All About Intervals (Guitar Lesson)

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Chris Liepe

All About Intervals

Intervals, Intervals, Intervals! Chris Liepe explains what they are, where they are found, and how to play them in this lesson.

Taught by Chris Liepe in Basic Electric Guitar with Chris seriesLength: 14:07Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
An interval is simply the distance between two notes. We have already talked about two intervals --whole steps and half steps. This lesson addresses the names and positions of other intervals within the major scale.
As you look over the tablature for this lesson, you will see two different G major scales. The single string scale should look familiar. Once you can play both of these scales comfortably, you can use them to start playing and hearing intervals.

The Root
In order to define the distance between two notes, we need a reference note, or a starting note that the interval is based on. This is called the "root." In this lesson, our root will always be a "G," but we'll be getting away from that soon enough.

The Intervals
Looking at the tablature provided with this lesson, and playing the examples will help drive both the positioning and the sounds of the intervals home. Here are the names of the intervals covered in this lesson:
Major 2nd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Perfect 5th
Major 6th
Major 7th
Playing from the root, or G from either scale position to the 2nd degree of the scale will yield an interval of a Major 2nd. Playing from the G to the 3rd note of the scale, or B will give you a Major 3rd. Playing from a G to a C is a Perfect 4th.
Lowering any of the "Major" intervals by one fret or a half step produces a minor interval (ex. minor 2nd, minor 3rd, minor 6th, minor 7th). When you lower the Perfect 5th, it becomes a diminished 5th. Lowering the 7th is sometimes called a dominant 7th. If you lower the Perfect, it actually just becomes a Major 3rd.

Melodic vs. Harmonic

When two notes are played separately, the relationship between the notes is referred to as a melodic interval. When two notes are played at the same time, it is called a harmonic interval.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Scene 1

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Hello everyone this is Chris Liepe from

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Lesson eight in the beginners lesson series.

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We are going to be looking at the basics of intervals within the major scale.

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Intervals can be quite confusing they are really reduced though to the distance between two notes.

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The most basic intervals are either a whole step or a half step and we've talked about this in other lessons.

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A whole step just to review is the distance of two frets.

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A half step is the distance of one fret.

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As we've learned in previous lessons a major scale is built of a series of whole steps and half steps.

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There are other intervals that commonly make up chords, different scales, they're all over music that are present natively in the major scale.

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We're going to take a look at those today.

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Before we really get into it let's take a look at the scale we're going to be using to look at our intervals.

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A few lessons back we looked at a single string G major scale and you'll remember it looks like this.

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So the major scale is built up of a series of whole steps and half steps if we play it linearly.

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If we look at the intervals between different notes starting from the root which in this case is G.

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We are going to get different names for all of these intervals.

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Let's talk about the root.

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In this case it's G as I just said but the root is always going to be the base note for which the interval is built on.

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In this case when we are going through and finding some of these intervals we're always going to use G as our root.

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Our root could be any note it's just going to be the lowest note or the note that the interval is built on.

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The distance between the first note which is our root and the second note in a G major scale in addition to it being called a whole step.

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It is also called a major second.

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The distance between the root G and the third note of the major scale is called the major third.

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These names can be pretty obvious because we are just simply assigning numbers to the notes we're playing.

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Major third.

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Now the fourth note is not going to be called a major fourth.

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The fourth note is going to be called a perfect fourth.

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So from one to four is called a perfect four.

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In this case from G to C is a perfect fourth.

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We're going from one to the five, that's called a perfect fifth.

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From one to six is called a major sixth.

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From one to seven is called a major seven.

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From one to eight or one to one is called the octave.

Scene 2

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To memorize these names of the intervals is really easy.

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Your fourths and fifths are always called perfect at least when dealing with the major scale.

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Your seconds, thirds, sixths and sevenths are major.

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When we are dealing with the major scale.

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Now other intervals are definitely present.

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Any of the major intervals can also be a minor interval by simply lowering it one fret.

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So if we're going to make our major third for example if we are going to make that a minor third

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we are simply going to lower it one fret or a half step.

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So from G to B flat we've got a minor third as opposed to G to B we've got a major third.

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Same with our second.

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Major second.

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Now if we're talking about a major sixth.

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Here's your major sixth lowering it half step makes it a minor sixth.

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Same with your seven.

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Major seven.

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Minor seven.

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It's really helpful for me to look at intervals on one string because you start understanding the fret distance that it takes

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to create any one of these intervals.

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When you are playing an interval one note after the other it is called a melodic interval.

