2 March 2010

Rhythm Guitar - Play Thirds Intervals

Here's a guitar lesson for beginner or intermediate guitarists looking to improve their rhythm guitar skills. One way to make your rhythm guitar playing sound better is to play less full chords and add some interesting fills using single notes or harmonic intervals. Thirds intervals work well for this in many styles and are not too hard to learn to play. This lesson describes the major and minor thirds used, how to play them on the guitar, and shows how to create a thirds accompaniment over a simple I-IV chord progression in G major.

Thirds Intervals

The third interval is the basis of major and minor chords. There are two different kinds of thirds, major and minor, that give the characteristic major or minor sound of chords.

The major third can be found four frets up from any note on your fretboard and the minor third one fret below it. Although this is an easy way to find thirds intervals and get used to their sound, it is not very convenient for use in rhythm guitar parts. To play the intervals harmonically as part of a song you'll need to play them across strings.

Thirds on Second and Third Strings

For the example in this lesson we'll use thirds intervals on the second and third strings of the guitar. Because of the guitar's tuning this pair of strings is one of the easiest places to play thirds. It also happens to be a good place to get a nice bright sound that stands out in an accompaniment.

  • To play a major third play the second and third strings at the same fret
  • To play a minor third play the second string one fret lower than the third
Now you can use the note on the third string as a guide along the major scale of they key your song is in. Use the major scale formula to choose between a major or minor interval: major on the 1st, 4th and 5th degrees, minor on the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th scale degrees.

Thirds Example

Here's an example showing this technique over a I - IV progression in the key of G. I've deliberately put a lot of thirds intervals in the example, you can adjust to your taste once you're comfortable playing them.

-3--3--------------------0-----------
-0--0--0--1--3--1--3--1--1--1--3--5--
-0--0--0--2--4--2--4--2--0--2--4--5--
-0--0--------------------2-----------
-2--2--------------------3-----------
-3--3--------------------------------

Conclusion

Thirds intervals on the second and third strings of the guitar are an easy way to add life and movement to your rhythm guitar playing. Learn the major and minor thirds shapes on the second and third strings shown in this lesson. Use the note on the third string as a guide to choose a major or minor third interval according to the major scale formula as you move up and down the scale.

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