Today we’re releasing a new free interval training pack, focusing on two particularly important – yet challenging – intervals: The Perfect Fourth and Perfect Fifth. If you want to develop your sense of relative pitch, grab a copy of this training pack for your iPod. You might also like to check out our previous introductory pack.
One of the interval pairings which causes the most trouble for beginning ear training students is: Perfect Fourth and Perfect Fifth. These intervals are hugely important in traditional harmony. For example, a perfect fifth is present in all major and minor triads, and the most important chords in a key are based on the fourth and fifth notes of the scale. Learning to recognise them is a vital step in developing your relative pitch.
However, many of the reasons these intervals are so important also make them difficult to reliably recognise.
Free training pack
We’ve created a new MP3 ear training pack to help you learn to recognise these intervals. Just download the zip file below and unpack the MP3s. Load them onto your portable music player or favourite desktop media player and listen carefully. You’ll hear lots of examples of each interval type, along with their name spoken aloud.
|Download Perfect Fourth & Perfect Fifth Pack (14 MB zip)
(Right-click and ‘save as’)
Why practise these intervals?
The perfect fourth and fifth are core to traditional harmony because they sound so right. In a major or minor key, these notes of the scale will sound particularly ‘at home’, due to their relationship to the root note. However, this can make them difficult to characterise by ear – they sound so easy, so natural it can be hard to really analyse their sound by ear, or to hear them in the context of a song where they blend in so well.
The two intervals are both important in part because they work as a team: They are an ‘inversion pair’, meaning that one interval is the same as the other one, upside-down. If C up to G forms a perfect fifth, then G up to C forms a perfect fourth. To put it another way, if you go up a perfect fifth, and then up a perfect fourth, you end up back on the note you started from (e.g. C up to G (perfect fifth) and on up to C again (perfect fourth)).
This means that the intervals sound quite similar to each other, essentially only differing in the octave of one of the notes! This isn’t too bad when the notes are played in sequence, one after the other: you can hear which is higher and judge the gap between them. However when listening for the harmonic form (both notes played together) it can be tricky to figure out which note is the top and which is the bottom one, and therefore hard to know whether the gap between them is the fourth or the fifth.
How to use the tracks
Practice with the ‘up’ tracks first, which contrasts perfect fourths and fifths in their ascending form. Then once you think you’ve got a feel for them, try the ‘down’ tracks. You’ll find the intervals sound different, but retain their characteristic sound.
Finally move onto the ‘harm’ tracks which have the harmonic form of the intervals. This is most likely going to be the most challenging for you! You might find it helpful to start by focusing on just hearing both notes clearly: sing them back, one after the other, after each interval example. This has the effect of transforming the harmonic interval into an ascending or descending one, which you should be able to recognise more easily. Over time you can internalise this process into your ear and not need to sing the notes.
If you have any questions or tips you want to share, be sure to leave a comment below!