So, I was noodling on guitar a few days ago, and took note that if I play two notes on the same fret, but different strings that have one string in between (like playing both A & G strings on the 5th fret), I'll be playing either a major Sixth (9 semitones), like if I play on the D & B string, same fret, or I'll be playing a minor Seventh (10 semitones), like if I'm playing on the A & G strings, same fret.

This led me to work up this summary:

Same fret on two non-adjacent strings:

Skipping one string:
Low E & D or A & G = Minor 7th (10 semitones)
D & B or G & high e = Major 6th (9 semitones)

Skipping two strings:
Low E & G = Minor 3rd + octave (15 semitones)
A & B or D & high e = Major 2nd + octave (14 semitones)

Skipping 3 strings:
Low E & B or A & high e: Perfect 5th + octave (19 semitones)

Skipping 4 strings:
Low E & high e: Two Octaves (24 semitones)

I was thinking that it might be useful to know, and be able to immediately access, playing these intervals on the same fret (minor 7th, major 6th, minor 3rd, major 2nd, etc.) as I jam / solo. But so far my solos are all pretty much singular notes (I don't even use double stops, or very rarely, and only on adjacent strings).

I was wondering if more experienced guitarists do keep in mind the above same-fret intervals, if there's a name for using these relations while playing.

I guess I'm curious if solos or guitar progressions are created around playing simultaneous intervals rather than, say, chords. It seems like sort of the same idea, but not quite, like thinking "I'll play a minor 7th interval from E, then major 2nd interval from C, then major sixth interval from G" rather than, say, 'I'll play an E minor, then a C major, then a G major.'

Till now, I've sort of thought of song composing as having two schools of thought, one that employs chord progressions and build on them, and another that uses voice-leading, designing simultaneous melodic lines (which could, at various intersection points, create different chords or intervals). But I have not heard of anyone composing based on intervallic progressions.

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A lot of players will use those skip-a-string intervals to play note pairs to make interesting leads (if you want to call them those). For myself, instead of looking at them as the fixed intervals, I picture them as chord snippets and can envision the fretboard as having a bunch of note pairs in one key.

There are several places where it's common to play the pair of notes that are in the middle of a pair that are both a full step apart. You can either slide them or actually play each of the half-step jumps up or down. For technique, I often use one finger as a mini barre and then hammer on with two fingers when the next pair up isn't a barre.

I also like to play fixed octaves, which can either sound sort of jazzy or fit in with a little distortion in modern rock songs. My thought process is usually on one note in either case, with the other note tagging along as a slave (octaves or whatever).

I do occasionally look at the b7th as a purposeful interval, maybe when coming up on a dominant 7th or for something more bluesy, just to emphasize that strong sounding interval.
What you're looking for is called a Chord Sequence. It's when your roots move by a defined intervalic pattern, rather than strictly as Progression.

In a normal progression, you move from the Tonic to Subdominant to Dominant areas of the key. The roots frequently more by 5th, but not always. Progressions arise naturally from conventional voice leading.

While it's good that you're learning the intervals on the instrument in a practical way, don't forget to learn how to use them in a musical context beyond root movement.
Last edited by cdgraves at Feb 19, 2014,
I had thought that playing these two note combinations might be viewed as paying chord snippits or partials, that did not sound right to me because I'm not paying a first & third or first & fifth or third & fifth. I guess for notes on the same fret, one string apart, it would involve playing EITHER a major six or a minor 7th. So, the latter would be a snippit of a 7th chord in that sense, (e.g., 5th fret on low E and D = playing A & G, A7omit3&5? or Gsus2omit5/A?) I guess you could call playing a major sixth interval a chord snippit or partial, too (e.g., 5th fret on D & B = playing G & E, or G6omit3 or Eomit5/G?).

However, identifying those note-pairs as chord snippits or chord partials seems rather contrived and complicated compared to just noting that you are playing an interval. It seems in music, you can play (1) a note (one note), (2) an interval (two notes), or (3) a chord (three or more notes). I've created melodic consisting of one-note sequences. I've created chord progressions consisting of sequences of three or more simultaneous notes. What I have not tried to do is create intervallic progressions consisting of a sequence of note-pairs.

It still seems to me that, in terms of deciding the best language / labels to use in talking about this, using the terms "intervals" and "intervallic progressions" might be simplest. It parallels how we talk about chord progressions. Also, we may find there are some unique relationships, and emotional content, that follows from certain sequences of intervals, like playing a minor seventh interval followed by a perfect fourth interval, etc. And the emotional impact also may vary depending if any of these intervals span one or more octaves (e.g., a minor seventh interval that is 22 semitones apart rather than 10 semitones apart).

