Sven's Guitar Site
Intervals
[Previous Page] [Next Page] [Up] [Home Page] [Mail] [Contents]

Intervals

An interval consists of two tones. The sound those tones produce when played together is considered to be either dissonant or consonant. The definition of "dissonant" has been changed over the centuries. In middle age a third was "dissonant INTERVAL", today even a flat 5th isn't not perceived as a strong dissonance any more (at least in jazz). We can play 12 basic intervals (there are 12 semitones in an octave)

But now, back to the fretboard...
A 1st is just the same note twice. No keyboard player can manage to play it, but we guitarists are the lucky ones, we can! BTW: it is the most consonant interval. At least it is used by many players to tune the guitar. The root is played on the 5th fret, the next (higher) string is open.

It just looks (sounds) like this
1. E -|-o-|---|---|---|---|---|-
2. B -|---|---|---|---|---|-o-|-
3. G -|---|---|---|---|---|---|- 1st
4. D -|---|---|---|---|---|---|-
5. A -|---|---|---|---|---|---|-
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|---|-

Try to play it on a higher fret, so that you won't break your fingers. Don't play all strings, just the two, that are marked!

The next is a (flat) b2nd . The two tones are just one semitone (= one fret) appart. It is really dissonant. Just try this:
1. E -|-o-|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|-o-|--
3. G -|---|---|---|---|---|-- b2nd
4. D -|---|---|---|---|---|--
5. A -|---|---|---|---|---|--
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

The ordinary 2nd is dissonant also. It is two semitones apart
1. E -|---|-o-|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|-o-|--
3. G -|---|---|---|---|---|--
4. D -|---|---|---|---|---|--
5. A -|---|---|---|---|---|-- 2nd
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

Now you can try the flat or minor thrid. It is a consonant interval – you should be able to hear that. Let‘s play it on different strings now...
1. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|---|--
3. G -|---|-o-|---|---|---|--
4. D -|---|---|---|-o-|---|-- minor 3rd
5. A -|---|---|---|---|---|-- or #2nd
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

This third is called minor third because you can identify a minor scale or chord by it. The root and the 3rd are three semitones apart. In music theory it is also called (sharp) #2nd, but that depends on the context.

Now we'll have a look at the major third, it is consonant, too:
1. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|---|--
3. G -|---|---|-o-|---|---|--
4. D -|---|---|---|-o-|---|-- 3rd
5. A -|---|---|---|---|---|--
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

If the root of a scale/chord is related to the 3rd like this, it is a major scale.

The 4th was considered as consonant even in middle age. You can play it with heavy distortion and it will still sound good.
1. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|---|--
3. G -|---|---|---|---|---|--
4. D -|---|---|---|-o-|---|-- 4th
5. A -|---|---|---|-o-|---|--
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

The flat (b) 5th and the augmented 4th are the same intervals, although it is noted different (We are lucky again, because the "fingering pattern" is just the same). It is the most dissonant interval (in classic theory).
1. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|---|--
3. G -|---|---|---|---|---|--
4. D -|---|---|---|---|-o-|-- b5th/aug. 4th
5. A -|---|---|---|-o-|---|--
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

The 5th is the most consonant interval, sometimes used as a "power chord", since you play it heavily distorted without getting into trouble like with "real" chords.
1. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|---|--
3. G -|---|---|---|---|---|--
4. D -|---|---|---|---|-o-|-- 5th
5. A -|---|---|-o-|---|---|--
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

The augmented 5th is the same as the (minor) b6th
1. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|---|--
3. G -|---|---|---|---|---|--
4. D -|---|---|---|---|-o-|-- aug. 5th/b6th
5. A -|---|-o-|---|---|---|--
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

The (ordinary) 6th is consonant too. Some chords contain it like C6, F6 etc.
1. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|---|--
3. G -|---|-o-|---|---|---|--
4. D -|---|---|---|---|---|-- 6th
5. A -|---|---|-o-|---|---|--
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

Now we will have a look at the 7th. In classic theory it is considered to be dissonant, in pop music it is a weak tension. In jazz, it is just consonant and will occure in almost every chord.
1. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|---|--
3. G -|---|---|-o-|---|---|--
4. D -|---|---|---|---|---|-- 7th
5. A -|---|---|-o-|---|---|--
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

The major 7th is used for some chords like Cmaj7, Fmaj7 etc. It can be considered to be either dissonant or consonant - see above.
1. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|---|--
3. G -|---|---|---|-o-|---|--
4. D -|---|---|---|---|---|-- maj7th
5. A -|---|---|-o-|---|---|--
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

The octave is as consonant as the 1st . Wes Montgomery made a big deal of playing octave style (Ibanez and Boss make it also, they sell octave pedals). Because octave playing is such a great effect, I show you both fingering patterns. As I mentioned before, all strings are tuned in 4th , G to B is the only exception. Thus we have two different fingering patterns for all intervals, I showed you. Which is the right one depends on wether the step from G to B is included or not (all intervals I painted yet are valid if G->B is not included).
1. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|---|--
3. G -|---|---|---|-o-|---|-- octave (1)
4. D -|---|---|---|---|---|--
5. A -|---|-o-|---|---|---|--
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--

1. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--
2. B -|---|---|---|---|-o-|--
3. G -|---|---|---|---|---|-- octave (2)
4. D -|---|-o-|---|---|---|--
5. A -|---|---|---|---|---|--
6. E -|---|---|---|---|---|--



If you play the octave on string 6 & 4 or 5 & 3, use pattern (1). If the octave is played on string 4 & 2 or 3 & 1, use pattern (2).

You might want to try to play some (simple) tunes that way. Believe me, it sounds really good.

I showed this to a guy, who started playing 8 or 10 years before me – he didn`t know it and was absolutely enthusiastic about octave playing.

listen to the midi file:

 

Abstract

 

Interval

Semitones
apart

(c)onsonant/
(d)issonant

 

Note

1st

0

Very (c)

 

Minor 2nd

1

(d)

AKA b2nd

2nd

2

(d)

 

Aug. 2nd

3

(c)

 

Minor 3rd

3

(c)

 

Major 3rd

4

(c)

 

4th

5

(c)

 

Aug. 4th

6

(d)

 

Dim. 5th

6

(d)

AKA b5th

5th

7

(c)

 

Aug. 5th

8

(d)

Noted like "+5th"

Minor 6th

8

(d)

 

Major 6th

9

(c)

 

Minor 7th

10

(d)

Noted like "7th"

Major 7th

11

(d)

Noted like "maj7th"

Octave

12

Very (c)

 

 

There are some intervals that exceed the octave. Most common are

Interval

equals

b9th

octave plus b2nd

9th

-"- -"- 2nd

#9th

-"- -"- aug. 2nd

11th

-"- -"- 4th

#11th

-"- -"- aug. 4th

b13th

-"- -"- b6th

13th

-"- -"- 6th

This intervals are pretty common chord options.

[Previous] Theory made simple - the music slide rule
[Next]
[Up] Some Music Theory
[Home] Home Page
[Mail] Send EMail to Sven's Guitar Site
[Contents] Sven's Guitar Site Contents

Last modified on Friday, 2. January 2009