Learn intervals with songs that everyone knows

November 3, 2016

Being able to recognize or sing/play intervals from a given note is a useful skill – at times even a necessary one – for every music lover. Knowing the theory about intervals might come in handy but still doesn't guarantee that you'll learn how to actively use this knowledge. In order to do that, you need some practice-oriented training (which can be fun!). Here I want to show you how you can go about the practice of intervals and enjoy it :)


Let's face it – nothing is as helpful here as associating specific distances between two pitches with well-known melodies. And since some of them use an interval many times, in a pendulum-like motion up- and downwards, they can be helpful no matter what the direction of your interval is. Use the songs to help you to recognize an interval, or to sing one from a given pitch - by humming those well-known melodies once higher, once lower, you'll get trained for singing intervals from any possible pitch. So let's start!


Minor second: Stevie Wonder “Isn't She Lovely” - the interval appears over and over again at the beginning of nearly every phrase.



Major second: try singing the beginning of “Happy Birthday”, or The Beatles' “Yesterday”. There's no way you can confuse a major second with a minor one now ;)


Minor third: try the chorus of Duck Sauce's “Barbara Streisand”. Yeah, "ooooooooh" is a minor third.


Major third: how about "Summertime"?

Using these two songs for recognizing thirds can be really helpful as our perception of thirds usually changes depending on the direction of the melody, especially when we just associate them with a major or a minor chord. A major chord is a major third plus a minor one, a minor chord consist of a minor third plus a major one (built upwards), so it's very easy to get confused here - don't rely on your perception of what sounds "sad" and what sounds "happy". Associate :)


Perfect fourth: Madonna's "Hung-up". "Time goes by so slowly" at the beginning is exactly what you're looking for.


Tritone: do you know the main theme from "The Simpsons"?


Perfect fifth: "Scarborough Fair"


Minor sixth: the most characteristic 'jump' (played always 3 times in a row) in Scott Joplin's “Entertainer”.


Major sixth: Coldplay's “Fix You” - "When you try... when you get... when you feel..." and so on.

Hope this one won't leave you feeling blue ;)


Minor seventh: ABBA - “The Winner takes It All” - check out the chorus.


Major seventh: Now we'll really need something positive to finish with ;) So think of the beginning of “Somewhere over the rainbow” and singing louder the 1st and the 3rd pitch. That's it.

That's my choice of helpful songs for associating them with specific intervals. Feel free to find your personal favorites and enjoy the practice! :)



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