. It is called a Minor 2nd, more on that later.

So, moving from A to A# is one interval. Moving from C# to D and moving from E to F is one interval. Capice? Moving from one note to the next adjacent note is one interval.

Therefore, building on some astounding principles of mathematics, moving from one note to the second note away is moving two intervals. So, moving from A to B is moving two intervals. Moving from B to C# is moving two intervals. Got it? Move one note adjacent is one interval and move two notes adjacent is two intervals. Yes, moving two intervals has a name. It is a Major 2nd. More on that later.

Here is the full list of intervals:

12 Note Chromatic Scale Intervals
# Semi TonesInterval Name# of Steps# of Frets
0Unison00
1Minor 2nd11
2Major 2nd22
3Minor 3rd33
4Major 3rd44
5Perfect 4th55
6Tritone66
7Perfect 5th77
8Minor 6th88
9Major 6th99
10Minor 7th1010
11Major 7th1111
12Octave1212


You do NOT need to know the names of the intervals to be a good musician. However, if you plan to talk to OTHER musicians about your music or their music, knowing the names will help. 'Nuff said.


Unison:

The Unison needs a little bit of explaining. When you are use the term "Unison" you are refering to the first note in the scale. For example, in the C Major Scale, the FIRST "C" note you play is he Unison for the C Major Scale. The SECOND C you play (on the spiral) is the Octave.



Making sense of the names

So I'm in the garage the other night, having a coke, playing my guitar with some friends. Talky McSaysalot has been trying to work out a riff for his next "best song everrrrrr". He needs some help so he says to me, "Hey man, Give me a D flat". So I do. I play the 9th fret of the low E string. Talky says, "Nah thats not it, give me a Major 3rd above". Because I know my Chromatic Scale and I know that a Major 3rd is four intervals, I play the 4th string 3rd fret which is F. He says, "Thats almost it, make it a Perfect 4th man.". So I do. One more interval above the Major 3rd is a Perfect 4th. I move my hand one fret and play an F# on the 4th string 4th fret.

Okay, okay. I might have thrown you off a bit. When Talky McSaysalot asked for the D flat (Db) you probably said, WAIT a minute. There are no flat D's on the Chromatic Scale!

You can sharpe and flat most notes in the Chromatic scale by moving one HALF step (one fret) in the required direction. Therefore, to make D sharp (D#), I move down a fret and get D#. To make D flat (Db) I move up a fret and I get Db. HOWEVER, what you see when you look at the Chromatic Scale above is that one fret down (one half step, one semi-tone) is actually C#.

You see, the note BETWEEN the note C and the note D is both C# and Db. The only exceptions to this are that there is no Cb and there is no Fb. That is because one half step down from C is the note B and one half step down from the note F is the note E.

Moving right along.....

Refering back to my conversation with ol' McSaysalot in the garage...

He asked me for a Db and I gave it to him. He then asked for a Major 3rd. What he actually said was "play the note four intervals higher than the note I asked you to play before". I know from my studies of Music Theory and application of said theory to the guitar fretboard that four intervals equals four frets AND equals four notes. Playing either the Low E string 13th fret OR the A string 3rd fret are four intervals ABOVE the original note, the DB (remember what I said about the Unison of the Unison? Thats why I got to choose HOW I was going to play the Major 2nd).

When he said to me make it a Perfect 4th, I knew from my blah blah blah that he was actually asking me to play "the fifth interval above the note I originally asked you to play". Because I was now playing a Perfect 4th instead of a Major 3rd I knew that in simpler terms I was playing FIVE semi-tones (frets) instead of FOUR semi-tones (frets) above what I had originally played. Therefore, through the astounding powers of my deductive reasoning, I subtracted 4 (Major 3rd) from 5 (Perfect 4th) and wound up with 1 (Minor 2nd). So what I had done was deduced that I only needed to move ONE MORE FRET (semi-tone) to turn that Major 3rd into a Perfect 4th. So thats what I did, I moved one fret or more geeky speaking, I increased the Major 3rd by a Minor 2nd.



Phewwwww..... I need a Fresca.....

Making MORE sense of the names

12 Note Chromatic Scale Intervals
# Semi TonesInterval Name# of Steps# of Frets
0Unison00
1Minor 2nd11
2Major 2nd22
3Minor 3rd33
4Major 3rd44
5Perfect 4th55
6Tritone66
7Perfect 5th77
8Minor 6th88
9Major 6th99
10Minor 7th1010
11Major 7th1111
12Octave1212


Let's look at the G Major Scale:

G - A - B - C - D - E - F# - G


The Unison is "G". Right? Okay.

