creativity-with-intervals

How To Expand Your Soloing Creativity With Intervals

When you’re learning to play the guitar, you usually start off with a few chords. After that, you learn a few more, and after that, you might learn a scale or two.

The process is different for everybody, of course, but in the beginning, what you learn about the guitar involves a lot of memorization. You have to memorize the chord shapes, you have to memorize the scales, and so on.

This works fine at first. And it can work just fine for a long time... if you’re really good at memorizing things. 🙂

But at some point, you might start to wonder why chords are shaped the way they are. Or why a “7th” chord is called a 7th chord. Or why the notes in the A major scale are just a little different than the notes in the A minor scale. And so on… and so on, and so on.

Point is, there’s an easier way to make sense of all this stuff and really take control of your fretboard than simply memorizing a thousand chords and scales.

There’s a much easier way, in fact.

Today I’m going to tell you a little about intervals. Simply put, an interval is just the difference in pitch between two musical notes. But this simple concept is actually what makes all of music theory possible.

Intervals are what make up scales. Chords are created by combining certain notes from a scale.

Music theory gets a lot less confusing when you know about intervals and how they work. When you know about intervals, you can easily communicate with other musicians, and you can also make sense of chords and scales.

I’ll break some basic stuff down below:

1. The “Dictionary” of Music - The Chromatic Scale

The best place to start our discussion of intervals is the chromatic scale. It’s just all 12 musical notes (or pitches) in order.

The chromatic scale can start and end on any note, but since I’m going to use the key of C major as an example, here’s the chromatic scale if we start at C:

C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A - A#/Bb - B

Remember, C#/Db is one note, D#/Eb is one note, F#/Gb is one note, G#/Ab is one note, and A#/Bb is one note. And this is important: there is one fret between each of those notes. In music, we call moving up or down 1 fret a “half step.” Moving up or down 2 frets is a “whole step.”

Sharps and flats can be confusing at first… and that’s why I decided to use the key of C major as an example: C major doesn’t have any sharps or flats.

Here’s the C major diatonic scale:

C - D - E - F - G - A - B

“Diatonic” means “7 notes”. We can also think about these notes as intervals, with C as the root note:

C (root) - D (major 2nd) - E (major 3rd) - F (perfect 4th) - G (perfect 5th) - A (major 6th) - B (major 7th)

Let’s take another look at the chromatic scale, starting at C:

C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A - A#/Bb - B

Now let’s look at C major diatonic, but instead of removing the sharps/flats, I’ll just cross through them:

C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A - A#/Bb - B

Writing it like this helps us see the scale pattern on the fretboard: we start with C, then move up a whole step (2 frets, skipping over C#/Db) to get to the 2nd, D. Then we move up a whole step to E, a half-step to F, a whole step to G, a whole step to A, a whole step to B…

And we can go up 1 more half-step from B to C, and start the scale over again.

The point is, this pattern of whole and half steps is the same in all keys. Which means, you can find the major diatonic scale in any key using intervals.

And you can find every other scale or chord using intervals, so you don’t have to memorize all of them, you just have to know the intervals they use.

2. Using intervals for ear training

Each interval has its own unique sound. And once you recognize those sounds, you can start recognizing chords and scales when you hear them.

One of the most essential interval sounds in music is the haunting, “melancholy” sound of minor chords.

Here’s the thing: the only difference between a major and minor chord is one note: the 3rd is flattened one half step.

A major chord is made up of a root, a major 3rd, and a perfect 5th. So, for a C major chord, the notes are C, E, and G.

A minor chord is made up of a root, a minor 3rd, and a perfect 5th. So, for a C minor chord, the notes are C, Eb, and G.

Play a C major chord and then a C minor chord. Hear the difference?

You’re hearing a change in intervals.

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All of music can be explained using intervals. Knowing about intervals can give all aspects of your playing a boost, because it will allow you to stop just memorizing chords and scales and start really understanding how chords and scales are created from the chromatic scale.

You’ll also understand why certain scales work better with certain chord progressions or styles of music. It’s all about how intervals work.

No matter your skill level, if you don’t know about intervals, you’re not reaching your potential as a guitarist. That’s why I created my course All About Intervals. So you can stop being confused by chords and scales and start really understanding how they work.

Go here to take a quick look at All About Intervals.

Having questions?
Let me know in the comments section below!

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