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So if I'm playing one note followed by here's a minor third.

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If I'm playing one note followed by the other that is considered a melodic interval.

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If I'm playing the notes together like something like this that is called a harmonic interval.

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Chords are built of harmonic intervals.

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Scales are built of melodic intervals.

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So let's look at harmonic intervals with this very basic G major scale.

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This scale is going to be based in four frets starting on your second fret and then you're going to go all the way up to your fifth fret.

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This is kind of also our introduction to position playing across multiple strings with scales we're going to learn one octave of a G major scale.

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It's important with position playing that each finger be assigned a fret.

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So in other words you're not going to be moving your first finger around to reach notes.

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Any note that is played in your second fret is going to be played by your first finger and so on with all of your other fingers.

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I am going to play this scale very slowly and then I will explain a little bit more.

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Notice the symmetrical nature of where my fingers were.

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This scale is going to start with your third fret second finger.

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Fifth fret fourth finger this is on your low E.

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Then you're going to switch strings.

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Second fret A string.

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Third fret.

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Fifth fret.

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Second fret on your D string.

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Fourth fret.

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Fifth fret.

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So learning how to play it literally is great but the reason we are working on this is because we're going to identify our root which is G.

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Then we're going to be playing all of the other intervals along with that root note.

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This is really, really key as you start hearing the distance between notes.

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Part of ear training is being able to listen to a song or whatever and identify if someone is singing for example

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what the distance between those intervals are.

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Here is our root note.

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We're going to play a major second.

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What I am doing is I'm playing my G and my open A.

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That's how major second sounds played harmonically.

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A major third. Now we're in the scale position.
One, Two, Three there's my third.

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Play those together and that's going to be the sound of a third.

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Sound of a fourth.

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Perfect fifth.

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Major seven.

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So this is how you want to practice this.

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You want to play your second note there harmonically with your open A.

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You start getting a feel for all of these different intervals as they sound played together.

Scene 3

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Here's some tricks for remembering some of these major intervals.

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I always like to think of the first notes in a song, in a melody to remember some of these

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because we remember song melodies a lot better than we remember just two notes played.

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In the next section we are going to cover some songs that pretty much everybody will know.

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Once you are familiar with these melodies it will help you memorize these intervals.

Scene 4

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So starting with your major second.

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Here are some songs that probably everybody knows and I'll be playing the melodies a little bit here

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and this is going to help you memorize these intervals.

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So for a major second I am going to use the song " Yankee Doodle."

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That's the very beginning of that melody.

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"Yankee doodle went to town riding on a pony stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni."

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The very first distance between two notes is a major second.

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So whenever you are trying to think of what a major second sounds like sing the first part of " Yankee Doodle."

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A major third. Major third.

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A major third is " Oh when the saints."

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" Oh when the saints go marching in oh when the saints go marching in."

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So whenever you think of a major third or whenever you think of that song "Oh when the saints."

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Those first two notes are a distance of a major third.

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A perfect fourth.

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I like to use the song "Amazing Grace."

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" Amazing grace how sweet the sound. "

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So the very first two notes there perfect fourth.
"Amazing Grace."

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Perfect fifth. I don't necessarily use a song to figure out what it is but what I will do is:

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in a lot of old movies there is a horn line that people will play and I think

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they did this in " Monty Python and the Holy Grail " or something like that where they have this horn line and it sounds like this…

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So for me I just kind of have this "Da Da Da Da Da Da" in my head and that helps me remember a perfect fifth.

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A major sixth is the old song that probably a lot of us got sung when we were going to bed as little kids and that's "My bonnie lies over the ocean."

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Major sixth.

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"My bonnie lies over the ocean, My bonnie lies over the sea."

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Then finally a major seven.

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Someone on live Q and A actually brought this to my attention this is really cool and it's part of the Superman soundtrack.

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" Superman theme song."

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That's the end part of that and that is a major seven.

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Sing the end of that "Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da" and that will give you the sound of a major seven.

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Once you guys have worked through this lesson in a few weeks we are going to have a little quiz that's going to show up on the internet.

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Basically intervals will be played and you will have the opportunity to take this quiz.

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Test your ear, train your ear.

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Pour through this lesson and there have been quite a few other lessons on intervals lately on the website.

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Pour through all of these.

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Ear training and being able to recognize intervals whether you're playing them or just hearing them is very important.

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Really pour through some of these things and make sure you take the quiz in a few weeks.

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Have a good rest of your day.

