Have you ever heard of an interval? An interval is a space; in music it's the space between two notes or beats.
Let's focus today on how an interval is the space between two notes. There are small intervals (notes that are close together and larger intervals; where the distance betwen two notes is further apart. Today we are going to talk about the two smallest intervals; the half step and the whole step.
(Play guitar already? Then skip this paragraph.)
Playing your first notes: On the neck of your guitar is the fretboard. If you are right handed you will typically strum with your right hand and hold notes down with your left. If you are left handed, you will do the opposite; strum with the left and hold notes down with the right. The pieces of metal on the neck are called frets and you never want to play on the metal! Always play on the wood in-between the metal bars. The wood is also called a fret. The space from the top of the fretboard (the plastic nut) to the first metal fret is called the first fret. The space from the first piece of metal to the second piece of metal is the second fret. How many frets do you have on your guitar? To play a note on the guitar, you can play a string open (meaning not holding anything down on the neck) or you can hold down a string at a fret. Can you play the open high E string? How about this; can you play the open high E string holding down the string at the first fret? How about at the second fret? Try any fret and string you want.
A half step is the smallest distance between two notes you can play on a guitar without bending the strings (more on bending the strings later.) Here is an example of a half step:
- Play the open high E string
- Play the high E string at the first fret.
That's called going a half step up. As you travel away from the tuning pegs, you shorten the string; therefore the pitch of the string goes up (shorter string = higher pitch.) Can you keep going up in half steps? Walk up the string, playing a note at every fret. Now go back down the neck, the opposite way that you came up; to go down the neck in intervals of a half step.
A whole step is equal to two half steps. It's the second smallest interval. To play a whole step on one string you skip a fret. For example:
- Play open E
whole step up takes you to... the second fret.
- Play the second fret
- Now the fourth fret
See the pattern? That's how you go up a whole step on one string.
Can you go up the neck in whole steps? Now back down in whole steps?
That's basically it! You can also play half steps and whole steps going string to string but that's a bit more advanced and it will be the topic of another post.