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Fret Relation and Intervals: Adjacent Strings
Topic: Fretboard Subtopic: General Level: Intermediate Number of Readers: 73724

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Fret Relation and Intervals: Adjacent Strings

In the last lesson we looked at how to build intervals on a single string. In this lesson, we'll look at how to build intervals between strings that are adjacent.

Let's start with an example. From the last lesson we learned that 3 frets above a note is equal to 3 semitones above note, so is in turn equal to the interval of a minor third. If we started on A on the 6th string(5th fret), and moved up three frets, we would arrive at C(8th fret) which is a minor third above A. This is how we found the interval on a single string.

What if we wanted to play A and C at the same time? We would have to play each of them on separate strings. To do this, we can just play the C that is on the 5th string. So we would play this:


By moving to the next string, and moving BACK two frets(to arrive at the 3rd fret) we've arrived at C, which is the exactly the same note that is located on the 6th string, 8th fret. This is something that is unique to fretted instruments, you can play the exact same note in more than one place.

If you don't understand how this works, try this exercise. Find the A note on the 5th string. That should be easy, it's the open string. Now more three frets up from that note, which is like we said, a minor third. Now you're on the 3rd fret, which is a C. See? That's how we came up with this minor third above the A note. The only difference is that we're playing the A on the 6th string, and the C on the fifth string.

So the pattern for a minor third over adjacent strings is the shape that we have above. That means that:


These are all minor third intervals. Whenever you see a shape similar to one of these, you'll know that the higher note is a minor third above the lower note.

If we wanted to play a major third(which is equal to four semitones, or four frets) we would have to increase the number of semitones between the two notes. So a major third would look like this:


Again, if you don't understand, just take the A note on the 5th string, and count up four frets which is equal to a major third. You'll arrive on the 4th fret, which is a C#, and which is also a major third above the A note. Whether you play the A note on the 5th string or on the sixth string, the C# at the 4th fret on the 5th string will still be a major third above it.

We can make patterns for all the intervals. In the following diagrams, I'll only use the 5th and 6th strings in the tabluature, to save space.

A----1---	minor second		move up one string, and back 4 frets

A----2---	major second		move up one string, and back 3 frets

A----3---	minor third		" and back 2 frets

A----4---	major third		" and back 1 fret

A----5---	perfect fourth		move directly up to the fret above

A----6---	diminished fifth	move up one string and forward 1 fret

A----7---	perfect fifth		move up one string and forward 2 frets
A----8---	minor sixth		" and forward 3 frets

A----9---	major sixth		" and forward 4 frets

A----10---	minor seventh		" and forward 5 frets

A----11---	major seventh		" and forward 6 frets
A----4---	octave			" and forward 7 frets

You'll notice that once you get past the minor seventh, it will be getting hard to stretch. Also, the minor second is kind of awkward too. These kinds of intervals just aren't the greatest to be playing between adjacent strings. You'll want to play _2_ strings above, but we won't worry about that for now, we'll talk about it in another lesson.

Now these shapes for intervals will work fine in between almost any two strings. The problem is with the 2nd and 3rd strings. If you analyze it, you'll find that the interval between each two adjacent strings is a perfect fourth, EXCEPT between the 2nd and 3rd strings, which is a major third. This is where the symmetry is broken. To play intervals between these two strings, you'll have to use a different set of shapes.

They're not hard to figure out though, because they'll differ only slightly from the ones that I've shown you above. In fact, they'll differ only by one fret, because a perfect fourth only differs from a major third by one semitone. For example, this is a minor third on the 5th and sixth strings:


and on the 2nd and 3rd strings, the shape will look like this:


So all you have to do is move the second note up a fret. If you know you're fretboard, you'll know that the 5th fret on the G string is a C, and the 4th fret on the B string is an E flat, which is a minor third above C, just like we said.

If you want, you can make a whole new chart for the interval shapes between the 2nd and the 3rd strings, but it's easier just to remember the first set, and then just change them a little when you need to use them between the 2nd and 3rd strings.

I said this in the last lesson, but I'll say it again. The shapes that I'm showing you are to help you to recognize the relation(in this case, and interval) between two NOTES. I don't want you to just accept them for shapes, I want you to realize what note you're starting on, what interval above this note that you're building, and what the second note is. Knowing your fretboard will help this, and this will help you to know your fretboard.

In the next lesson we'll look at interval shapes between strings that are 2 strings apart.

Things to remember from this lesson:

1. The exact same note can be played in more than one place on the fretboard.
2. For this reason, we are able to build intervals on two different strings.
3. Learn some of the interval shapes. The most important ones in this case are the thirds, the fifths and fourths(because of their use in chord construction) and the seconds(because of their use in scale construction).
4. Remember that we play the interval on different strings to make the interval easier to play. Playing a fifth above a note on a single string is a big leap, but if we move up a string and over two frets, it makes it a whole lot easier.
5. The patterns will differ by one fret between the 2nd and 3rd strings, because these strings are tuned to a major third between each other, and not a perfect fourth.
6. These shapes are tools to help you recognize intervals. Remember to always take note of the notes. Yes, I know I'm funny.

Question posted by Miguel Gonzalez on 2000-01-18
I understand the concept of major 3rd and minor 3rd (Because of the scale scales, minor is the 3rd note of the scale diminished and major is jus the 3rd not right?). Hopefully I'm right :) But what do you mean when you say "perfect" 4th.?
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Question posted by Bruce on 2000-04-18
I am confused about how semitones relate to the notes. I also don't understand the section about the minor third above the A note. Can someone please help?
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Ben on 2000-06-08
I don't completely understand the whole major/minor thrid,second,fifth and so on. I can sort of see how they related to the scale you're playing. I would just like more details on how they relate to each other.
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Question posted by dan Kersh on 2000-10-29
I am looking to find out about realted chords(i.e Amajor is related to Bmajor and Emajor). I wonder if you may be able to put up a section on chord relations as I amstruggling to find out some of the more difficult chords
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Question posted by Alexandra Kershaw on 2002-09-22
You are so not funny. I know you think you are but your not!
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Question posted by me on 2003-07-05
did i miss a lesson or something? i didnt understand anything in this lesson. what is a semitone and how do you read those charts??? someone please explain it all to me!
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