Supplemental Learning Material


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

cbriarnoldcbriarnold replied on December 30th, 2014

In 8.4 you are talking about the ways to Memorize the intervals. Could you include tabs for what you play? I find that doing them repeatedly helps me learn better than hearing them once.

joey5481joey5481 replied on September 9th, 2014

Thx Chris...had the "ah-ha" moment when I realized that the 2nd position of the G scale notes were the same as going up the neck on the G string as a single string scale

iojinxoiiojinxoi replied on January 24th, 2014

Very good lesson, I need to revisit this with coffee for an hour.

killerguitarplayerkillerguitarplayer replied on January 12th, 2014

i still dont understand intrevals yet chris i took the test and totally flunked it i need help

killerguitarplayerkillerguitarplayer replied on January 12th, 2014

You sing really good chris did you get tought

NelsonteleNelsontele replied on November 30th, 2013

great lesson (again)

huntjasonhuntjason replied on April 20th, 2013

When I can play the root and the next note (like in sections 1 & 2) I was doing very well. When I put the guitar away and was trying to do it by ear in section three, all bets were off!!

nadsmusicnadsmusic replied on November 21st, 2012

Hi Chris great lesson. Only am having trouble downloading GP5 to Guitar pro. I asked your helpdesk they asked me to contact Guitar pro I did this and they told me to contact Jamplay. Is there an easy way of downloading the file? thx

Chris.LiepeChris.Liepe replied on November 23rd, 2012

very strange. It's tough for me to say what your issue might be because I'm able to download and load the file just fine on GP5 and GP6. I know this isn't much help :) the GP support say? Anyone else here having the same issue?

nadsmusicnadsmusic replied on November 29th, 2012

Thanks Chris for replying. I might contact them again they referred me back to Jamplay. See how I go contacting them again. :)

auzyauzy replied on September 23rd, 2012

Argh my hand! good practice of using all four fingers! A joyful pain right?

antl58antl58 replied on August 30th, 2012

great lesson !...really helped me understand the basic idea...are there any other lessons or practice materials on the sight you could recommend.?

Chris.LiepeChris.Liepe replied on September 11th, 2012

try the interval quiz if you haven't already. see how you do :)

dshowdshow replied on July 29th, 2012

Great lesson Chris! I guess there is a small mistake in the description of the lesson. In the last part of the paragraph "The Intervals" you write "If you lower the Perfect, it actually just becomes a Major 3rd." It should be the Perfect 4th I guess?

tenr2_4godtenr2_4god replied on May 31st, 2012

For Perfect 5th song I use "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

rangorango replied on January 2nd, 2012

Great lesson - This one needs a "star" next to it. I've been a guitar owner for years. This a key piece of the puzzle to go from "owner" to "player". I sat around just playing ascending and descending runs against the root and it sounds great! Starting throwing a third note and was hearing chords! One comment - you lost me right when you started playing the intervals against the root - scene 2 at around 4:40 to 5:30 you lost me and I had to go to the tab to figure out what you were doing.

ratfaceratface replied on May 16th, 2011

hey chris. when u play the harmonic interval do u play the low e string with the original interval or u play the a and d string too

Chris.LiepeChris.Liepe replied on May 23rd, 2011

a harmonic interval is defined as only playing two notes together. If I played 3 strings, it becomes a chord. so if I'm playing the E and the D string for an interval, I'm good, but if I added a third one in there it would then be classified as a chord

hakea333hakea333 replied on March 15th, 2011

Great Lesson Chris. Apparently, the first two big notes of the Starwars Main Theme are also a perfect fifth, for those who know that one. "DUM DA, Du Du Du Dum. Another handy interval song is Somewhere Over The Rainbow. The first word, "Some-" and "-where" uses a whole octave jump. The Titanic Theme also has an octave jump in the third word of the chorus.. "Near, far, WHER-EVER you are....". Enjoying your lesson. Thanks. Chris C

ratfaceratface replied on May 16th, 2011

the star wars one yes. but some where over the rainbow no

BradleyABradleyA replied on January 12th, 2017

Some and Where is definitely an interval. Dorothy sings it in Ab.

matymusmatymus replied on April 13th, 2011

Great lesson, Chris!! I appreciate the fact that you are introducing theory along with the lessons. Personally, I need to understand why I'm doing certain things...that's just the way I learn best. Thank you!!!

greyskiesgreyskies replied on December 9th, 2010

Nice lesson Chris! This is just what I needed...

gibstratgibstrat replied on May 6th, 2010

thx chris, also i really like that ibanez, can you tell me the model,

Chris.LiepeChris.Liepe replied on May 6th, 2010

Thanks! The guitar is a discontinued Ibanez S Prestige. Not sure the exact model. I'll try and find out!

loganptloganpt replied on August 15th, 2010

the model might be written on the back of the headstock

zackattack614zackattack614 replied on August 9th, 2010

That's my dream guitar

alexmarblekingalexmarbleking replied on May 5th, 2010

great lesson!

