The Crusade. Part 3: Applying Them Intervals

What's happenin', disciples of discipline? (Hey, you are on part III, so give yourself some credit.)

Ultimate Guitar

What's happenin', disciples of discipline? (Hey, you are on part III, so give yourself some credit.)

Today, we're gonna learn about the application of intervals and their relevance to the musical domain and the greater paradigm of your playing in the hopes for a shift of consciousness.

Now, once everyone finishes waking up from that incredibly boring sentence that breaks rule #1 of The Crusade, we can get started.

What I'm tryin' to say is...You might well wonder How the heck am I gonna use Intervals?

OK, fair question. Some theory is rightly viewed as a parlor trick or extra paper work. However, it's my goal to show you how to transfer your newfound knowledge of intervals to the fretboard. Let's take it out of the realm of the screen, and into the one of music.

Practical Use #1 Building Chords and Arpeggios

So we have intervals. An annoying little concept not unlike that of a younger brother. Small, seemingly insignificant, but then they grow up to be four inches taller than you, and trust me, it's hard to hit someone who has longer arms. (But they're still insignificant. Ha ha.)

But intervals are not! Insignificant, that is...

As stated before, intervals are the building blocks of chords. But don't take my word for it! I'll show you. Let's cook up some major, minor, diminished, and augmented chords.

For this use, we'll apply two intervals, the Major and minor 3rd. Just two! Very snazzy. Here's what they look like from the note C:

Next, let's see how many ways we can add these two intervals. For simplicity's sake, we'll denote a Major 3rd as M3, and a minor 3rd as m3. Uppercase for Major, lowercase for minor.

So, we have the following permutations:

01. M3 + m3 02. m3 + M3 03. M3 + M3 04. m3 + m3

What's all this?

Well, check it out. To build a Major chord, we use equation 1 (M3 + m3.) To arrive at a minor chord, we flip things around, and end up with equation 2. An Augmented chord is derived from equation 3, and a diminished chord is build from equation 4.

There are many different ways to view chord construction, and we'll be checking out different ways in the future. However, the method presented today builds directly on the use of intervals.

Let's apply this by plugging chord tones into the equation. (By the way, if you haven't already, it's a great idea to learn the notes on your guitar. It helps in many ways, and while it's a slight pain to learn, you won't be wasting your time.)

To build a C Major chord:

Remember, our equation for a Major chord is:

M3 + m3 = Major chord

01.Start with the note C. 02.Add a note a Major 3rd above C, which is E. 03.Add a note a minor 3rd above E, which is G.

Presto! C Major.

Let's try it for C minor.

Our equation is: m3 + M3 = minor chord

01. Start with the note C. 02. Add a note a minor 3rd above C, which is Eb. 03. Add a note a Major 3rd above Eb, which is G.

Next up, C Augmented.

The equation: M3 + M3 = Augmented chord

01. Start with the note C. 02. Add a note a Major 3rd above C, which is E. 03. Add a note a Major 3rd above E, which is G#.

Lastly, here's how you could build a C diminished chord.

01. Start with the note C. 02. Add a note a minor 3rd above C, which is Eb. 03. Add a note a minor 3rd above Eb, which is Gb.

Practical use #2 - Arpeggios

What about arpeggios? What the heck is an arpeggio? Is it an Italian sauce made from scraping dried mulberries off the forest floor? No! It is an Italian world, but it means the notes in a chord played are to be played one at a time, instead of all at once. For example, to build an A diminished arpeggio, we simply apply the principles learned in the previous section, and:

01. Start with the note A. 02. Add a note a minor 3rd above it, which is C. 03. Add a note a minor 3rd above C, which is Eb. 04. Instead of playing the notes all at once, we play 'em one at a time, just like your Dad told you to eat popcorn when you were little.

Bingo, we have a weird arpeggio. Now, to be fair to the real world, whatever that may be, an arpeggio shape is usually slightly different than a typical chord shape. As the arpeggio unfolds over five or more strings, we may end up with two notes on the same string, impossible to play in a chord, but very helpful in an arpeggio. More on that later.

