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Intervals March 23, 2007

Posted by rgordon83 in Beginner, Ear Training, Guitar Lessons, Intervals, Music Theory, Notes.
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An interval is the distance between two notes and it is calculated from the lower note. Different intervals have different sound qualities. Learning intervals will help you develop your ear and it is a great ear training exercise. For instance, if you can recognize the sound of a Minor 3rd interval then you will be able to hear when a melody you like uses it, thus you will be able to play it back.

There are two types of Intervals: harmonic intervals and melodic intervals. A harmonic interval is the distance between two notes played in unison. A melodic interval is the distance between two notes played in succession.

Here are some tabbed examples:

Harmonic Interval Melodic Interval
——————– ———————-
——————– ———————–
——————– ———————-
———–2——– —————-2——
———–3——— ——-3—————-
———————- ———————–

There are two characters for every interval: size and quality. Size refers to the distance between the two notes and quality describes the type of sound that interval has.

There are 13 common interval distances (numbers), intervals higher than 13 are rarely used. The first 8 intervals are called “simple intervals” because they are within an octave. Intervals 9-13 are called “compound intervals”. Interval distance is always counted from the 1st note of the scale:

interval distances on guitar (since that is hard to read, here are the numbers for each interval. the first number is the lower number, the 2nd is the one above it: Unison: 8, 3. 2nd: 3, 0. 3rd: 3, 2. 4th: 3, 3. 5th: 3, 5. 6th: 3, 2. 7th: 3, 4. 8th: 3, 5. 9th: 3, 3. 10th: 3, 5. 11th: 3, 1. 12th: 3, 3. 13th: 3, 5.)
There are 5 terms that describe the quality of intervals: perfect, major, minor, diminished, and augmented. These are the same types of sounds that are used to describe chords.

To figure out the quality of intervals we need to look at the interval numbers and qualities in the major scale.

The major scale has two qualities of intervals: perfect and major. The perfect intervals occur on the unison (1st), 4th, 5th, and octave. The major intervals are the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th. The compound intervals are the same as the simple intervals.
Interval qualities on guitar (since that is hard to read, here are the numbers for each interval. the first number is the lower number, the 2nd is the one above it: Unison: 8, 3. 2nd: 3, 0. 3rd: 3, 2. 4th: 3, 3. 5th: 3, 5. 6th: 3, 2. 7th: 3, 4. 8th: 3, 5. 9th: 3, 3. 10th: 3, 5. 11th: 3, 1. 12th: 3, 3. 13th: 3, 5.)

Minor, Diminished, and Augmented intervals are made by altering a perfect or major interval either by moving the second note a half step sharp or a half step flat (if you do not know what this means see my post on notes). By altering an interval you do not change the number, just the quality.

Whenever a perfect interval is raised a half-step it becomes augmented. So if we raise a P1st (perfect first) one half-step it becomes an A1st (augmented 1st).

Whenever a perfect interval is lowered by one half-step it becomes diminished. So a P5th lowered by a half-step becomes a d5th (diminished 5th).

When a major interval is raised a half-step it becomes augmented (just like a perfect interval). So a M2nd (major 2nd) raised by a half step becomes a P2nd.

When a Major interval is lowered by a half-step it becomes minor. So a M3rd lowered by a half-step becomes a m3rd (minor 3rd. Major gets a capital M miner gets a lower case m).

When a minor interval is lowered a half-step it becomes diminished. So a m3rd lowered a half-step it becomes a d3rd.

I know this is a lot to digest. I would say start with the intervals of the major scale and play those. Get your ear familiar with them. Once you are comfortable, have a friend play and interval from the major scale and try to guess what it is (no peeking). This is a good ear training exercise.

If you have questions please post them to the comments.

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Comments»

1. Ford - May 6, 2007

Thank you very much for this blog,
your straightforward and precise way of explaining theory has been an eye-opener. Keep it up!

2. Ross Gordon - May 6, 2007

Thank you very much for the positive feedback! Please check back soon!


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