Intervals

Objectives

  1. Learn all the intervals.
  2. Learn the fretboard patterns for the intervals.
  3. Learn both ways to play intervals.

What Are Intervals?

An interval is the pitch difference between two notes.  Pitch differences can be viewed in different ways.

  1. Note Difference: C to D
  2. Step Difference: C to D is a whole step.  C to D-Flat is a half step.
  3. Fret Difference: C to D is 2 frets in distance. (Ex: Second String - 1st fret is C, 3rd fret is D)
  4. Interval: C to D is Major Second interval.

In music theory, interval names are the formal way to describe pitch differences.  They are universal across instruments and the music community.  Understanding intervals will help you understand chords, scales, improvisation, and other advanced theory topics.  

Interval Chart

This chart sums up all of the intervals by giving their name and pitch difference.  The audio example plays both types of intervals: melodic and harmonic.  Melodic intervals are played sequentially, one note at a time.  Harmonic intervals are played simultaneously, at the same time.

Interval Name Abbreviation Step Distance Fret Distance
Audio (Played Melodically then Harmonically)
Unison
 U None
(Same note)
0

Minor Second
 m2 Half Step
1
Major Second  M2 Whole Step
2
Minor Third
 m3 Whole Step + Half Step
3
Major Third
 M3 2 Whole Step 4
Perfect Fourth
 P4 2 Whole Steps + Half Step
5
Augmented Fourth
Diminished Fifth
Tritone
A4
D4
TT
3 Whole Steps
6
Perfect Fifth  P5  3 Whole Steps + Half Step
7
Minor Sixth
m6 4 Whole Steps 8
Major Sixth
M6  4 Whole Steps + Half Step
9
Minor Seventh m7
5 Whole Steps
10
Major Seventh
M7
5 Whole Steps + Half Step
11
Octave Oct
6 Whole Steps
(Same Note Name)
12

Interval Numbering

Intervals are numbered as unison, seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, sevenths, or octaves.  This number can be determined by the number of notes that the two notes span. 

Example: C to F is a fourth because it spans C, D, E, and F.

In music theory, it is important to remember that the number is based on the difference in the note names, not the pitch difference.  This is why Augmented Fourths and Diminished Fifths are the same pitch difference, but are different names.  Example: C to F-Sharp (Augmented Fourth) and C to G-Flat (Diminished Fifth) is the same pitch distance (3 whole steps), but they have different interval names because of the note names.

Intervals on the Staff

Here is an example of the intervals relative to middle C. Take note of the note name differences.  

intervals on the staff
 
 

Intervals on the Fretboard

The diagram below shows the intervals from the first fret. 

Examples

  1. First fret to the second fret is a minor second (1 frets up).
  2. First fret to the fifth fret is a major third (4 frets up).
  3. First fret to the tenth fret is a minor seventh (9 frets up).
Intervals Single String

Songs to Remember the Intervals

Below are several well-known licks and phrases to help you remember the intervals. Think of these as mneumonic devices for learning the intervals and have fun with it!
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