An interval is the distance in pitch between two notes. Different distances have different characteristic sounds, and so the intervals between notes have a big impact on the way those notes sound together.
Interval ear training can help you learn to recognize and reproduce intervals, and connect the characteristic sounds with their corresponding names. This may seem a little abstract, but it will assist you in a variety of real musical tasks. For example:
- Appreciate and understand harmonies
- Hear how melodies are constructed
- Play by ear, using your improved sense of pitch distances
- Sight-sing by using intervals to understand the sheet music
- Distinguish mistakes or inaccuracies in pitch and tuning
Most students start by learning the intervals of the octave: unison, semitone, tone, minor third, major third, perfect fourth, augmented fourth, perfect fifth, minor sixth, major sixth, minor seventh, major seventh, and perfect octave. There are some other names for these too (e.g. "half step", "whole step", "tri-tone", etc.) but just 13 core intervals. Learning the sounds of these when the notes are ascending, descending and played together, and continuing on to study compound intervals (those larger than an octave) will solidify your ear for intervals even further.
The Pitch & Harmony series starts by teaching intervals, and then uses them to build up to chords and more complex harmonies. A great starting point to get to grips with intervals, or to build on your existing knowledge.
If you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch, check out our interval training app, RelativePitch. It starts from the basics and teaches you all the intervals of the octave in a fun and effective way.
It's been rated 4-stars or above in 95% of user reviews, and was chosen by Apple to be a featured app on the App Store.
Once you've got a good feel for the intervals in isolation, take your training to the next level with the Step and a Half app. You'll learn to use intervals to figure out tunes - and you'll do it by playing a game!
You don't need any special equipment (or music theory knowledge) to learn with Introducing Intervals. Just put the MP3s onto your music player, have a quick read of the track notes, and then start learning - by listening to music!
Discussion and Advice
If you want to share tips, get advice, or simply discuss your interval ear training, come talk about it in our Relative Pitch forum.
Watch a short video introducing the music theory behind intervals:
Online interval training
Here's another great way to practise your interval recognition: The Melodic Drops game from Theta Music Trainer:
Intervals are made up of two notes - and so studying them leads you naturally to chords: 3 or more notes played together. Developing your aural skills for intervals will benefit your chord skills, and vice-versa.
Intervals can also be used as the building blocks for understanding musical scales. In particular you can use a keen sense of small intervals to really appreciate the pattern of a scale, and use your knowledge of larger intervals to recognise the overall character of the scale.
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