The next note in the G Major scale is "A". However, the note "A" is TWO INTERVALS (a tone, a whole step, two frets) from the Unison. Since it is TWO INTERVALS from the Unison I know that in the G Major Scale the next note, the A, is a Major 2nd.

The note AFTER the A is the B note. The B note is FOUR INTERVALS away from the Unison. (G to G#, G# to A, A to A#, A# to B). Therefore, I know the name for FOUR INTERVALS (2+2) from the Unison and can say that in the G Major Scale the note B is a Major 3rd.

The note AFTER the B is the C note. We will remember from the Intervals of the Major Scale (WWHWWWH) that the next note, the "C" note is a HALF STEP above "B". Therefore since it is FIVE INTERVALS (2+2+1) from the Unison I can say that in the G Major Scale the note C is a Perfect 4th.

The note AFTER the C is the D note. We will remember from the Intervals of the Major Scale (WWHWWWH) that the next note, the "D" note is a WHOLE STEP above "C". Therefore since it is SEVEN INTERVALS (2+2+1+2) from the Unison I can say that in the G Major Scale the note D is a Perfect 5th.

The note AFTER the D is the E note. We will remember from the Intervals of the Major Scale (WWHWWWH) that the next note, the "E" note is a WHOLE STEP above "D". Therefore since it is NINE INTERVALS (2+2+1+2+2) from the Unison I can say that in the G Major Scale the note E is a Major 6th.

The note AFTER the E is the F# note. We will remember from the Intervals of the Major Scale (WWHWWWH) that the next note, the "F#" note is a WHOLE STEP above "E". Therefore since it is ELEVEN INTERVALS (2+2+1+2+2+2) from the Unison I can say that in the G Major Scale the note F# is a Major 7th.

The note AFTER the F# is the G note. We will remember from the Intervals of the Major Scale (WWHWWWH) that the next note, the "G" note is a HALF STEP above "F#". Therefore since it is TWELVE INTERVALS (2+2+1+2+2+2+1) from the Unison I can say that in the G Major Scale the NEXT note G is an Octave.

Hey, how we coming with that Fresca?


Showing Intervals on the guitar




It's all relative

It is DARN important that when you are talking about Intervals, you know what note you are talking FROM in reference to the Intervals, or more specifically, what note the Interval is in reference to.

The reason being, looking above, we know that the note D in the G Major Scale is a Perfect 5th above the Unison or more simply, a Perfect 5th. HOWEVER....

In the G Major Scale, the note "E" is a Perfect 5th above the note A. This is because there are SEVEN INTERVALS between A and E:

A → A#, A# → B, B → C, C → C#, C# → D, D → D#, D# → E
1 Interval 2 Intervals 3 Intervals 4 Intervals 5 Intervals 6 Intervals 7 Intervals

Point of Confusion...


You need to keep in mind the CHROMATIC scale when you are talking about INTERVALS and not the MAJOR SCALE.

The most common mistake you will make at this point is to look at the Major Scale and count the notes as one interval each. You need to keep in mind that the Chromatic Scale has ALL the notes and ALL the Intervals where the Major Scale has SOME of the notes AND ALL OF THE INTERVALS.

Always have the CHROMATIC scale in your mind when you are talking ABOUT Intervals and use the Major Scale as the reference to the Unison



ALMOST DONE!

I'm almost done with this section. I just want to summarize some important points for you to remember (in no particular order):
  1. ONE Interval is ONE Fret

  2. ONE Interval is a HALF Step

  3. ONE Interval is a SEMI-Tone

  4. TWO INTERVALS is TWO Frets

  5. TWO INTERVALS is a WHOLE Step

  6. TWO INTERVALS is a TONE

  7. There are TWELVE Intervals in the CHROMATIC Scale.

  8. There are TWELVE Intervals in the Major Scale (you just don't talk about all of them).

  9. The Interval can ONLY be expressed RELATIVE TO A STARTING Note.
    If I said to Tony Iommi, without reference to anything else, "Hey Tony, play a Perfect 5th" he would slap me and Ozzy would hurt himself laughing. However, if I said to Tony, "Hey Tony, I'm playing in G, can you give me a Perfect 5th?", then we'd be rocking and rolling.

  10. Knowing what intervals are and what they do is FAR more important than knowing the names of the Intervals.

  11. Do yourself a favour, learn the names of the Intervals NOW. You will use them forever.

  12. A two note Power Chord is the Root note and a Perfect 5th. (More on that soon)

  13. A three note Power Chord is the Root note, a Perfect 5th and a Perfect 4th above the 5th (which is to say, an Octave above the Unison). (More on that soon.... see how important understanding Intervals is?)









© Aaron Gallagher