Help With Hearing Intervals

If you've been a good little student, hopefully you've toddled over to the interval trainer. Do it!

You might have been confounded with recognizing any of the intervals, because, I realize, it almost seems like a guessing game, or magic, at first.

Here's a few great cues to help you get a handle on the sound of certain intervals.

War Pigs uses a Major 2nd when the main riff kicks in, as the chords change from D5 to E5, and Ozzy starts wailing Generals gather in their masses... That switch from D to E is a Major 2nd.

Stairway to Heaven uses a minor 3rd (A-C) between the 1st and 2nd notes of the song.

Paranoid uses a Perfect 4th interval (E-A) as the very first chord, a split second before Tony hammers on to form a power chord.

Crazy Train Uses a Perfect 5th between the 2nd and 3rd notes of the opening guitar riff. (The F# on the 2nd fret to the C# on the 4th.)

Crazy Train Uses a Minor 6th between the 4th and 5th notes. (F# - D)

A blues shuffle uses a Major 6th when you're fretting the stretch (the span of four frets, adding your pinkie.)

Purple Haze Uses the Octave Bb - Bb between the 1st and 2nd notes of the opening Da Da Da Da riff. (How's that for a technical explanation?)

These are some of the many song cues that you can apply to make learning intervals a little easier, a little more fun, and a lot more personal.


  • We've looked at how Major and Minor 3rds can be combined to form four
  • types of chords.
  • Major
  • Minor
  • Augmented
  • Diminished
  • We also examined how if we play these notes one at a time, we arrive at an arpeggio, in essence, a broken chord.
  • Lastly, we saw a list of popular songs that give us ways to remember certain interval types. Keep in mind, the list I gave you is just a start. There's several intervals omitted, but they are certainly used in popular music!

    Other questions you might have: Q: I understand your examples of building chords, but some of the chords that I play looks nothing like that.

    A: Yes, this is true. If we were keyboard players, everything would be fairly consistent. However, due to the layout of the guitar, voicing the chords differently sometimes. A common way to voice an open A minor chords is as follows: Root, 5th, Octave of the Root, 3rd, 5th, or A E A C E. However, before we understand that, we have to understand the concepts presented in this article.

    Q: I always thought arpeggios had more notes in them. What gives?

    A: Oftentimes, the arpeggio will repeat the notes several times. A C Major arpeggio may play out:

    C E G C E G, and hence, more notes. Keep in mind that they're not different notes, just repeated ones.

    Keep up the good work, fellow rockers, and stay on the path to learning. Remember, you're developing a set of skills that will allow you to understand not just the type of music that you like, but all types. Far out, bro! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more! If you can't stand to wait till the next article, be sure to check out my blog! See you there!

    Don't forget to check out my blog.

    Copyright 2008 Josh Urban - All Rights Reserved

    Josh Urban (photo) is a musician with a unique perspective on music. Always a thinker, he gains insight wherever he can find it, be it in the clubs as a working musician, busking on the city streets, or teaching in the classroom. A naturally enthusiastic fellow, Josh is always fired up about bringing the lessons he's learned to his readers. Maintaining a website, a blog, and a monthly newsletter, he aims to make musicians stop, think, and play with a little more intensity, integrity, and inspiration. You never know who's listening.

