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In this video I show you how the Interval Formula of the C Major scale is created and SO very important to know (but a lot of players skip over it- really a bad idea!). Not only does every Major scale follow the same Interval Formula, but any discussion regarding new musical concepts are much easier to understand when you “GET” how the Major scale Interval Formula functions.

You’ll begin to see how musical concepts are actually connected which allows you to learn new musical ideas (Ex. chord construction, arpeggio structure, chord progressions and learning new scales) more effectively and avoid feeling OVERWHELMED!

Contrary to many players’ understanding of Interval Formulas and Major Scales, this is NOT theory.  It’s grassroots, basic stuff that any musician should be comfortable with.  It’s the framing of a house, the skeleton of your body, the metal frame of a car or the circuit board in your computer.  The point!  Bad framing…bad house.  Weak skeleton…weak body.  Bent frame…bent car.  No circuit board…no computer.

So we start at the beginning…

Music only uses 7 letters of the written alphabet:

A    B    C    D    E    F   G

 Here are those letters (musical notes) laid out on the 5th string of the guitar.

“Notice that other than the note groupings [B & C] and [E & F], which are only one fret apart from each other, the remaining consecutive pairs of notes are always 2 frets apart.  This needs to be memorized… 

…but really all you need to remember is the special groupings of [B & C] and [E & F]The remaining groupings [A & B], [C & D], [D & E],  [F & G] and [G & A] are, by default, 2 frets apart.  Easy…right?

Notice that from the starting A note (open string itself), another A note does not occur until the 12th fret.   And this is true for each string of the guitar.  What does this mean?

Two things:

1.  From any note, 12 frets higher (or lower) is the same note an “OCTAVE” higher (or lower) and the word OCTAVE references a distance (or INTERVAL) between 2 notes of the same letter.

2.  Immediately (well…almost!), you know how to find all the “natural” notes (no sharps or flats) all over the fret-board up to the 12th fret.  After the 12th fret, it all just repeats.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves!

Just like the OCTAVE is an interval between two notes of the same letter name, we can describe the intervals between the note-pairs along the 5th string.

So, a 2 fret distance is referred to as a TONE while while a 1 fret distance is referred to as a SEMI-TONE

Now we can create something called an INTERVAL FORMULA for the layout of the natural notes along the 5th string – the musical alphabet if you will.  But don’t worry about memorizing this formula right now…we’ll do that later in another lesson.

  • A to B = TONE (T)
  • B to C = SEMI-TONE (ST)
  • C to D = TONE
  • D to E = TONE
  • E to F = SEMI-TONE
  • F to G = TONE
  • G to A = TONE

So this INTERVAL FORMULA becomes:

T      ST     T     T     ST     T     T

But let’s try something else with this formula…

Let’s take the natural notes that we started on the note A and simply re-write them starting on the note C –  ready for the MAGIC?

Play this and I think you will easily recognize its sound as the “Do Re Mi thing” you probably learned sometime in early school. 

Now just as you looked at the INTERVALS between the notes starting on A, do the same thing here and we get a different INTERVAL FORMULA (I made the formula LARGER than the previous formula because it’s more to the point of this lesson).

T      T      ST     T      T      T      ST


To help out with the memorizing, you might want to SEE IT in terms of FRETS:

2    2    1    2    2    2    1

2 = 2 frets = Tone

1= 1 fret = Semi-tone

Which ever approach gets it etched onto your brain…Know it

Just don’t be familiar with it- familiarity is not enough to convince you that you know something.  Rather, KNOWING should be SECOND NATURE to you.

Finally, as with any new musical concept you come across, always make sure to USE IT musically.

To help you with that, I’ve composed a backing track (below) you can use for this purpose.  Perhaps at the beginning, just move up and down the C Major scale while the track is playing.  Once you are comfortable both playing and listening, then start to play more instinctively moving around the scale with a sense of exploration…don’t worry…nothing can go wrong.  Just PLAY!

Nobody tells you how to push sand around in the sandbox.  Do the same thing with the C Major scale.  Just PUSH the notes around as YOU see fit!



The real cool part of all of this is that once you have the Interval Formula understood for one major scale (C Major in our case), you actually understand the Interval Formulas for ALL the Major scalesSee?  Mastery of one simple concept will often open up a greater understanding of multiple concepts.  You’ll experience this time and again in music.

If this was useful, feel free to SHARE IT, LIKE IT…give it all the social love you can.

Also, don’t forget to leave me a comment.  I love chatting with ya’ll and getting different perspectives…you grow and I grow.

You can download the PDF mentioned in the video HERE




Don't Strum Another Song Until You've Read This GUIDE!

"I think it's a fairly well-accepted urban legend that strumming will just occur naturally once a guitarist learns a few chords...and while this may be true for some, your teaching is precisely what the rest of us need in order to progress". 

Dan Tanner

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