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Lesson 23

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About Chris Liepe View Full Biography Chris Liepe was born on September 17th, 1981 in Portland OR. His first instrument was piano which he pursued until discovering his love for the electric guitar in high school. He became fans of such groups as Soundgarden, Collective Soul and U2 inspiring him to start singing, songwriting and helping others in their musical endeavors with teaching, co-writing and album production.

Having moved to Colorado with his family, he began gigging, recording and teaching in a number of music stores as well as out of his apartment until deciding to pursue music full time. He moved to Denver, CO to complete a Bachelors in Music Technology and was then hired on by Sweetwater Productions, a division of Sweetwater Sound and one of the largest, most successful recording studios in the Midwest.

Chris spent nearly 4 years at Sweetwater as a producer, recording engineer, studio musician and writer. During this time he had the privilege of working with many artists including Augustana, Landon Pigg, Jars of Clay, and Mercy Me. He also wrote for and played on numerous independent albums and hundreds of radio/TV commercials.

Wanting to get back to his favorite State in the world (Colorado) and feeling the urge to 'go freelance', Chris moved to Greeley, CO and opened his own recording and teaching studio. He continues to write and produce music for artists and agencies and is happy to be among the proud instructors.

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Mark Kailana Nelson Mark Kailana Nelson

Mark Nelson introduces "'Ulupalakua," a song he will be using to teach different skills and techniques. In this lesson, he...

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Alan Skowron Alan Skowron

Alan shares his background in teaching and sets the direction for his beginning bass series with simple ideas and musical...

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Eve Goldberg Eve Goldberg

Eve talks about the boom-chuck strum pattern. This strum pattern will completely change the sound of your playing.

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Mitch Reed Mitch Reed

Mitch teaches his interpretation of the classic "Cannonball Rag." This song provides beginning and intermediate guitarists...

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Erik Mongrain Erik Mongrain

Erik expounds on the many possibilities of open tunings and the new harmonics that you can use in them. He explains what...

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Electric Guitar Lesson Samples

Our electric guitar lessons are taught by instructors with an incredible amount of teaching experience.

Bumblefoot Bumblefoot

Guns N' Roses guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal pulls out all the stops in his blistering artist series. Dive into the intense,...

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Rex Brown Rex Brown

Dive into the playing of Rex Brown. As the bass player for Pantera, Down, and Kill Devil Hill, Brown's real world experience...

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Andy James Andy James

Get an in-depth look into the mind of virtuoso guitarist Andy James. Learn about Andy's early beginnings all the way up to...

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Emil Werstler Emil Werstler

Emil takes you through some techniques that he uses frequently in his style of playing. Topics include neck bending, percussive...

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DJ Phillips DJ Phillips

Learn a handful of new blues techniques while learning to play Stevie Ray Vaughn's "The House Is Rockin'".

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Mark Brennan Mark Brennan

Mark Brennan teaches this classic rock song by Jethro Tull. Released on the album of the same name in 1971, this song features...

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Dennis Hodges Dennis Hodges

Learn a variety of essential techniques commonly used in the metal genre, including palm muting, string slides, and chord...

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Prashant Aswani Prashant Aswani

Do you want to play more musical sounding solos? Do you want to play solos with more emotion behind them? Maybe you're the...

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Kris Norris Kris Norris

Kris analyzes different pick sizes and their effect on his playing. Using a slow motion camera, he is able to point out the...

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Take a minute to compare JamPlay to other traditional and new methods of learning guitar. Our estimates for "In-Person" lessons below are based on a weekly face-to-face lesson for $40 per hour.

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Scale/Chord Libraries
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Mike H.

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I am 66 years young and I still got it! I would have never known this if it had not been for Jamplay! I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar! Ha! I cannot express enough how great you're website is! It is for beginners and advanced pickers! I am an advanced picker and thought I had lost it but thanks to you all, I found it again! Even though I only play by ear, I have been a member a whopping whole two weeks now and have already got Brent's country shuffle and country blues down and of course with embellishments. Thank you all for your wonderful program!

Greg J.

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I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


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