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Listening for intervals or note/scale relations?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by suicas, May 25, 2004.

  1. suicas


    Mar 12, 2004
    I was just wondering how most of you go about thinking of notes and their relationships to each other.

    I'm getting a but confused about two ways of thinking that I've come across.

    As an example, if I'm playing a C in the key of C major (3rd fret, 3rd string) and then play a G (5th fret, 2nd string), the G I play is the 5th in the scale, and a perfect 5th interval.

    If I play the C again, and then the G an octave down (3rd fret, 4th string), I'm still playing the 5th of the scale (an octave down), but now I'm playing a perfect 4th interval.

    I guess I'm really wondering what I should be thinking when I'm practicing scales or training my ears or improvising.
    Whenever I play a C followed by a G, should I be thinking to myself:
    "I'm playing root then 5th"
    "I'm playing root then 5th an octave down"
    "I'm playing root then 5th an octave up"


    "I'm playing root then a perfect 5th up"
    "I'm playing root then a perfect 4th down"
    "I'm playing root then a 13th up"

    Or am I just confusing myself horribly? :)
  2. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    You're confusing yourself a bit. Let's see if I can confuse you some more. ;) The 5th is the 5th wether it's played above or below the root. When you play a C at the 3 fret and then a G below the C as you describe - the interval is a 5th. If you play the G first (and consider the G the root) then play the C - that interval is a 4th. So using those two notes as an example - or should I say, this one interval - the interval can be a 4th or a 5th depending on how you look at it. That is why some people will refer to the "cycle of 4ths" while most refer to it as the "circle of 5th's" - it's really both, depending on which way you look at it and which way you are going around the circle. (or depending on which way you're moving from one string to the next on your bass) Also consider that if you add these two intervals (4th and 5th) the sum will be an octave. That is - play a G on your 4th string - now play its 4th (C) now play it's 5th (C's 5th) which is G an octave up from where you started. :eyebrow:
  3. I don't think it matters much whether you think of it as playing the fifth an octave lower, or playing a fourth down from the root. It's both, and as long as you understand that, you'll be fine.
  4. AllegroNonMolto


    May 15, 2004
    I generally think in terms of scale degrees when improvising if that helps. The G in your example will always be the 5th no matter where I play it. Don't give yourself too much baggage when improvising...don't overthink it. Save that energy for deciding which mode you are going to use to get from that C to that G. :p