This guitar lesson is all about how to find intervals on the guitar fretboard. An interval is simply the distance between any two notes. If you would like to get more familiar with the idea and sound of intervals check out the ear training lesson How To Recognize Intervals. First we will give you some tips for finding some specific intervals on the guitar and then we will show you how this can help your improvising skills. We will be in the key of C major for this lesson.
The C major scale is spelled 1C 2D 3E 4F 5G 6A 7B. Let’s take a look at how you can visually remember where certain intervals are on the guitar. Play a C note on the 3rd fret of the 5th string. Now go up two frets to the 5th fret of the 5th string. This interval is a major 2nd because the C is the root note, or 1st note, of the C major scale and D is the 2nd note. If you want to play a major 2nd away from any note just move up two frets. This is great to know, but the unique nature of the guitar and other stringed instruments gives us more than one option when deciding where to play a specific note. Play the C note again, but this time, instead of playing the D note on the 5th fret of the 5th string, play it on the open D string. This is the same interval, a major 2nd, but we played it in an entirely different location.
Try another example. Play a C note on the 3rd fret of the 5th string. Now go up two frets and over one string to play a G note on the 5th fret of the 5th string. This interval is a 5th because C is the root note, or 1st note, of the C major scale and G is the 5th note. If you are on any note on the 6th 5th or 4th strings, all you have to do to play the 5th of that note is go up two frets and over one string. This is great to know but this same G note can be played in other places too. The open G string, for example is the same note.
Geometrically memorizing where certain intervals are in relation to a given note is really good for your improvising skills. If you were soloing in the key of C and you wanted to start on the C and hear the sound of a 5th, you would easily be able to play the C note and go up two frets and over one string to play the G note, or 5th of C.
Being able to tell where certain notes are in relation to others can be quite challenging at first. Star with just one note and try to visualize where a major 2nd would be in relation to that note. Go through each note in a given key and try to be aware where that note is in relation to the root of the key.