Guitar Intervals

What is an interval?

Simply put, an “interval” in music describes the “distance” between two notes. There are many intervals to describe the many two note possibilities.

The Naming Scheme

The interval names are named according to their relation to scale steps in a diatonic scale. The names of the “Major” and “Perfect” intervals are derived from their position within a major scale. The “minor” intervals are named due to their positions between the notes of the major scale.

Minor Second (m2)

The “distance” between two notes that are a half-step apart is called a minor second (m2). For example, the notes E (such as an open E string on a guitar in standard tuning) and F (first fret on the E string) is a minor second. Other examples would be the interval between the notes B and C, between F and F#, or between ANY two notes that are a half step apart (see fig. 1 below for a generic visual example of two notes that are a minor second apart).

Int_m2.jpgm2 – a minor second interval

Major Second (M2)

Two notes that are a whole step apart are considered to be a major second (M2) interval, as shown in fig. 2 below.

Int_MA2M2 – a major second

Minor Third (m3)

Two notes that are 1 and 1/2 steps apart are a minor third (m3) apart.

Int_m3_1stringm3 – minor third (m3) between two notes on the same string.

Int_m3_2stringsm3 – between two notes on different strings (other than the 2nd and 3rd string – see fig. 5).

Bstring_Int_m3  m3 – between two notes on the 2nd and 3rd string. This situation occurs ONLY when dealing with the relationship between the 2nd and 3rd strings (in standard tuning) due to their slightly different relative tuning (M3) compared to all the other strings. ALL other pairs are tuned to a 4th interval. So, ANY interval shape will appear slightly different when looking at the relationship between the 2nd and 3rd strings as compared to the shape on any other pair of strings.

Please note: Because of the staggering of note positions along the strings when using “standard” tuning, there is more than one way of visualizing and playing intervals. For the purposes of this article the focus is on only the most common interval shapes.

Major Third (M3)

Two notes separated by two whole steps are said to be a major third (M3) apart. Of course the look of a M3 could also be shown on one string but it’s more commonly useful to know the shape across strings for intervals between pairs of notes as far apart, or further apart, than a major third.

Int_MA3M3 – between two notes on different strings (other than the 2nd and 3rd strings).

Bstring_Int_MA3  M3 – between the 2nd and 3rd strings.

Perfect Fourth (P4) or (4)

Two notes 2 and 1/2 steps apart are a perfect fourth (P4). The perfect fourth can also be referred to as simply a fourth in common usage.

Int_P4P4 – between two strings other than the 2nd and 3rd.

Bstring_Int_P4   P4 – between the 2nd and 3rd strings.

Tritone (b5)

Two notes 3 steps apart form a tritone, or flat 5 (b5) interval. When talking about this interval it’s referred to as a tritone more often than not, but in chord naming (chord construction) it is most often referred to as a flat 5th (b5). It can be called by other names as well but tritone and b5 are the most common.

Int_tritoneTritone – between two strings other than the 2nd and 3rd.

Bstring_Int_tritone  Tritone – between the 2nd and 3rd strings.

Perfect Fifth (P5) or (5)

Two notes 3 and 1/2 steps apart are a perfect fifth (P5). Like a perfect fourth, a perfect 5th can also be referred to more simply as a fifth for the sake of convenience.

Int_P5P5 – between two strings other than the 2nd and 3rd.

Bstring_Int_P5  P5- between the 2nd and 3rd strings.

Minor Sixth (m6)

The distance between two notes 4 steps apart is known as a minor sixth (m6) interval.

Int_m6_2strings m6 – between two strings other than the 2nd and 3rd.

Int_m6_3strings  m6 – between three strings

Bstring_Int_m6    m6 – has this shape whether between the 1st and 3rd strings or between the 2nd and 4th strings.

Major Sixth (M6)

The distance between two notes 4 and 1/2 steps apart is known as a major sixth (M6) interval.

Int_MA6  M6 – between three strings other than the 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th.

Bstring_Int_MA6    M6 – has this shape whether between the 1st and 3rd strings or between the 2nd and 4th strings.

