How to Recognise Intervals in Music

How to Recognise Intervals in Music

An interval is a word musicians use to describe the distance between two notes. Being able to identify intervals is an important skill for musicians and helps not only with reading music, but crucially with working out melodies by ear. This is a vital skill, particularly within pop music styles.

Firstly Listen to the Relationship Between the Notes

When you hear two notes played after each other, pay close attention to the relationship between them. Does the second note sound higher or lower than the first? Does it sound close or far apart? Does the combination sound happy or melancholic? Making these basic observations will help you narrow down the interval in question.

Fingers on piano keyboard

Here are some famous melodies which will help to recognise all intervals within one octave.

Unison - The same note again!

Minor 2nd - Jaws (duh-dum)

Major 2nd - Happy Birthday

Minor 3rd - Greensleeves

Major 3rd - Kumbaya

Perfect 4th - Here Comes The Bride

Diminished 5th - The Simpsons Theme (the simp-)

Perfect 5th - Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Minor 6th - The Entertainer (3rd and 4th notes of melody)

Major 6th - My Way (and-now)

Minor 7th - Star Trek Theme

Major 7th - Somewhere Over The Rainbow (some-where-o- = root, octave, seventh)

Octave - Starman by David Bowie (star-man!)

Bonus Tip: Use a Piano or Keyboard

A piano keyboard is a great visual reference for intervals. Play the two notes and observe the distance between them on the keyboard. Count the semitones between the notes to identify the interval. With consistent practice, you will memorise these sounds.

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