Guitar Intervals: The Only Guide You Need On Intervals (I Promise)

So many guitar players have been confused by guitar intervals. The funny thing is that they are straightforward to understand! Some people don't explain them adequately, and why there are useful, and how to use them. I will FINALLY remove these frustrations forever and tell you what you need to know about them.

IMPORTANT: Don't just read this article! Make sure you apply what I have written as you read this article; otherwise, I promise you won't learn anything. For example, below, I have written "put your index finger on the 3rd fret," I mean it! Don't just read, it's for your own good, and I want you to succeed.

Also! Keep in mind this article assumes that you know what a guitar scale is. Make sure you understand the Major scale and the minor scale. It also assumes that you know what notes are on a fretboard.

So What The Heck Are Guitar Intervals?

Simply put, a guitar interval is the distance between 2 notes. What does this mean? For example, put your index finger on the 3rd fret of the low 'E' string and put your ring finger on the 5th fret of the same string, do you notice what is in between those two fingers? A Fret! That's right; there is one space between those notes.

Notice that when you hit those two frets that it makes a specific sound. That is the sound of a specific interval called a "minor second," which I will explain to you later. Don't stress about it, and don't even remember that it's a minor second. Know that if you hit those two frets, that sound is an interval.

Note: On the picture, the numbers represent the fret numbers.

guitar interval chart

Question time! Here is a trick question for you. If you were to put your finger on the 3rd fret of the low 'E' string, how many spaces do you think are in between the 3rd fret of the low 'E' string and the open low 'E' string?

Answer: The answer is two spaces. How? Well, if your ring finger is still on the 3rd fret of the low 'E' string, and you look at the first and second fret of the same string, there are 2 "spaces" before the open low 'E' string. That's why the answer is 2.

In case my explanation wasn't clear, check out this guitar interval chart. You can see what I mean by two spaces.

guitar interval chart

Why Do You Need To Know Guitar Intervals?

Guitar intervals are one of those most critical concepts in music. The reason is that if you were to learn a song by ear, for example, understanding intervals and being able to hear them will help you long songs by ear.

For example, if you were to learn a song that starts by hitting the 3rd fret of the low 'E' string and then hitting the 5th fret of the low 'E' string.], you would know be able to identify that specific interval.

Are you stuck in a rut on the guitar such as playing in the same pentatonic box all the time? If not skip this part but if you have this problem, keep reading. A lot of players (including me) have or have had the problem of staying in one position and playing the same boring licks.

If you learn how to identify guitar intervals you can break yourself out of this box and start to choose some interesting sounding notes. Keep in mind you will still need to do some trial and error to find out which notes are the right ones, but intervals will help massively.

The Different Type Of Guitar Intervals

There are many types of guitar intervals, which I will break down every single one for you. Remember how I said that an interval is the space between 2 notes? Well, take a look at this guitar interval chart, and you will see what I mean exactly. You will see the different names of intervals and the space between them.

IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that we are starting on the 3rd fret of the low 'E' string. This is the 'G' note. The numbers represent the fret numbers. The 'R' means the root note (meaning the starting note, we are starting on 'G' in this case).

guitar interval chart

 

See how we have all these different interval names such as:

Minor Second

Major Second

Minor Third

Major Third

Perfect Fourth

Tri-Tone

Perfect Fifth

Minor Sixth

Major Sixth

Minor Seventh

Major Seventh

Perfect Octave

Don't get scared, these are big names but they are simple to understand. As you see on the picture if we start on the root note and go up one fret, that is a minor second.

If we start again, (remember the start is the root) and go up two frets, that is a major second and so on. If you count all of these intervals from the root and work all the day down to the major seventh interval, there are eleven intervals in total.

You might be thinking, "what above the perfect octave interval?" Well, the perfect octave is the same note as the root note. In this case, it's a 'G' note, so we don't include it because its a repeat note.

You would have noticed that the picture above that I showed you, showed of intervals up and down the guitar neck. Did you know that intervals are everywhere and you don't need to play for example a "tri-tone" interval stretching your fingers all the way from the root note (remember in this example the root note is still 'G') to the note of 'C#'?

That stretch is way too big on one string and doesn't even sound good. What you can do is play that same 'C#' note on the 'A' string, on the fourth fret, and you will get the same sound. Why? Because the notes are the same.

Here is a chart showing what I mean. The before and after:

guitar interval chart

guitar interval chart

See how there is a minor third interval on the 'A' string now? If you play the root note and then the interval, you will notice that the sound is the same.

Recap: Now that you understand that there are twelve intervals, what their names are, why they are useful, time to learn some more interesting things.

If you understand guitar scales, you will know that there are seven notes in a scale. We will work with C major in this session (Reason I picked 'C' Major is because of this image that I was able to pull up). Here is a C major scale chart with all the intervals but in a scale shape instead of one long line across the neck.

guitar interval chart

The point of this is to show you that you can play intervals in a scale shape, and it's much easier because all of your notes are grouped, like in a box.

Recap: Now you know that guitar intervals can be played in a scale-like form making notes closer to your fingers.

Ok! That's the boring theory out of the way, I've tried to explain everything in the simplest form possible now it's time for some practice.

Every day interval training should be part of your guitar practice routine so you can train your ear. In this section, you will learn how to train your ears to hear different intervals. Before we begin, you might have some questions, and these are the answers:

Common questions:

Q: When should I practice intervals?

A: Whenever.  Prefferably same time as your standard guitar practice.

 

Q: How should I practice them?

A: Read what I am about to write below to find out.

 

Q: How often should I practice them?

A: As much as you can, if you have an over an hour, then that's great. If you only have ten minutes a day, that's fine but do remember this quote - "The more you put in, the more you get out."

 

To start recognizing intervals what you need to do is to remember the sound of the intervals. How do you remember the sound of an interval?

It's simple; you need a reference song that you know well and use that song to remember the interval. For example, if you want to remember the sound of the minor second interval, then find a song that reminds you of that interval. 

1) Choose any interval. In this case, I will use the minor second as an example. If you are using the same interval then play the minor second interval. If you play the interval continually, you might notice that it sounds like the "JAWS" theme song. You can use JAWS as the reference song, for example, but pick something that you like and reminds you of that interval.

2)  PRACTICE, ONE interval at a time. Get familiar with any interval, doesn't matter which one it is but only one at a time. Also, one thing that I must mention is that make sure you sing the interval. What do I mean by this?

When you play the note on the fretboard, it makes a particular sound. Play that sound with your mouth; make sure it matches. Doesn't matter what the sound you make with your mouth is. If for example, you start on the 'G' note on the 3rd Fret of the low 'E' string; play that string and then bring your voice up, so it matches that note. Do this also for the next note. This will make you get familiar with the interval sound.

You might be wondering, for how long do I need to practice this? Make your self a rule, and that's to practice one interval a week. By then you should memorize it well.

3) Test yourself. Want to know if you are good at identifying intervals? Take this interval test.

 

Choose the sound as "Guitar" and Answer Input as "Guitar," then press the play button. It will play the rote note then another note which you must guess what the interval is.

4) Keep testing yourself!

That is pretty much what you need to know about guitar intervals. Hopefully, this was helpful and remember to keep on practicing!

Summary: Intervals are the space between 2 notes, and every interval has a name depending on how many spaces there are. You will use reference songs to remember intervals, as well as singing intervals so you can internalize the sound.