Minor Seventh (m7)

Two notes 5 steps apart constitute a minor seventh (m7) interval.

Int_m7 m7 – between three strings other than the 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th.

Bstring_Int_m7   m7 – has this shape whether between the 1st and 3rd strings or between the 2nd and 4th.

Major Seventh (M7)

Two notes 5 and 1/2 steps apart is a major seventh (M7).

Int_MA7M7 – between three strings other than the 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th.

Bstring_Int_MA7 M7 – has this shape whether between the 1st and 3rd strings or between the 2nd and 4th.

Octave (8va)

Two notes 6 steps apart is an octave (8va).

Int_8va_3strings8va – between three strings other than the 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th.

Int_8va_4strings8va- between four strings other than the 1st and 4th or the 2nd and 5th strings.

Bstring_Int_8va  8va – has this shape whether between the 1st and 3rd strings or between the 2nd and 4th.

Int_8va_4B28va – has this shape whether between the 1st and 4th or the 2nd and 5th strings.

First Things First

It’s important to understand that, on it’s own, an interval is simply the measure of the distance between two notes. The goal is to get to where you know the following well before integrating them further.

  1. m2, M2, m3, M3, P4, tritone, P5, m6, M6, m7, M7, 8va is the order in which the intervals increase.
  2.  they increase by 1/2 step (M2 is bigger than a m2 by a 1/2 step, m3 is bigger than a M2 by a 1/2 step, etc…)
  3. the visual shapes of each interval as shown should become familiar enough that you can use them easily when you begin to use them in chord construction and other musical ways.

Tip: knowing how many steps each interval has is secondary to understanding and recognizing the shapes, so I wouldn’t worry about that beyond the small intervals (m2, M2, m3, Ma3).

Why A Shape-based, Relational Approach?

The goal here is not to replace intervals as a function of notes as written on paper and by their letter names, but to prioritize the development of a visual, shape oriented system in order to more quickly and easily apply intervals to understanding chord construction, the harmonized major scale and other musical concepts. Ideally, a holistic understanding of all tools that can be used in the pursuit of musical mastery will still be the ultimate goal, but a pattern-shape-form-locational-relationship based approach will speed up the process of gaining facility and form the basis for a solid foundation upon which to build a more traditional theoretical knowledge.

Understanding the patterns, shapes, forms, locations and relationships in music will give you a powerful familiarity with the how and why of musical foundational structures and how to use them efficiently and effectively. Then, adding theoretical and literal knowledge will add richness and depth over time.

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Harmonized Major Scale Basics

What is a Major Key?

A major key is made up of the notes of the major scale, with the first note being the same note as the key. For example, the key of C is made up of the notes of the C major scale, which starts on the note C.

The Major Scale “Formula”

The “formula” that describes the distances between the notes of a major scale as a sequence of steps and half-steps is: 1, 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1, 1/2.

The Harmonized Major Scale is…

…a series of chords built from the notes in a major scale by creating triads (1,3,5) from each of the notes of the major scale using ONLY notes from that scale, which determines the quality of chords.

The Quality of the Resulting Chords

The quality of the resulting triads varies depending on which type of 3 (third interval) and which type of 5 (fifth interval) are dictated by using ONLY notes from the major scale. The naturally occurring triads for ANY major key are the same:

I – Major, II – minor, III – minor, IV – Major, V – Major, VI – minor, VII – minor flat five.

Harmonized Major Scale “Guidelines”:

  1. Note names of ANY major key ascend step-by-step through the musical alphabet, cycling A through G as needed. (Note: This clarifies when accidentals occur whether to call a note sharp or flat.)
  2. Major scale formula ALWAYS applies from “key” note: 1, 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1, 1/2.
  3. I, IV and V chords are Major, the rest are minor, and the VII chord is minor with a flatted 5.

Common Notation:

There are various ways the Harmonized Major Scale may be referred to. For one thing, Roman numerals can be used instead of Arabic numbers to avoid confusion regarding things like whether “7” means the seventh chord of the harmonized major scale, or in reference to chord structure, or quality, like A7, or Gm7b5 and so on. Roman numerals have been the traditional standard. In what’s now called “The Nashville System” Arabic numbers are the standard. So, here are some ways both number systems might be used, depending on who’s using it.

