Intervallic Designs Part 2

Now that we’ve equated musical intervals—the distance between any two notes measured in one-fret/half-step increments— with their physical shapes on the fingerboard (See GP 2/13), let’s connect them to some familiar melodies.
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NOW THAT WE’VE EQUATED MUSICAL intervals—the distance between any two notes measured in one-fret/half-step increments— with their physical shapes on the fingerboard, let’s connect them to some familiar melodies.

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Unless noted otherwise, the following ascending intervals are used to play the first movement between notes in the corresponding popular melodies. Grab a guitar, start on any note, and see how far you can get playing any of the following melodies purely by ear, either on a single string or spread out over several (I tried to include something for everyone). Keep track of the intervallic map unique to each song and let your ears, not your fingers, be your guide.

ASCENDING MINOR SECONDS (1/2 step): “White Christmas,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, ”Caravan,” “Stormy Weather,” “Michelle,” “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” and “Jaws” (shark theme).

ASCENDING MAJOR SECONDS (1 step): “America,” “Happy Birthday,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “In My Life,” “Yankee Doodle,” “Theme from the Addams Family,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Hello It’s Me,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Theme from the Monkees,” “I’m a Believer,” and “Stairway to Heaven.”

ASCENDING MINOR THIRDS (1 1/2 steps): “Hello Dolly,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “The Impossible Dream,” “Close to You,” “Proud Mary,” “On a Clear Day,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Blue Jay Way,” “A Day in the Life,” and “Light My Fire.”

ASCENDING MAJOR THIRDS (2 steps): “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “On Top of Old Smokey,” “The Impossible Dream,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Here, There, and Everywhere,” “Limbo Rock,” and “Baby Elephant Walk.”

ASCENDING PERFECT FOURTHS (2 1/2 steps): “Auld Lang Syne,��� “Amazing Grace,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “Someday My Prince Will Come,” “All the Things You Are,” “Home on the Range,” “Man on the Flying Trapeze,” “Never on Sunday,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Exodus” (theme), “O Christmas Tree,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Here Comes the Bride,” “How High the Moon,” “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” “Tequila,” “Nowhere Man,” and “Bonanza” (theme).

ASCENDING SHARP FOURTHS/ FLATTED FIFTHS (3 steps): “Maria” (from West Side Story), “Blue Jay Way” (first and third notes), “Purple Haze’ (combined guitar and bass parts on opening riff), and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (first and third notes).

ASCENDING PERFECT FIFTHS (3 1/2 steps): “My Favorite Things,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Moon River,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Goldfinger,” “Star Wars” (theme), and the Palace guard chant from The Wizard of Oz.

ASCENDING MINOR SIXTHS (4 steps): “Because,” “She’s a Woman,” and “To Life” (Fiddler on the Roof).

ASCENDING MAJOR SIXTHS (4 1/2 steps): “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “When Sunny Gets Blue,” “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “On Broadway,” “Jingle Bells,” “All Blues,” “Short’nin’ Bread” (chorus), and the NBC chimes.

ASCENDING MINOR SEVENTHS (5 steps): “Star Trek” (original TV theme), “Somewhere” (West Side Story), “Close to You” (first and third notes), and “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window.”

ASCENDING MAJOR SEVENTHS (5 1/2 steps): “Over the Rainbow,” “Bali Ha’i,””Christmas Song,” and “The Immigrant Song” (first and third notes of all).

ASCENDING OCTAVES (6 steps): “Over the Rainbow,” “Bali Ha’i,” ”Christmas Song,” “The Immigrant Song,” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Once your ears become acclimated to the intervals in these well-known melodies, it becomes apparent that these movements occur in all music, and endless combinations of rhythms, harmonies, timbres, and playing techniques are used to vary and “disguise” the same intervallic motion over and over. This perspective will improve your ability to recognize intervals in everything you hear. Consider it an exercise in the lost art of ear training. Your ears will thank you!

This lesson was excerpted from Jesse Gress’ The Guitar Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Rhythm, Melody, Harmony, Technique & Improvisation (Backbeat).