Equipping and Empowering Worship Leaders Worldwide

Join the Collective

Guitar Theory 101 // Lesson 2 // Whole Steps and Half Steps


You’ll often hear musicians speak about “whole steps” or “half steps.” You may even hear them speak about “going up two steps” or “moving it down a step and a half.” What are they talking about?

If you play your A string on the 3rd fret, then move up and play it on the 4th fret, those two notes are a half step apart. A “step” is just a measured change in pitch (just like a step on a flight of stairs is a measured change in altitude). Guitar frets are spaced at half-step intervals, so a half step is the difference in pitch when you play a note on a guitar string, then play that same string one fret higher (or lower). A whole step (which, logically, is two half steps) would be the interval between notes that are two frets apart. Two steps would be a four-fret distance apart, etc, etc.

Here are the 12 notes of Western music:

A       A#/Bb       B       C       C#/Db       D       D#/Eb       E       F       F#/Gb       G       G#/Ab 

Look at the list and figure out how many steps are between different pairs of notes. Keep in mind that each of the notes listed above is a half step away from the note next to it.

Here are some sample distances:

A to C: 1-1/2 steps

C to E: 2 steps

E to F: ½ step

A# to C#: 1-1/2 steps

Bonus note: some musicians call a step a “tone” and a halfstep a “semitone.”

Related Posts

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply