12 Essential Guitar Intervals to Master

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Essential Guitar Intervals

The First Step

Every guitar journey begins on the fretboard. That’s where the adventure unfolds for every guitar player.

The fundamental step to access the fretboard is through music intervals. It’s not something you discuss at the beginning. It may sound technical, but all a guitar player does is form and play intervals.

When describing an interval, consider its:

  • Distance
  • Quality (type)
  • Whether it’s harmonic or melodic

Our goal is to understand guitar intervals step by step. Guitar intervals are simple, practical, and incredibly useful. Embrace it, learn, and see your skills grow!

Music Intervals

Music intervals are the foundation of music theory, describing the relationship between two notes. They are vital in understanding harmony, melody, and chord construction in music. 

Guitar Intervals

πŸ‘‰ Interval means the musical distance between two notes.

On the guitar, it’s measured by frets or semitones β€” each fret equals one semitone:

  • A semitone is the smallest interval in Western music.
  • There are 12 semitones in an octave, equivalent to 12 frets on a guitar.
  • Two semitones make a whole tone.

We also use ‘steps’ to describe the distance between two notes, either ‘half-step or whole step.’

  • A half-step is equivalent to one semitone or one fret.
  • A whole step is two semitones (a whole tone) or two frets.

You can form or play intervals in two ways: harmonic and melodic. 

  • In harmonic intervals, two notes are played simultaneously, forming a chord
  • Melodic intervals involve two notes played sequentially, one after the other, creating a scale.

12 Essential Guitar Intervals

Don’t feel overwhelmed by the guitar’s fretboard. We only have 12 notes across different octaves, using just seven letters.

Good news: we also have 12 guitar intervals to explore!

Fret DistanceInterval NameShorthand Name (Abbreviation)
0Unison / Perfect Unison / RootU / P1 / R
1Minor Secondm2 / b2
2Major SecondM2
3Minor Thirdm3 / b3
4Major ThirdM3
5Perfect FourthP4 
6Tritone / Augmented Fourth or Diminished FifthTT / A4 or d5
7Perfect FifthP5
8Minor Sixthm6 / b6
9Major SixthM6
10Minor Seventhm7 / b7
11Major SeventhM7
12Octave / Perfect EightOct – P8

To simplify, we use shorthand for interval names instead of writing the full names. 

Here’s a quick reference guide:

  • m = minor, some use a flat note with the interval no. (b2, b3, b6, b7)
  • M = major
  • P = perfect
  • TT = tritone
  • U / R / P1 = Unison / Root
  • Oct. = Octave, the note on the octave is identical to the root note


Here are the 12 intervals in view when on the fretboard along a single string. 

R/P1m2/b2Β M2m3/b3M3P4Β TTP5m6/b6M6m7/b7M7Oct

Taking a look at the chart, we see:

  • A half step/semitone/minor 2nd, m2 = 1 fret
  • A whole step/whole tone/major 2nd, M2 = 2 frets

So, we have the following note intervals:

  • Root, R/1 (Unison ) – 0
  • m2 or b2 (minor second) – 1 semitone from the root
  • M2 or βˆ†2 (Major second) – 2 semitones from the root
  • m3 or b3 (minor third) – 3 semitones from the root
  • M3 or βˆ†3 (Major third) – 4 semitones from the root
  • P4 (Perfect fourth) – 5 semitones from the root
  • TT (tritone) – 6 semitones from the root
  • P5 (Perfect fifth) – 7 semitones from the root
  • m6 or b6 (minor sixth) – 8 semitones from the root
  • M6 or βˆ†6 (Major sixth) – 9 semitones from the root
  • m7 or b7 (minor seventh) – 10 semitones from the root
  • M7 or βˆ†7 (Major seventh) – 11 semitones from the root
  • Oct. (Octave) – 12 semitones from the root

Interval Qualities

There are five interval qualities listed as follows:

  • Perfect (P) – perfect 4th and perfect 5th
  • Minor (m or b) – b2, b3, b6 and b7
  • Major (M) – M2, M3, M6 and M7
  • Diminished (dim. or bb) – TT
  • Augmented (aug. or #) – TT

Perfect Interval (P): Conveys a stable, consonant sound, often heard in harmonious and resolved musical phrases.

Minor Interval (m): Evokes a softer, more subdued feeling, frequently associated with melancholic or introspective melodies.

Major Interval (M): Sounds bright and uplifting, often found in cheerful music.

Diminished Interval (Dim): Creates a diminished, tense atmosphere, often used to build suspense or add drama to musical compositions.

Augmented Interval (Aug): Introduces a heightened, somewhat tense quality, adding an element of anticipation to the music.