  1. I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – When assuming the user understands Guideline #3 above the numbers can be used on their own. When playing I chord it’s Major, when playing a II chord it’s minor, etc..
  2. I, IIm, IIIm, IV, V, VIm, VIIm(b5) or 1, 2m, 3m, 4, 5, 6m, 7m(b5) – This system retains the numbers but adds the chord quality of each chord.
  3. I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii(b5) – In this scenario a capitol letter designates Major and small case means minor.
  4. Other combinations of the above may occur as well. The main thing is for the writer/speaker and reader/listener to be using the same system.

Key of C:

I – C, IIm – Dm, IIIm – Em, IV – F, V – G, VI – Am, VII – Bm(b5)

Key of D:

I – D, IIm – Em, IIIm – F#m, IV – G, V – A, VI – Bm, VII – C#m(b5)

Key of E:

I – E, IIm – F#m, IIIm – G#m, IV – A, V – B, VI – C#m, VII – D#m(b5)

Key of F:

I – F, IIm – Gm, IIIm – Am, IV – Bb, V – C, VI – Dm, VII – Em(b5)

Key of Bb:

I – Bb, IIm – Cm, IIIm – Dm, IV – Eb, V – F, VI – Gm, VII – Am(b5)

You can find additional guitar, ukulele and bass resources at and Advanced Guitar Concepts at

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Pattern Visualization for Guitar

Pattern Visualization as a Core Structure

This morning I’m thinking about how I use pattern visualization as a core structure to base guitar playing around. Please note that I don’t mean this is the ONLY structure or concept to utilize, not by any means, but it is a powerful tool to have in your arsenal.

We’ll begin with a few “mathematical” patterns that have the same fingering/fret positions on every string and that include open notes on every string.


The “Map”

In order to develop fluency with any pattern is to get the “map” of it firmly implanted so that anything played while using it is controlled by the “picture” of it rather than how it sounds. A good way to start the process of implanting the “0-1-2” pattern as shown above is to play it in ascending, then descending order…



A powerful ability to develop is the awareness of the conceptualization of the sequencing being used to play the pattern. Mastery of a particular sequential concept as a road map through one pattern opens the door to using the same concept on ANY pattern. In this case the sequential concept is “Linear Up & Down.” For more on applying a sequential concept to other patterns, check out Mathematical Patterns.

My experience with many, many students over many years of teaching has shown that at first people have a tendency to begin to remember how to play a pattern in sequence as a result of beginning with the ascending and descending sequence, which seems to be the simplest and most effective way to begin. Over time, as other sequences and concepts are applied, the map gradually becomes more and more readily accessible in larger “chunks” and finally as a whole until, in the end it becomes second nature to see it in your mind and move about freely within it.


Playing and sequencing 3 note patterns that include open notes:

Since our focus here is to explore how we can use 3 note patterns that include open notes, let’s look at another pattern that has a mathematical basis, using a particular sequence of note positions that is consistent across all the strings. We can call it “0-2-3,” with the numbers in the name being based on the fret locations.


The numbers in the graphic are fingering numbers, which are optional. However, if circumstances dictate, 0-2-3 could be used for fingerings as well. Fingerings are always dependent on logic and ergonomics.

Don’t Go By What You Hear

It’s wierd, I know, but for this stuff part of the point is to have a rock solid visualization of the fretboard and pattern note positions to develop your ability to stay on track with the notes, sequences, conceptualization and all intellectually. The long term goal is to combine this skill with your ear and all other skills to have a complete toolbox from which to balance every aspect in whichever ways best suit whatever situation you are involved in at any given point in time. This can come in particularly handy when using different tunings or other unique ways of using your instrument and complex musical concepts.

I can hardly overstate the giant benefit of using what you might call a “mathmatical” or “geographical” or geometric” approach (whatever works for you) inherent in this way of thinking is that once understood conceptually this process will transfer nicely to any pattern, scale, note sequence, chord shape, and so on, in any tuning, on any string instrument.

