Know where and how musical intervals appear on guitar is an important skill to have. Not only does this help with improvising, know your intervals also help with chord finding, generally finding notes on the guitar, and more.
By now you probably know that a chord is made up of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th of a scale. So knowing where your 5ths are shouldn’t be too hard. That being said, it’s still worth discussing and studying.
What Is A 5th?
In musical terms, an interval is just the difference between two notes. While there are different kinds of 5ths, this article is talking specifically about perfect 5ths. If someone refers to “a 5th,” generally they’re speaking about a perfect 5th.
A perfect 5th is an interval of 7 semitones/frets. So if you’re playing in C, the 5th is G.
What Does A 5th Sound Like?
Well, after you read this article, you’ll be able to play 5ths on the guitar! But sometimes it’s good to have a reference in your head.
The first two notes of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Start are a 5th. The first note (the first “twinkle”) is the root of the key and the second note (the second “twinkle”) is a 5th above.
Playing 5ths On The Same String
As mentioned, the interval of a 5th is 7 semitones. It may be hard to play this on one string, but it’s possible to make a quick jump.
Single String Perfect 5th
There may be some instances where you’d want to play a 5th like this. Perhaps for tone or if you need to quickly jump positions. But playing a 5th like this isn’t going to come up too often!
Forward 5ths On Guitar
Like with my article on finding octaves on the guitar, I’m calling these “forward 5ths” for no other reason than the 5th is appearing ahead of the root on the fretboard. It’s not an official name or anything.
Everything on the diagrams is colour coded for each 5th as it appears across the strings. Note that, as usual, you have to add a fret for the B string because of standard guitar tuning.
Look at these 5ths and compare them to the open guitar chord shapes you should already know. They should look familiar.
Backward 5ths On Guitar
Again, “backward 5th” isn’t a real name, it’s just convenient for this article to differentiate where to find your 5ths on guitar.
Here you can see that the 5th sits a few frets behind the root on the lower string. You see these 5ths in the G and C shape guitar chords and their corresponding scales.
Playing the backward 5th is a little bit trickier than the forward one because you’re skipping a string. However, keep in mind that on the lower strings it’s an entire hand span, so you shouldn’t get too lost.
That’s How You Find And Play 5ths On Guitar
That’s it, that’s everything. You’re done.
Practice these intervals so you can hit and find them easily. They’re fun little jumps to add some interest to solos or, as mentioned, to help with finding chords.