Intervals guitar theory

NAVIGATE the FRETBOARD Effortlessly Using the INTERVALS?

Knowing the intervals greatly expands your horizon on playing guitar, as it opens up more routes for you to practice and build your own playing style. In this article, we will go through the 4 most popular intervals, namely: the major and minor 3rds, perfect 5th, major and minor 6th and major and minor 7th. Each of these will bring a different feel to your sound, and mastering all of these will surely guarantee your improvement in becoming the king of the strings.

As per the definition of intervals, all of these patterns are movable across the fretboard. This is one of the biggest advantages of guitars compared to other musical instruments. In this article, we will be using the key of G for all the intervals in all demonstrations.

1. The major and minor 3rd’s

Starting with the 3rd’s. This, perhaps, is one of the most memorable and easily executed patterns. We will start with the root note – G. We will place one finger on the 3rd fret of the E string, where the G note is located. Then we lay the second finger on the B note on the 2nd fret of the A string, completing a major 3rd.

But, rather than remembering these intervals as notes, it is usually easier to visualize and memorise them as shapes. So, instead of knowing the G major 3rd’s consist of G – as root note and a B note, we will remember its shape – our positions on the fretboard – to play it on almost any strings. This way, the G major 3rd is one finger on the upper string and another finger on the string right below and one fret lower. Now we can easily execute the G major across the fretboard wherever the G is. For instance, on the E string, we can have a Major 3rd by playing 3rd fret 6th string and 2nd fret A string, but we can also have this pattern applied on the 10th fret of the A string and 9th fret of the D string, it is also applicable on the D and the B strings as well. However, due to the tuning of the guitar, major 3rd on the G string will be played on the 12th fret of both G and B string.

Knowing about the major 3rd will make learning the minor 3rd a piece of cake. Still using the key of G, we will have G, as a root note, and B flat, which means it is one fret towards the nut compared with G major 3rd. The pattern from now is very straightforward, the minor 3rd is played by the root note on the upper strings and the lower strings two frets lower. Of course, for the G string, it is played by G note of the 12th and 11th fret on the B string.

2. Perfect 5th

For G perfect 5th, place one finger on the root note – a G and another on the D note of the string right below. Again, in learning guitar intervals, remember that these intervals are movable and applicable on other positions across the fretboard. The pattern for the G perfect 5th is a G and 2 frets higher on the lower string. For instance, if we want to play the G perfect 5th on the B string simply put one finger on the G note at the 8th fret and another finger on the 10th fret of the high E string. Of course, for the D string, you will have to make an exception and move the note on the lower string 3 frets higher.

3. Major and Minor 6th

G Major 6th has a certain unique feel to it. It is more mysterious than other intervals and thus more characteristic. Major 6th is very similar to perfect 5th, it consists of G note and E flat. Thus, think of the pattern as the perfect 5th but we play the lower string 3 frets higher. However, some players may find this quite a gap, especially for newer learners. Our recommendation is to play the 1st fret on another lower string. Now we can form the pattern as a G note and 2 frets lower on the other string. Again, we can apply this pattern on many positions. Let’s say we’d like to play on the A string then simply put one finger on the 10th fret and the other finger on the 8th fret of the G string. Kindly reminder to make an exception for the D string, where you need to move the other note one fret higher.

Minor 6th is very similar to its major counterpart. The G minor 6th is played by the G note and an E. As E is one fret higher than E flat, you can play the G minor 6th exactly as the G major 6th except move the other string 1 fret higher. For instance, to play the G minor 6th on the A string, apply the same pattern as the G major 6th – 10th fret on the A string but on the B string, play the 9th fret instead of the 8th. Again, be sure to make an exception if the root note is on the D string.

4. Major and Minor 7th’s

Major 7th

The 7th’s brings a more solemn tone to the song. You will encounter the 7th chords quite often in slow pop songs.

Composition wise, the G 7th major is played using the G root note and F sharp. For this reason, its pattern is also very similar to the previous minor 6th, which has an E. As E is one whole step lower than F sharp, we play the F sharp by moving two frets from the E. Also, because of their similarity, we can form the pattern of the major 7th using the minor 6th. For example, to play the G major 7th on the A string, we play the G minor 6th: 10th fret on A string but on the A string, we play the 11th fret, instead of 9th.

Minor 7th

Minor 7th is again, almost identical to major 7th. Instead of the F sharp, we have an F, making forming and applying the pattern simpler. We simply form the 7th major and move 1 fret lower from the F sharp to have an F. For instance, we can have the G minor 7th on the A string by placing one finger on the 10th fret A string and 10th fret of the G string. In conclusion, the overall pattern for the G minor 7th is the root note and the note on the same fret 2 strings lower.

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