Another Conceptual Sequence

Now that we have established the “map” of a couple of patterns and familiarized with how to play them in a simple linear up and down, let’s return to the 0-1-2 pattern and approach it with a new conceptual sequence.

In the first step we established what the pattern we wanted to play “looked like”, and we applied a sequential concept to that pattern map that was simply to start on the lowest note and play “sequentially ascending and then descending.” That’s always a good way to begin with a new pattern. How about we add a little twist to the sequential concept we used first. Let’s add “skip a note.”

Skip a Note

There are now three concepts being combined. 1) The pattern “map.” 2) The “sequentially ascending and descending” idea. 3) The “skip a note” concept.

One way to understand this is to reference the notes of the pattern with sequential numbers, with “1” meaning the first note of the pattern (low E), “2” meaning the 2nd note (F – 1st fret of E string) and so on. Skipping a note from each note in succession can now be described as 1 through 12 when ascending and then the numbers can be reversed when descending. Alternatively the numbers could be kept consistent whether ascending (1-12) or descending (12-1). Whichever works better.

For example, a “1-3” pattern (note positions a whole-step apart on the same frets on every string) numbered with this sequential number system showing the order of notes looks like this in ascending order:


…and like this when the numbers are reversed  in descending order:


For any new pattern simply use the same numbering system to map the “Skip a Note” concept, or whatever sequential concept you wish to use (such as “3 in a row” from each note) onto the pattern you’re using.

Goals and Follow Up

There are a number of goals that can be elaborated on regarding the concepts and information in this post. One of the most important is to develop your ability to use Visual Sequencing in a variety of ways and then be able to transfer each sequential concept to any pattern(s) you encounter.

Stay tuned. More to come soon…

Revised on Thanksgiving morning, 2017. HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYBODY!



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Strength and Courage with Love

Let’s be straight. Life on this planet is going to get a lot more difficult before there’s a chance it will get better.

We’ve let this climate thing go so long now that the best we can hope for is to slow it down, even with drastic and immediate steps to change the factors that are caused by humans.

I am NOT a pessimist. I AM a realist however. As ninety some percent of scientists believe, we are firmly headed down the road and to deny it is to deny the facts and resulting projections, or “reality”, as best as our most educated and intelligent minds can figure. I have to agree that it’s virtually undeniable. We are living it now, and I am sorry to say conditions will continue to worsen.

Many folks apparently believe that this is some sort of conspiracy, or exaggeration, or just not in keeping with the idea that the world is as we would like to believe it is, which seems to be the new mantra for so many. Rather than try to convince the nay sayers, I will simply express my profound sadness and anger towards those of this head-in-the-sand attitude since it makes me feel that what should be theirs to have to suffer because of their beliefs is really ALL of ours to suffer.

What will be needed is strength and courage with love my friends. Strength to live with greater and greater challenges, mental and physical. Courage to stay hopeful and work toward a better future despite the daunting picture the clear and open mind may see. And we need all the love we can muster to cope with the varied viewpoints that will ever resist bringing consensus to deal with things in a timely and effective way.

I won’t dwell on this issue in the days and months and years ahead. For myself I will do my best to be strong and courageous, and I will try to understand and love all life and living things with the hope that we, as a people, and in the bigger picture as a living system, are and will become what we do, and that we will somehow find a way to do better.

Here’s hoping for the best for us all.

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What a … World

Man, it’s crazy out there these days! It’s ever more difficult to keep a positive attitude what with the apparent lack of intelligence and sense of reality to understand the many challenges facing humanity, the lack of empathy, and compassion for our fellow humans, and especially regarding the one big thing that could put an end to us all — our continued blind race toward destroying our home by endlessly pumping deadly chemicals into our environment that accelerate the changing of the climate and stirring our weather to ever more extremes of heat and storm and… on top of that to have to listen to the Trumps and McConnell’s and Charlie Daniels and Steven Segal and Rush Limbaugh and all the fools who have no idea what’s really going on because they’re trying to take us back to the dark ages of white dominance and bigotry and misogyny and on and on…!! Wow, it’s just beyond belief.