The Chord Sequence label, described above, sounds like it focused on the intervallic relationships between the roots of chords played at different times, like playing an C major then a D major has an interval of a major second as you move from one chord to another. That seems to be very different than what I'm talking about, which involves focusing on the decision to play certain simultaneous note pairs to create a particular interval that is not a "chord" in any traditional sense, and then follow it up with other interval-pairs, and see how the progression of those intervallic pairs creates a mood or feeling.

Okay, I guess there is a school of thought that ANY time you are playing more than one note simultaneously, you are playing a chord, and thus a chord need not have three notes to be a chord. I do know power chords can be two notes, but I sort of thought they were an exception based to some extent, on the fact they include a first and fifth which is a stacked third (well, double stacked) and thus has a sound reminiscent of standard chord without the first third. But if, instead, any two notes played at the same time are a "chord," then I guess my notion there should be a different language to speak of these two-note intervallic progressions is misplaced. (?)

Oh, in terms of practical examples, I think this notion came up for me when I was learning a transcription of Claire de Lune for single guitar, in which the majority of time, you are playing pairs of notes, sometimes on adjacent strings, sometimes on skipped strings. In that case, it's probably fair to say the simultaneous notes are creating separate melodic voices, and this is a voice-led composition. But, still, it can also be viewed largely as a series of intervallic pairs, at least on the version I was learning.

Bernie Sanders for President!
Ken, I didn't have a guitar handy when I was writing things out before. Here's an example in C that I was thinking about:

(I hope this font change works)



In these examples, I'm thinking of the notes as familiar 5th/3rds of in-key chords or variations of them (although more properly you would look at them as 6ths or whatever). For me, these note pairs sounded like parts of chords and less like what I think of as playing 6ths - at least I have an easier mental framework for grasping for the note pairs. But I agree that if you were to be more general or be adaptable to changing keys, your intervals would be better. I just wanted to write out what I was thinking of earlier with an example...
Yeah, ultimately I think there need to be musicians out there who are looking to create music by sequencing various intervals / note pairs that are not merely power chords, are not merely thirds or fifths, but are 2nds, 4ths, 6ths, 7ths, and maybe also add in an octave separation or even two. At some point, then, it might be worth having a language to talk about intervallic sequences rather than speaking in terms of partial chord progressions or overlapping melodic lines (voice leading terminology?).

The reason I thought this might be useful is that, in a lot of posts on ear training and learning music in general, I have read about the importance of being familiar with the unique "feel" of a certain interval. The emotional impact of a minor seventh versus a major seventh versus a perfect fifth or major second, as examples. Now, if playing these as simultaneous intervallic pairs generates that kind of emotion (like a certain emotion playing a C and an A at the same time), and then there might be a particular emotional impact if you move from playing that intervallic pair, depending on what intervallic pair you play next, like then playing D and E (an octave higher), and then you find that you generate a certain emotion both based on the vertical feel of the notes and then a more complex emotion based on the horizontal movement between these notes.

I mean, really, this is the same thing that we already think about if we sequence a chord progression, both the feel of the chord we chose (the vertical impact) and the feel of the transition from one to another (the horizontal impact).

But when you play a chord, there's also a sense that you really have one primary note that is sort of "embellished" by the other notes. Like a C major chord, the primary feel is of a C note with flair/embellishment. All "chords" in that sense have a primary note / feel, and the extra notes you play at the same time generate a permutation of that note.

So the unique aspect of thinking in terms of intervallic pairs, might be that neither of those notes is really "primary" instead the focus is on the feel of that particular interval. A 10 semitone interval followed by 14 semitone interval followed by a 2 semitone interval, etc.

Well, this is all kind of intellectual theorizing, I have not sat down at the guitar to play around with it. It may be that whenever you play a simultaneous pair of notes, one of the (probably the lower one) WILL take a primary role, and the other will feel like an embellishment of that note. So maybe it will not make sense to talk in terms of playing a sequence of intervals rather than chords or notes. Hmmm... that sort of makes sense, in which case I can scrap this notion as a misguided intellectual exercise. Well, I may still play around with it a bit more, see if any intervallic pair I play does tend to feel like there is one primary note and the other is serving in a supporting role.

Bernie Sanders for President!

Good points to ponder! In those examples above, I can think of some examples where there is no other music going on (think of the intro to Beatles' Across the Universe) in which case the note pairs are sort of a proxy for the whole chords (to me). In other cases, I'm thinking of solos from Cheap Trick or Dire Straits, the note pairs are used not as so much in concert with the underlying chord at that point in time, but as sort of defining new territory as it transitions. So the key is the release of tension when the notes come back with the chord theme going on. At least that's how I "read" it. I don't really know their thought process.

As far as being able to weave this type of playing into a more general type of soloing, I think I'd need to either a) have a better and quicker ear, or b) have a bolt-on processor to help out my old brain I enjoy reading your ways of looking at these things, and I think I understand them, but it would be tough to do in real-time (unless you unlock some new way of looking at these).