Understanding the fretboard - Part III
Scales and Intervals Played on Different Strings

Now you will learn see the fretboard with completely different eyes and realize that many intervals, chords or scale snippets that looked different are actually just the same, just played on different strings...

That One Little Irregularity...

We already dealt with the guitar tuning in Part I. The main conclusion was:

All strings are tuned at intervals of fourths,
except the B string that is just a major third higher than the G string.

Moving a Major Scale Vertically

This fretboard diagram shows the first five tones of a major scale. It doesn't matter here what major scale it exactly is (since all major scales have the same sequence of whole steps and half steps).

Now click on the arrows and watch how the first five tones of a major scale look like, when the root lies on a different string. In this example we always transpose the root by a fourth up or down as well. Again, it always looks the same until we move tones from G string to B string. Those tones must also be moved a fret to the right to be transposed by the same interval as the tones from other strings.

Intervals on Adjacent Strings

Where adjacent strings are tuned in 4ths, the 4th of any tone will always be located on the same fret on the next (higher) string.

However, in case the lower tone is located on G-string, the 4th on B-String will be 1 fret higher.

Press the up button 3 times...

Press the up button 2 times...

Press the up button 1 times...

Now the lower tone had to slide over one fret, while the higher tone stayed on the same fret. In the end both tones moved up a (perfect) 4th.

There is a half-step less to go to a major third, so it is located one fret below the 4th.

However, if the lower tone is on the G string, the major 3rd is located on at the same fret on B-string.

In standard guitar tuning B-string is tuned just a major 3rd higher than G-string.

Press the up button 3 times...

Press the up button 2 times...

Press the up button 1 times...

When transposing all tones up a 4th, the root now slides over one fret, so that the 3rd is one fret lower again.

The 5th is located on whole-step = 2  half-steps = 2 frets above the 4th.

However, because B-string is tuned only a major 3rd higher than G-string, the 5th is located 3 frets higher here.

Press the up button 3 times...

Press the up button 2 times...

Press the up button 1 times...

Finally, the root has to go one fret higher when jumping from G-string to B-string, while the higher tone jumps up on the same fret.

Intervals with a skipped string

You may reckon up the position of a 6th or 7th somehow over two strings, but it's easier to learn the position of an octave first and then go down from it to a 7th or 6th.

If the root is on E-string or A-string, the octave is located 2 frets higher.

With the root on D-string or G-string, an octave extends over 3 frets!

Press the up button 2 times...

Press the up button 1 times...

The major 7th is located just one half-step (= 1 fret) below the octave.

If it occurs in a chord, you'll usually add maj7 to the chord symbol.

Alternative notations: Δ7, MA7 or j7.

In contrast, just a 7 in a chord symbol refers to a minor 7th. A minor 7th again is one half-step lower, hence a whole below the octave.

A major 6th is located 3 frets below the octave. Or...

  • 3 half-steps below the octave
  • a minor 3rd below the octave
  • a whole-step below maj7
  • a half-step below a 7

In chord symbols the major 6th can be found as 6 or 13 (yes, thirteen!), depending on the other ingredients of the chord...

What's next?

Now we are going to talk chords! After studying the last chapter Understanding the Fretboard - Part III you will know how to play ALL major and minor chords with at least 2 different chord shapes. I promise!

You'll also find yourself playing over and over those triads you'll learn here: when playing chord melodies, in catchy funk riffs or when assembling new more complex chords.

Go to Part IV