Ok, gotta eat my breakfast now. It’s hot.

Had to vent a little. Thanks for listening.


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Flirtin’ with it…

…with gettin’ somethin’… maybe. That’s what I’m flirtin’ with. D’oh! Man, I hope not. I have a couple of weddings to play this weekend and it won’t be fun if I do indeed go down the sick-o path. I will think positive, drink my immune booster tea and gargle intermittently with salt water to create a hostile throat environment for bugs and go about my business as seems reasonable, perhaps with a bit of rest mixed in as well. Took my vitamins, the room is warm enough. We’ll see how it goes.

I gave my students for today a choice to come or not, depending on how they feel about possible exposure. The only one I’ve heard from so far has decided to skip it today. I understand that. Sick=bad. So, I can do more preparations for the wedding, work on creating more materials for my new wedding page, continue on my latest CD of original singer/songwriter stuff, improve my online skills, take another step toward finishing production of the Cooper & Garoutte CD, etc., etc., etc. The good news, AND the bad news, is that there is always way more I want and need to do than can be done. Just gotta keep it all in perspective and keep taking one step at a time. Small steps…

Maybe I’ll get a little time to relax with Solo. As you can see in the picture above it looks like a good way to get some quiet time, sometimes… heh, heh…

So, please hold a positive thought for me and perhaps this apparent beginning to some kind of cold or flu or whatever will fizzle.

Thanks! Talk to you soon…


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Cat engulfs Dog!

Hey y’all,

This morning’s story is about our cat and dog, Solo and Squeeks…

Our growing young cat Solo can now completely engulf our little mini-dachshund in a full takedown! Solo is a very cool and beautiful mix of Siamese, Rag-doll and another breed or two and we love him, but he can be a handful with bursts of crazy energy and playfulness nearly beyond our energy capacity, patience and understanding at precisely the time(s) of day when we are most ready to mellow out and relax (read: rest) and/or go to bed.

Don’t get me wrong, Solo can be wonderfully loving and affectionate. Most of the time he is a pleasure to have around, other than when he plagues us with that “Play with me, play with me, play with me…” thing when we’re not ready for it, but he is still in need of intense activity at times at this young age so we give him action when reasonable. And he’s growing bigger all the time…

When he first joined our little family he was a tiny little kitty, skittish at the least little things. We did find however, that from the git-go he was willing to stand up to the dog who occasionally tried to assert herself when she felt her domain threatened by the new member of the family. From day one little Solo’s claws came out as needed. He wasn’t going to be bullied. That was pretty cute… and even reassuring at the time… but the cat is getting BIGGER…

Now, in fact, Solo is MUCH bigger. Though not yet fully grown the “little guy” is probably half-again the bulk of the admittedly small dog, perhaps more. Over time the cat and the dog have become great pals and get along well much of the time. However, in moments of playful aggression the young and irrepressible Solo will pounce on the much older and mellow Squeekie as she bounces happily along to “go outside” with one of us, wrap his furry arms around her and throw her to the ground, on her back, as if pinning her in a wrestling match, and assert his emerging dominance for all the world to see. Poor Squeeks is then forced to submit, lying helpless in the grip of the Monster Cat, until such time as the cat is removed, or removes himself from the dominant position. Poor Squeekie! ;-{ Not to worry… no one ever seems permanently damaged in these encounters. Solo is very good about holding back the claws unless he feels seriously threatened… other than an occasionally overly enthusiastic swipe at a play toy or at a leg or arm positioned too close to the edge of a couch, chair or bed as he flies around in one of his fits of frenzy. We’ve had to break out the hydrogen peroxide and bandages a few times, but with just a little care and common sense serious injuries are pretty much avoidable…

Anyway, all in all we wouldn’t trade either of our smaller family members away for anything and the two are wonderfully familial. A perfectly little happy troupe we are together. As you can see in the picture above Solo stays ready for whatever adventure may come along for his entertainment or cuddling, depending on the many variables life with the four of us may bring.

