Home | Tools & Resources | Lessons | Guitar Duels | Messageboard | Member Profiles | Search | Log In

The Distance Between Notes (Half Steps, Whole Steps, and Intervals)

This lesson covers two basic methods of determining the distance between two notes. The first of these methods is called whole steps and half steps. This method is rather straightforward and pretty easy to learn. The second method we will be looking at is call intervals. Learning intervals is a bit tricky and it helps if you can read music. What we will cover here will be just a basic introduction to the concept of intervals; a more in depth lesson on this topic will find it's way into the Lesson Zone soon.

Each of these techniques lends themselves to different situations. Half steps and whole steps are usually used to tell you how far you have to move from one note to get to another. For example if you were on your 5th fret of your A string and you should be on the seventh I would use whole steps and half steps to describe where you need to be. Intervals, on the other hand, are usually used when trying to determine the relation ship between two notes. So if you were to play the 5th fret on your A string at the same time as you were playing the 2 second fret of your D string I would use intervals to explain the relationship between these two notes.

Understanding how two notes interact with each other is the first step in understanding how chords work.

Half Steps and Whole Steps

Whole steps and half steps are a way of measuring the distance between two notes. One half step up or one have step down would be the movement of one fret in either direction. A whole step is just two half steps, or two frets. You can take this thinking as far as you like. You can say the distance between the 1st fret of your E string and the 4th fret of that same sting as a movement of 3 half steps or 1 1/2 whole steps.

Whole steps are represented by 1

Half steps are represented by 1/2

The little tool on this page should help you get the basic idea of whole and half steps. By hitting the buttons below the fretboard diagram you can move the note (red dot) up or down by whole or half steps. You can also use whole and half steps to tell someone how a scale should be played, for example:

The Major Scale = 1 - 1 - 1/2 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1/2


Another way to measure the distance between two notes is through the use of intervals. Intervals assigned a name to every distance from a root note to its octave. After the octave these names repeated. This will NOT be a complete examination of intervals as some of what you will need to understand may be a bit to advanced for beginners. This section will however offer a good introduction to the idea behind intervals.

All interval names will include two pieces of information. First, a number that will tell you how many letters of the musical alphabet separate the two notes. The second piece of information is a designation that will give a more precise location for the second note. These designations will be: Major, Minor, Perfect, Augmented, and Diminished. Interval of 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 will be "Major" or "Minor" intervals. Intervals of 4, 5, or 8 will be "Perfect", "Augmented", or "Diminished".

The basic rule for intervals can be stated as follows. The number of an interval will be the number of notes separating the two notes in question, so if the lower note is G and the higher note is B there are 3 notes separating these notes in the musical alphabet (G - A - B). Or, for as another example, we could say the note A is seven notes from the note G (A - B- C - D - E - F - G). If the higher note belongs to the key of the long note the interval will be "Major" or "Perfect" if the higher note does not belong to the key of the lower note the interval will be "Minor", "Augmented", or "Diminished". So, if the lower note is a G and the higher note is a B the interval would be a Major third. If the lower note is a G and the higher note is a Bb the interval would be a Minor 3rd.

Post Comments
Post A Comment:

Click Here To Login