In this short lesson, we are going to cover the basics of what intervals are to music an your guitar fretboard. So let’s get to it!

What is an interval?

An interval is the distance – or gap – between one thing and another. In music, an interval is the distance between one note and another. In total, there are twelve intervals in music, because there are a total of twelve notes in western music. Coincidentally, there are also twelve frets on the guitar (a fact worth pondering!). The complications with intervals arise when we consider musical function, in other words, how the intervals work with each other, against the root note. For this lesson, we are simply going to look at the seven intervals in the C major scale.

Since you are probably looking at this lesson because – like me – you are guitarist, we’ll look at all the following examples on a fretboard diagram.

Practise tips

Simply playing these notes isn’t enough. In my experience, you should also try to sing them, using your guitar as a guide. I find this offers a much more personal, emotional way of internalising the sound of the note, and helps to internalise the sound of the interval much better, hugely improving your aural perception. Please don’t think you have to have an amazing singing voice to do this, you don’t. You just need the willingness to try. Also, it helps to question how each interval makes you feel. As a final tip, you should vocalise the distance between the root and the interval you are studying. For example, you might say something like ‘A major 2nd is two frets up in pitch from the root’. Aim to memorise each one, don’t slight it!

Root note

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Major 2nd

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Major 3rd

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Perfect 4th

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Perfect 5th

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Major 6th

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Major 7th

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Octave (8ve)

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