Ari’s Interval Formula for the Bass Player Explained

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The Interval Formula started with me calling an octave a “2 by 2” and a fifth a “2 by 1″…

A “2×2” is a mnemonic for one great way of fingering the octave on the bass: two frets over, two strings over. Same principle for the fifth…

Mnemonics rock my world when teaching because they drive complex matters home fast (See my articles on mnemonics, Part 1 and Part 2).

While designing the wall chart (AKA the Music Theory Cheat Sheet!), there was color coding involved and arrows and fingerings and the light bulb went off: why not take this concept all the way and apply this idea to all intervals!

The results are great, because once again, thinking of intervals this way (ie: measured on the fret board!) really drives home:

  • how notes relate
  • the way intervals work
  • how strings relate to each other
  • best fingerings for intervals
  • and it creates a productive way to practice the intervals

The Wall Chart features the interval formula in a color coded fashion, complete with best-practice fingerings, numbers of half steps and most important ways to finger them.

Best way to work with it? pick an interval a day and wrap your mind around it. Theory needs practice (its name, then, is really deceiving 😉 )

I have created 45 minutes of video to go with the wall chart. Overview, exercises and one on the epic IF – Interval Formula.

Interval are the basic building blocks of music theory – if you are able to find them on the fretboard, it really pays off: for scales, triads, chords, but also extensions, alterations, compound intervals… it all starts with the basic intervals within the octave. 0 to 12 half steps. Know them on the bass with good fingering, who and how they work and you have a huge leg up. It is necessary to practice them a bit, so that’s where the chart comes in handy. This video shows practice suggestions.   This one gives an overview.

But now check out the video on the Interval Formula here:



  • Chris denslow
    May 18, 2017, 10:16  Reply

    What a brilliant video. I’m a mathematician originally and this is just cordinates . Love it!

    • Ari
      May 18, 2017, 13:37

      Thank you, Chris. I am a scientist in my pre-music life, I love it when complex stuff can be contained with numbers and coordinates. Come to think of it we could even mark the intervals out on coordinates… I bet Excel can do that; could make a pretty graph!

  • shooking
    May 19, 2017, 03:28  Reply

    As a young boy I noticed the patterns on piano keyboard. But never followed the music theory – until I discovered bass guitar 4 months ago – the exceptional 2 to 3 string of 6 string guitar disappears. Matt Week’s Musicademy series then whet my appetite for really learning music theory and this lead me to your Music Theory for the Bass Player (initially via YouTube). Loving the book. Thank you.

    • Ari
      May 19, 2017, 10:24

      Hi shooking, completely relate – patterns, shapes… they are like visual representations of music theory. Thank you for your comment!

  • kevin1014
    May 19, 2017, 08:14  Reply

    Great video Ariane! Your teaching makes so much sense and really helps learn the fingerboard and patterns. I can’t wait to get my wall chart for my practice room. Being a technical person myself, I love you style of teaching.

    • Ari
      May 19, 2017, 10:23

      Thank you, Kevin, awesome to read! I am sending you the tracking number in a minute! Happy staring at the wall… 🙂

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