What to Learn First

Now that we’ve covered all 12 intervals, the goal is to learn them quickly, effortlessly, and in an enjoyable way.

But it’s also crucial to strategically learn intervals. A proper approach accelerates unlocking the fretboard’s full potential. Once mastered, you gain complete access and control.

Step One: Guitar Intervals on One String

Understanding guitar intervals starts with knowing them on one stringβ€”these are ‘melodic intervals.’

Melodic intervals involve playing notes one after the other, forming a scale. Identifying and playing these guitar intervals is vital for guitarists crafting memorable melodies and solos.

Major Scale

C Major Scale: C – D –  E – F –  G –  A –  B – C

R/P1m2M2m3M3P4Β TTP5m6M6m7M7Oct

  • Intervals: R – M2 – M3 – P4 –  P5 – M6 –  M7 – Octave/R

Minor Scale

C Minor Scale: C – D – Eb – F – G – Ab – Bb – C

IntervalR/P1m2 / b2M2m3, b3M3P4Β TTP5m6, b6Β M6m7, b7Β M7Oct

  • Intervals: R – M2 – m3 – P4 –  P5 – m6 – m7 – Octave/R

Step Two: Guitar Intervals on Multiple Strings

The next step involves creating interval shapes that you can position anywhere on the fretboard relative to the root note. These represent harmonic intervals, with notes played simultaneously to form chords.

Major Chord

Major chords consist of only three notes – 1st (root), 3rd, and 5th intervals of the major scale.

C Major Scale: C – D –  E – F –  G –  A –  B – C

IntervalRm2M2m3M3P4 TTP5m6M6m7M7Oct

  • Major Chord Intervals: Root – M3 – P5 (1 3 5)
  • C Major Chord: C – E – G

Minor Chord

The intervals in forming a minor chord are the root, a minor third, and a perfect fifth.

C Minor Scale: C – D Eb – F – G Ab – Bb C

R/P1m2M2m3, b3M3P4 TTP5m6, b6 M6m7, b7 M7Oct 

  • Minor Chord Intervals: Root – m3 – P5 (1 b3 5)
  • C Minor Chord: C – Eb – G

To sum up, the primary distinction between major and minor chord intervals lies in a single note, the major or flat third:

  • Major: Root – M3 – P5 (1 3 5)
  • Minor: Root – m3 – P5 (1 b3 5)

Now that we grasp music intervals, we understand the origin of notes and the associated terminology. This shared musical language enables us to play and communicate with other musicians more effectively than ever before.

The Seventh Chords

A seventh chord simply adds to a triad another note.

Seventh chords add richness and complexity to the music, introducing an additional layer of harmony beyond the basic triads. These chords are formed by adding the seventh interval to a triad, creating a four-note structure. 

The most common types of seventh chords are major seventh (maj7), minor seventh (m7), and dominant seventh (7).

1. Major Seventh (maj7)

  • Intervals: Root, major third, perfect fifth, major seventh (1 3 5 7)
  • Example: In a Cmaj7 chord, the notes are C (root), E (major third), G (perfect fifth), and B (major seventh).
Fret Distance0123456789101112
IntervalR/P1m2M2m3M3P4 TTP5m6M6m7M7Oct

2. Minor Seventh (m7)

  • Intervals: Root, minor third, perfect fifth, minor seventh (1 m3 5 b7)
  • Example: In a Cm7 chord, the notes are C (root), Eb (minor third), G (perfect fifth), and Bb (minor seventh).
Fret Distance0123456789101112
IntervalR/P1m2M2m3, b3M3P4 TTP5m6, b6 M6m7, b7 M7Oct

3. Dominant Seventh (7)

  • Intervals: Root, major third, perfect fifth, minor seventh (1 3 5 b7)
  • Example: In a G7 chord, the notes are G (root), B (major third), D (perfect fifth), and F (minor seventh).
Fret Distance0123456789101112
IntervalR/P1m2M2m3M3P4 TTP5m6M6m7M7Oct

Here’s a quick summary of the chords we covered. Despite any technical aspects, it’s actually quite simple.

Chord TypeMajor ChordMinor ChordMajor 7 ChordMinor 7 ChordDominant 7th Chord
Chord Formula 1 3 51 b3 51 3 5 71 b3 5 b71 3 5 b7

Advancing One Step at a Time

Take your time; the key is understanding each step. 

Music Intervals

πŸ’‘ Whether it’s a small stride, what counts is moving forward and making progressβ€”it’s perfectly okay. Each small step matters; small progress is still progress!

Slowly but surely, until you understand and master each step. Take all the time you have to build a solid foundation for success. 

Make every part of the journey count!

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