Start With a Major or Minor Third
In my last post, we looked at “Brown Eyed Girl,” a song where intervals of major or minor thirds played from the key of G are used to create the main riff.
Play it an Octave Higher
“Blackbird” by The Beatles is also in the key of G and uses an interval called a 10th, which is a major or minor third but played one octave higher.
Check out the YouTube video below if you want to learn the whole song or start at the 4:47 mark for the author’s demonstration of 10th intervals.
This beautiful McCartney composition makes heavy use of this interval, and it is well worth taking the time to learn. To play correctly, you’ll be working on your right-hand thumb and finger independence – often called fingerstyle technique – to sound out the bass and melody notes cleanly without playing the open strings. If this is new for you, follow the tried-and-true way to learn – play very slowly and deliberately, taking one or two measures at a time.
Besides the challenging chord shapes and right-hand technique, “Blackbird” has great examples of contrary motion. This is when a bass line and melody line move simultaneously but in opposite directions. The opening phrases, both the bass and melody are ascending, but the next phrase has a passage of descending bass played against an ascending melody (“take these broken wings…”). Very cool.
The melody is originating from a chord progression. Within each chord, Sir Paul chose mostly 10th intervals to compose the beautiful melody. So, if you have a chord progression you’ve written, or one that you like, try to play the 10th interval of the chords, and make up a melody too. You might create a beautiful new song trying this technique.
More Songs With the 10th Interval
There are lots of songs with thirds and 10th intervals – and contrary motion, such as “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” Blind Faith, “Tears in Heaven,” Eric Clapton, “I Will Wait,” Mumford and Sons, and many others. Each tune is worth learning to get your fingerstyle chops happening and to wow the crowd around the campfire (or these days maybe the propane heat lamp).
Keep practicing and have fun!