An interval is the distance between two notes. Intervals come in different sizes. D2-3 is a small interval called a half step. D0-A3 is big interval called an octave. All melodies are just a series of intervals.
Practicing intervals helps you to hear and recognize the relationship between different notes. So if you have a clear idea how D3-A1 should sound, then you will be more likely to play it in tune, or to adjust to the correct pitch more quickly.
A good place to start interval practice is by playing all the intervals in a scale. So for D major, we could practice with
And then we would practice
These are the very most important intervals. Go to Interval Central to practice them now. They form the foundation for wider intervals which are more difficult to play and hear.
Mastering scale intervals is essential, but we can’t stop there because there are many other intervals in melodies. An example of a wider interval would be D3-A1. Let’s practice it now with an interval known as a third:
Some other examples would be a fifth, or D1-A1, and an octave which would be D1-E0.
Intervals in tunes
Tunes are a great opportunity to discover what you need to practice. Do you ever find that there is one difficult part of a tune that always gives you trouble? Try to take that part and break it down into a series of intervals. You may find that there is one particular interval which is throwing off that whole part. This is a great discovery! Now all you have to do is repeat a thousand times.
Say you are having trouble with the fourth quarter of Arkansas Traveller:
Just play through each interval in this phrase:
A1-3…BINGO! This one is hard, so dig in and practice it. Try adding rhythms. Next, continue through the phrase.
A0-D3…Another hard one.
Singing and audiation with intervals
- For example, play D1-3, then sing it.
- You can also practice audiation (hearing the music in your head). Play D1-3, then see if you can hear that without playing.
- Use call-and-response loops to practice intervals with singing and audiation.
A creative way to practice intervals is to sequence them. Just string together two or more intervals:
So play D0-2 and then play A0-2. Do these in a continuous loop.
D0-2-A0-2 call and response
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