This has been a big month for me, prepping for and taking my final exams at the Institute. I don’t have my results yet, but should find out how well I did over the summer. A few days after our exams were over, we had a great gig at the Proud in Camden to showcase and celebrate what we have learned over the last 10 months. I played with my scholarship group for the final time and it was just so much fun! Some musician friends of mine came out to support me. I really respect them as players who are further along in the journey – my personal bass Yodas if you will – and it was great to hear how much they thought I had improved. That’s the whole point of this course, and the reason why I travelled to the coldest country on earth…
Thinking about last month’s column and talking about intervals in ear training, I realised that 10 months ago I pretty much had no idea what intervals were or why they were useful. If you’ll let me, I’ll perform a time-travelling manoeuvre and speak to the past me – and hopefully anyone else who’ll listen.
Intervals, put simply, are the distance from one note to the next one. They are the building blocks to understanding anything from pentatonic scales, to how chords are made. To start we will be addressing them in the context of a simple C major scale.
Now let’s look at how a major scale is made. The distance between the root and the second note is two semitones, a major 2nd. Between the root and the 3rd note are four semitones, a major 3rd. In your own time, investigate the other intervals and what distance they are from the root in semitones.
In the major scale there are only major and perfect intervals: see how things change when we use A minor (the relative minor scale to C – no sharps or flats)
The minor scale begins as usual with major 2nd, but things change after that: we have a minor 3rd (also known as a flat 3rd) that is only three semitones from the root. We also have a minor 6th and a minor 7th. You can immediately see how this changes your fingering shape as you play it. When playing each interval, note what the shape looks like on your fingerboard. There are also other positions to play these intervals, but stick to these for the moment if you are just starting out. Next month we’ll delve a little deeper and have some more practical application for how these are used in your favourite bass-lines.
Till next time. Life’s better at the bottom!