  • 79 comments sorted by best / new / date

      To clear up the purple haze thing both bass and guitar are playing a harmonic tritone then move that harmonic tritone a octave up. I dont think he has enough ozzy referances though...
      Still waiting... Cru-sade! Cru-sade! Cru-sade! Cru-sade! Cr u-sade! Cru-sade! Cru-sade! Cru-sade! Cru-sade!
      christ, i thought this was something to do with Trivium.. nice article anyway.
      Cru-Sade Cru-Sade Cru-Sade! this is like an orgasm in my mouth. If by mouth you mean on guitar and if by orgasm you mean a great learning experience.
      Hang on there, fellas, #4 is on it's way. We're trying to work out the best way to get a chart in the article. However, perhaps if you all chant "Cru-Sade Cru-Sade", a la encore style, it will make me feel special. (And #4 is really cool, so hang in there!) In the meantime, if you just can't stand not reading something, check out my blog! And as always, thanks for your enthusiasm, and rock on!
      Neat article. I'd like to see more licks and applications of the intervals than run-of-the-mill beginner music theory. It might be interesting to look at what intervals give different expressions to a guitarist's solos. I guess it seems that a discussion on intervals alone isn't very useful out of the context of chords and scales.
      this is really good, but... can someone explain how you find a major 3rd of a note or a minor 2nd, etc...?
      To JoshUrban, thanks man it helps a lot, just that was thing that threw me off, great article again man, really easy to follow, and to enjoy. Hope you keep progressing with these great articles because they are really helpful in learning theory. Rock on man.
      my daddy never took me to movies, or taught me polite eating for that matter.
      Thanks man. I'ts hard to believe that you would openly give such valuable information to complete strangers. Nice articles. Im gonna start reading the next one right now.
      OK, question, when it says A major 3rd and plus a minor 3rd in the picture, this is where I am lost. The A in there, is that A as in the note A or just the letter A??? Thanks in advanced.
      Hey there. Loving your post. Well let me know that, is the above method to evalute/define the M,m,A,D chords the origin one? Ive seen the one invloving like M3, next P5, next M7 of a major scale for a major chord. Hope i am clear.
      a major chord is a M3 stacked on a m3, 1 3 5 = M3 + m3, yes there are other ways to say it that'd be easier but if you learn it the right way you'll be doing yourself a favor in the long run. anyways the only thing i have to say about the lesson is that another practical application of intervals is creating melodies, since all melodies are just sequences of intervals. if you know your intervals well enough you should be able to play any melody that comes into your head... good lesson
      Wow, I really appreciate you doing all this. I get how to do everything on this page! ( I wrote the 13 note A interval from the previous chapter and counted down for M3 etc to build chords ). I can build stuff now . Awesome. ON TO THE NEXT CHAPTER!
      I've wondered that myself, but in my experience, chords are built the way I outlined - A note, a Major third above the root, and then a minor third above the third of the chord. Yes, there are some silly things in theory! The thing I'm ticked about is - they should have called the 6th string the 1st. Ha!
      Great article! Im just a bit stumped on one thing. I understand why you use for example: M3 + m3 to form a major chord, as you are using the last note as the starting note. Why can't you just say M3 + Perfect 5th instead, and use the root note as the starting note for the whole construction? I know its a small detail, but wouldn't it be easier?
      I'm reading these lessons in order and I'm genuinely amazed at how a little bit of fun, and tongue in cheek can help you understand something. keep up the good work dude, these lessons are pure gold.
      These lessons are amazing so far. I've been playing guitar for almost a year and a half now and I know very little theory due to a lack of a teacher, and my inability to understand most internet theory lessons. These lessons are actually understandable. You rock Josh =)!
      shit man, you scared me with that "paradigm of your playing in the hopes for a shift of consciousness." bit.
      Hi Megadeth77, It's just the letter A. If you look closely, you'll see that the first note is actually a C. So the formula is: M3 + m3 = Major Chord. I hope this helps! And for further zaniness, be sure to check out my blog at Rock on!
      To Megadeth77: Did you read the previous 2 articles? minor and major 3rd are intervals, the tab says which notes they are or your fretboard.
      another great lesson ... this is actually helpin me understand how chords are formed. Cant wait for the next n keep up the work
      great article, but i thinkg the M3 + m3 is confusing. wouldnt it just be easier to say the 3rd and 5th of a root note for major, and flat the 3rd for minor? anyway, keep up the good work, cant wait until part IV
      dude, this is GREAT stuff I've been wanting to learn something useful lately and you started making these things! haha
      Great article man. I was wondering how would you use intervals to make an arpeggio starting from the high e to the low e. Thanks!