This lesson on guitar fret intervals follows on nicely
on the fretboard and note
we're going to look at how intervals
work on your guitar's fretboard.
Intervals can be seen as the space or distance
two pitches/notes. The larger the distance between the pitches, the
So, for example, the interval between the notes A and C is larger than
the interval between A
A bunch of intervals from the same starting note creates a chord (when they're played together) or scale (when played one after the other). So intervals can be seen as the building blocks of music.
Basic Fret Intervals - Half Steps & Whole Steps
As you delve into guitar theory, you'll hear people talk
about whole steps
(also called whole tones,
abbreviated as W
and half steps
(also called semitones,
abbreviated as H
Well, what they're referring to
- the distance between two notes.
Half and whole steps are the smallest intervals on the fretboard.
See the diagrams below for how
these interval "steps" appear on the fretboard...
That's how half step and whole step
intervals would appear on one
string. It's the same spacing whichever string you're on:
- Half steps are the equivalent of one fret between the starting note and destination note.
- Whole steps are the equivalent of two frets
between the starting note and destination note.
So if we were to move from the
3rd fret up a whole step
we would end up at the 5th fret.
If we were to move from the
5th fret down a half step
we would end up on the 4th fret.
If you see a scale written like this...
...you'll know what the W's and H's mean and
you should at
least be able to visualize the scale across one string, using the whole
and half step fret intervals.
You may also see scales written using a series of 1's and 2's. That's 1 for a half step and 2 for a whole step (as 2
half steps make a whole!).
For example, the above sequence might be written as: 2 2 1 2 2 2 1
Or as: W
W H W W W H
Or as: T
T S T T T S
(T = whole tone, S = semitone)
want to use these intervals across more than one string, so we need to
know how these intervals appear vertically, from string to string, as well as
Fret Intervals Across More Than One String
Let's look at a few diagrams
to see how these same whole and half step intervals appear between two
your guitar and play
these positions so you can hear the sound of the interval, moving both
up and down.
Count how many frets wide the
appears. Why is this necessary? Because knowing where
appear in several places on the fretboard will make scale and chord
Half Step Between 6th and 5th String
Whole Step Between 6th and 5th String
relationships are the same
for the bottom four strings: E-A,
However, because the B string is tuned differently in relation to the G
string, we have to compensate by adjusting the relationship on the
Half Step Between 3rd and 2nd String
Whole Step Between 3rd and 2nd String
Then it's back to
the same fret spacing as before between the B and high E string...
Whole and half
step intervals are the building blocks of scales and movements between chords, so being able to see
these relationships across all six strings is hugely beneficial, even if it
doesn't seem that big a deal right now. These are the kind of visual
references that will help you navigate the fretboard musically and
with the note patterns you learned in the previous lesson, you'll be able to jump between note positions based on the
interval relationships you map out on the fretboard.
This in turn means there'll be less time spent on trial and error and more interconnectivity between the different concepts we'll explore in future lessons.