That’s all for now… Be well, be happy my friends! We’ll talk again soon!


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Sunday Stuff

Good morning y’all! We’re back home in the Gorge now after taking a few days to relax and recharge at the coast and points in-between there and here. It was an effective plan since we are indeed recharged and back at it now.

Yesterday was a lot of fun too! Moe and I played on the Terrace at Maryhill Winery from 1 ’til 5 pm. There was a generous crowd despite a bit of residual smoke and the limitations of the “just reopening freeway” along the Oregon side of the big river. We made a strong connection with quite a number of new fans and visited with a few ‘old’ ones. We enjoyed the strong connection as everyone joined in and spent their afternoon with us. It’s such a pleasure to combine our varied skills and joys to facilitate music that moves through us all from the “Big Flow” outward to all those ready to share in it! Yeah, baby. When it was all said and done we were “happily spent.”

Today will be a combination of business and pleasure. This morning we’re working on our various “work” and creative pursuits to catch up and move forward, while this afternoon the plan is to get outdoors a bit on this beautiful day and get a little exercise and pleasure for ourselves and out cherished critters. In this crazy time we live in it’s more important than ever to embrace these joys isn’t it? There are challenging times ahead (to say the least) so we try to stay up on what’s happening and try to understand the best way forward. It can be daunting and disheartening to deal with the insanity that is afoot in the world but we are determined to find a balance between the joys and the terrors and stay positive going forward. We’re all in this thing together so let’s remember that we are all connected to everything… let’s treat ourselves and everyone, and everyTHING with love, respect and understanding.

Ok, back to it… We’ll talk again soon.

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Cape Disappointment – NOT disappointing

Hey y’all,

Coming to you from Cape Disappointment where Annie and I (and the Squeekster…) are taking a couple of days to play and freshen up after all the fire and smoke and stress in our beautiful Gorge. It’s great! The weather was beautiful yesterday afternoon when we arrived and stayed nice through the evening…

The panorama above was taken at the little beach cove a short walk from our little cabin. Pretty sweet. The dog got a great runaround and we got to breath some fresh air and watch the cormorants, a sea lion, a couple of surfers (not much surf though…) and some ships and boats crossing the Columbia River bar. Ahhhhh… felt so good.

Anyway, we’re vacationing, so I’d better sign off. Just had to get a notice up about the gig Moe Dixon and I are playing at Maryhill Winery this saturday, 1-5 pm.


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Ahhh… RAIN!

Oh yes, we finally have had rain, sweet rain for a few days, and it’s WONDERFUL!

For weeks it’s been hot and dry, and tragically some foolish kids played with fireworks on the beautiful Eagle Creek trail and guess what? FIRE! Yeah, I know, right? How could they not realize the extreme danger in what they were doing!?!? What a horrible, painful “live and learn” thing it’s been. My god, our incredible Columbia Gorge has been defaced, torched, scorched, denuded, burnt… and the smoke!! We’ve all been suffering from the inhalation and we’ve had to escape, locking ourselves up in our homes, cars and whatever else to try not to breathe it in, and it was hot of course, so it’s been pretty miserable and disheartening to get through it all. We cross our fingers that the rain will take care of the fire and begin to the long and painful recovery process. Our hearts are with our Mother Earth and all the creatures (humans included) that have suffered and had their lives changed forever!

On a brighter note, I’m still creating and recording new things. Check out my new “Wedding” page on I am getting back into playing for these type of events after a long hiatus away from the casuals I played as my primary business for many years. I am feeling fresh again and able to provide a high quality of service once again. I have to admit, despite all the challenges that can arise from dealing with such important events in people’s lives it can be very satisfying to help make it the most special and memorable time many will ever experience.

I’ve also been continuing with my latest recorded collection. I’ll put up some samples soon. Right now it’s time to think about getting out of town for a couple of days with my Annie…

Yes, bright and early tomorrow morning we’re heading off to the coast for a few days. We are both craving a change of scenery and fresh air after a long siege with the fires and smoke and all. We are SOOOOOO ready! So… without further ado…

Talk to you again soon by friends!


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