A single note by itself is nothing. The smallest part of music is the interval, or the space between two notes. Here we see the full chromatic scale from C, meaning, this is every single interval between C and C, regardless of any diatonic scale.

The markings are of the interval value, 1 being the root of C. If you were to play every note that DOESN’T have a flat (b), you’d be playing the C Major Scale, or all the white keys on a piano. Once a root is selected every other note on the piano, every other fret on the guitar, is one of these 12 intervals.

Here’s how we think of these values (and their enharmonic equivalents) in terms of major/minor modality:

1Root, unison
2b / 1#Minor 2nd ( augmented unison )
2Major 2nd
3b / 2#Minor 3rd ( augmented 2nd )
3Major 3rd
4Perfect 4th
5b / 4#The Tri-Tone ( augmented 4th, diminished 5th)
5Perfect 5th
6b / 5#Minor 6th ( augmented 5th )
6Major 6th
7bMinor 7th ( dominant 7th )
7Major 7th

Of course once we get to 8 we’re back at 1 in the next octave. The same note, but doubled in frequency / pitch. By referring to your intervals in this way, everyone in the group should be able to figure out what you’re referring to.

In particular, pay attention to the pattern of Root -> Major 3rd and Root -> Minor 3rd. When you detect this pattern in a song you’re playing, it’s the easiest way to determine on-the-fly if you’re playing Major or Minor, and this pattern is also a great way to practice adding alternating 3rds to any chord on the fly.

Also remember that while all examples are given for the C Major Scale, these patterns are EXACTLY the same no matter what your root is. Open strings, and notes played on the highest two strings of a guitar can make the patterns look different, but the intervals remain the same.

For Metal Players: The Minor 2nd, the Tri-Tone, and the Minor 6th are some of the most dissonant intervals, and entire metal songs have been written around just these intervals.

For Blues Players: You should immediately recognize the Tri-Tone as the added chromaticism in the Blues Minor scale, this interval adds a lot of tension and moving away from it provides the release of that tension.

Practice

Take some time to explore your instrument from a given root, and find these intervals everywhere they exist up and down the fretboard or keyboard. Don’t worry about calling out the note names, but as you play them do think about the interval value from the root. Use this information to explore some of your go-to licks or songs and analyze the intervals you’ve been using all along.