# How to play intervals on guitar

In this lesson, we’ll cover what music intervals are and how to play them on the guitar. We’ll include notation examples and guitar charts to help you apply this music theory concept.

We’ll first define this term and get into what each music interval is called.

## What is an interval in music?

An interval simply means a specific distance between two notes in music. Each distance or “interval” has a particular name that we can use to explain music theory concepts and practical musical application. Let’s look at what each interval is called in the chart below.

## Unison interval on guitar

Here are 3 ways to play the same note C note on the guitar. These notes are considered unison intervals because they are in the same register, meaning one location on the staff.

## minor 2nd variations

### minor 2nd variation shapes

The last shape here on the 5th string shape may not be practical if your guitar is not suitable to play past the 12th fret.

## Applying intervals to scales

Once you understand how intervals work, you can create a visual map to identify the relationship between notes. For example, let’s take one position on the fretboard and see what the intervals look like in relation to the root note.

### Intervals guitar chart

The following chart shows all of the intervals in one position of the guitar.

By knowing where your intervals are on the fretboard, you can figure out how to play any scale if you know the formula. For example, the Major scale has the following intervals in relation to the root note: Major 2nd, Major 3rd, Perfect 4th, Perfect 5th, Major 6th, and Major 7th.

### Major scale on guitar using intervals

In this case, the notes in dark blue circles belong to the Major scale and the notes in light blue are the ones that are omitted.

Using this concept of mapping out intervals will also help you find the notes in triad chords and 7ths chords. This is necessary to know so you can choose the right notes when improvising, regardless of what area you are playing on the fretboard.

For other scale examples, also check out minor scales, pentatonic scales or blues scales.

## Compound intervals / chord extensions

Compound intervals are another way to label the distance between notes larger than an octave. For example, a Major 10th interval is basically a Major 3rd placed an octave above. You may often hear some of these intervals referred to as “chord extensions”, “extended chord tones”, or “upper extensions”. These terms are usually used interchangeably.

See the chart below for more examples of compound intervals.

## What is the difference between scale degrees and intervals?

While intervals refer to the distance between any two notes, scale degrees refer to the distance in relation to the root note. These terms are closed related but have slightly different names to refer to the distance between notes.

Here is a chart to help you understand the relation between intervals and scale degrees.

Another thing worth mentioning is that scale degrees are also synonymous with chord tones to refer to notes in relation to the root note. Chord tones are the notes that determine the quality of a chord. For example, a Major 7 chord has the chord tones 1, 3, 5, and 7. We would say a C Major 7 has the “chord tones” C, E, G, and B.

## Wrapping up

Intervals are an important music theory concept to learn because it allows you to understand how scales and chords are built. Once you understand the structure of each interval, you can apply them through your instrument to play ideas throughout the guitar fretboard.

As you start learning to visualize where you intervals are in any given area of the guitar, you’ll get more comfortable at making note choices when playing melodies, improvising, or thinking of chord structures. For an example of this, I recommend this lesson on how to harmonize a melody using 3rds and 6ths.

I hope this information helps you to have a clearer understanding of music intervals and how to apply them on guitar.

If you enjoyed this lesson, you may also want to learn how to build extended chords on guitar.

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All the best,

JG Music Lessons

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