What Is an Interval on the Bass Guitar?

Learn how to understand intervals on the bass guitar from musician John Sutton in this online guitar lesson from Howcast.


Now let's talk about intervals and what that means in music. An interval is the amount of space between one note and the next. Starting on any root note, we can talk about the space between each of the notes that can be related to. We're going use A as our reference point to talk about all the other notes and their relationship to A. The interval between A and B Flat is up a half step. Up a half step on a bass guitar translates it to being one fret higher. In the same case, the A Flat right next to it, that's at the 4th fret on the E string is one half step lower. So an interval can go up or down. if we talk about intervals going up, we have half step up one fret away, we have whole step up which means we skip one fret. In this example, B is a whole step away from A. When we talk about skipping two notes it becomes a minor third. That in this case is C. In this example A to C sharp is a major third. You can also think that as being two whole steps. You play a note, skip one, is a whole step, skip another is two whole steps. We refer to a 4th, A, B, C gets us a D and we refer to that as a perfect 4. A half step above a perfect 4 is the Triton, the triton is the 5th in a diminished tri head. This is the note we would use in our root 5th relationship. The next note above that would be F and we would refer to that as a minor 6th above A. We can think about that as one half step above the 5th. Then we can talk abut out major 6th. A to F Sharp is up a major 6th. The last two are both 7ths. We have A to G, G is a minor 7th above A, it's the 7th in a A minor 7th chord and G sharp is a major 7th above A. But if we're going down, it's also only a half step below the next A. So intervals work in both directions and we always want to refer to them as an interval ascending or descending or an interval going up or an interval going down.

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