Musical Intervals

author: CPDmusic date: 05/14/2010 category: for beginners
rating: 9.6 / votes: 24 
Basic Ear Training Introduction: Hello, and welcome to another lesson by CPDmusic! (If you haven't read my other beginner lessons, check them out!) Today, I'm going to do another theory lesson, just like my Major vs. Minor lesson. But this lesson will also incorporate a bit of basic ear training! It is about music intervals. You're probably saying to yourself Musical intervals! What the heck are those? and that is perfectly reasonable. Musical intervals are the difference in pitch between two notes. Being able to recognize different musical intervals is the first step to being able to transcribe music by ear, and who doesn't want to be able to do that! So get ready, because here we go! The Intervals: First of all, I should probably tell you the names of the intervals. These intervals will be looked at more closely later on, but for now, just check out this list: Unison Minor Second Major Second Minor Third Major Third Perfect Fourth Tritone Perfect Fifth Minor Sixth Major Sixth Minor Seventh Major Seventh Perfect Eighth Does it look like a lot? Don't worry about it; this stuff is probably a lot easier than you think! Just take a deep breath, and we'll get started looking at each interval. Unison: Unison is the easiest interval, as it is when both notes are exactly the same. Look at the example below:
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----0----||
Minor Second: A minor second is when a note is one semitone, or, in guitar terms, one fret, higher or lower than the previous note. (if you don't know what major or minor mean, read this) Check out the example below:
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----1----||
Major Second: A major second is when a note is one tone, or two frets, higher or lower than the previous note. Check out this example:
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----2----||
Minor Third: A minor third is when a note is three semitones, or three frets, higher or lower than the previous note. Look at this example:
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----3----||
Major Third: A major third is when a note is two tones, or four frets, higher or lower than the previous note. See this example:
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----4----||
The Rest: You should start to see the pattern, so let's just fly by the rest: Perfect Fourth: 5 semitones
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----5----||
Tritone: 3 tones
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----6----||
Perfect Fifth: 7 semitones
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----7----||
Minor Sixth: 4 tones
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----8----||
Major Sixth: 9 semitones
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----9----|
Minor Seventh: 5 tones
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----10----||
Major Seventh: 11 semitones
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----11----||
Perfect Eighth: 6 tones (one octave)
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||------------||
E||--0----12----||
Okay, So What? Okay, so what? is probably what you're thinking right now. You're probably asking yourself how knowing this makes you better musician. Well, if you can recognize these when you hear them, you will obviously have a better ear, and be able to transcribe music by ear more accurately. For example, did you know the first two notes from the theme of Star Wars are a perfect fifth from each other? With this, if you could identify the first note as, let's say E (I don't know if this is actually true, it's just an example), you could then also identify the second note from the melody to be B, which gives you the first two notes. You could then compare the 2nd to the 3rd, the 3rd to 4th, and so on. This is a rather tedious way of transcribing by ear, but it's also a lot easier than playing random notes and comparing them to the recording. So, I probably just brought up another question. How the heck do I recognize them? Recognization: With practice you should be able to recognize intervals by ear. This, in my mind, is a two step process. STEP 1: Find a way to help you remember what the intervals sound like. The most common way is to relate them to a piece of music you know very well. Here are a few I use: Minor second = Theme from Jaws Major second = Frere Jacques Minor Second = Canadian National Anthem Major Second = Them from The Simpsons Perfect Fourth = Here Comes the Bride Perfect Fifth = Theme from Star Wars Perfect Eighth = Somewhere Over the Rainbow STEP 2: Now, you need to actually have to hear intervals to recognize them. Here are three ways to go about doing that: a) Listen to the beginning of your favourite songs. If you have an audio editor, crop out the first two notes or something, and loop them. The downside to this is you don't know if you're right, unless you know someone who is knowledgeable on the concept. b) Get a friend who is knowledgeable on the subject to play random intervals on an instrument (it doesn't have to be guitar, any instrument works.), while you try identifying them. c) Go to my brand-spanking-new YouTube channel, where you will find the first of a series of videos that are tests on musical intervals. Here is a link. Closing: Well, another lesson has come and gone, and know your ear is (hopefully) better trained for transcription. Now, before I go, I want to tell you that my next lesson will be about harmonization, which will use this information. Why do I want to tell you this? I want to tell you this because somebody recommended I write a lesson on harmonization, so I am going to. I encourage all of you to give me some suggestions, because I write what you guys want to read! Thanks for your time, and goodbye. DID YOU LIKE THIS LESSON? CHECK OUT MY LAST LESSON, Finger-Picking & Arpeggios More Lessons Coming Soon!
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