Ear training advice for learning intervals.
July 24, 2011 12:41 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to learn intervals, by relation to songs, but need some more tips, particularly with Minor 6th, Minor 7th and Major 7th.

I have been trying to learn to recognise intervals for several months now but have it a brick wall. My motivation is a newfound interest in listening to Western classical music, and trying to recognise and understand what I am hearing. I figured working out what notes and intervals are being played was core to that.

My musical background is that I studied piano (practical and theory) up to Grade 5 but that was, er, 20 years ago.

What I have been using is a fantastic little Android app called Ear coach. I've found that recognising intervals works best for me when I tie it to a song I know.

I've been using:
Minor 2nd - Jaws
Major 2nd - (just know from the regular major scale)
Minor 3rd - Greensleeves
Major 3rd - Once in Royal David's City
Perfect 4th - O Come All Ye Faithful
Tritone (Dim 5th/Aug 4th) - The Simpson's theme
Perfect 5th - Star Wars
Major 6th - My Bonnie lies over the ocean
Perfect 8th - Somewhere over the rainbow

However, I've been struggling, despite several months of practice, to pick up consistently a Minor 6th, Minor 7th and Major 7th.

I've looked at lots of websites which don't seem to have decent suggestions for these intervals (e.g. the 3rd and 4th notes of love story for Minor 6th).

Does anyone have any specific songs to relate to Minor 6th, Minor 7th and Major 7th (has to be the first 2 notes of a song) or any more general advice about learning intervals. I'm still doing them forwards, but once I can do that consistently plan to move to reverse intervals and chords.

Thanks in advance!
posted by inbetweener to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Minor 6th: first two notes of "NBC" three-note jingle.
Major 7th: first and third notes of the chorus from "Somewhere Under the Rainbow." (It's not at all common to hear in two adjacent notes.)
posted by pmdboi at 12:52 AM on July 24, 2011

Whoops, the NBC thing is a major 6th. My bad.
posted by pmdboi at 12:52 AM on July 24, 2011

Best answer: For the minor 7th, Somewhere from West Side Story (There's a...)

Also the beginning of the Star Trek theme.
posted by Balonious Assault at 12:58 AM on July 24, 2011

Minor Sixth: Go Down Moses ("When Israel was in Egypt's Land")
posted by KathrynT at 1:04 AM on July 24, 2011

Best answer: And! For a major 7th, "Take on Me," the first two notes of the chorus.
posted by KathrynT at 1:07 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This might be useful.
posted by iotic at 1:08 AM on July 24, 2011

helpful link

If you remember any of your piano training, a minor seventh is the first and last notes of a V7 chord. E.g. In C major, V7 is GBDF. If you can hum the 4 notes, then just isolate the first and last, there's your minor seventh.

For major seventh, if you hum a major scale - do re mi fah so lah ti, you may feel a "pull" towards the second doh. The ti has to land on doh! Again, if you isolate the first doh and ti, you should feel the pull towards the second doh.

Anyway, I used a mix of songs and music theory to recognize intervals.
posted by foxjacket at 1:11 AM on July 24, 2011

Do you like jazz? Here's an all about jazz thread that may be helpful if so.

For what it's worth, the minor-seventh is commonly heard in the V of chord transitions, it is distinctive because it also forms a tritone with the major 3rd of that chord, and considering V -> I is the most common transition in Western music I think that gives you a bit of a leg up for starting to pick it out in every day tunes. Also, I find it useful often to hear the inverse of intervals (major 7th -> minor 2nd, minor 7th -> major 2nd, minor 6th -> major 3rd) and "play them back" so to speak, flipping them with the tonic so that I start to get the feel for them, how they change and have similar qualities as they move around depending on how they fit into a chord.

But that's me. Hopefully this is helpful.

On preview, KathrynT, good call with the Take on Me major 7th...
posted by dubitable at 1:11 AM on July 24, 2011

or any more general advice about learning intervals

In this old thread called "How to identify intervals," this was my advice (under a different username):
I taught myself relative pitch from scratch. I didn't bother with the concept of "intervals" at all. I don't know why people learn that way. I taught myself "scale degrees."

Here's what I did: First I'd learn the 7 notes of the major scale so I had it down pat. I did that by thinking of equating each of the 7 notes in my mind with a different note from a different song. For instance, you could identify the "3" of the major scale (e.g. E in C major) with the word "three" in "Three Blind Mice." I learned to identify the "2" of the major scale (e.g. D in C major) with the "you" of the chorus of the Beatles' "You Won't See Me." (You need to start with a very strong sense of the "1" of the scale (C in C major), which is hard to explain -- you just have to have a gut feeling for it.) Then, once I was done with that, I filled in the gaps by learning the other 5 notes (which I would think of as flattened versions of the notes in the major scale).

Once you know the scale degrees, it's a matter of theoretical reasoning what the intervals are. For instance, if I listen to a melody that goes "A, F, G" (a random sequence I just made up) in the key of C major, I intuitively think: "6 - 4 - 5." A split second later I might think: "And if you go from 6 to 4 in a major key, you've gone down a major 3rd; therefore, I must have heard a major 3rd. If you go from 4 to 5 in a major key, you've gone up up a major 2nd; therefore, I must have heard a major 2nd."

Scale degrees are more intuitive and primal. They have more color and life to them. Intervals are relatively academic and harder to get a firm grasp on. I know they're often taught in school as if they're the most basic thing about melody, but I believe this is a mistake.
In a later thread about musical "aha" moments, invitapriore said:
A lot of ear training starts out with interval recognition, which is unfortunate; I think that's where it should end. No, the important thing, if you're learning to hear tonal music, is hearing scale degrees and scale degree function, and you don't need to be able to recognize intervals to do that
MesoFilter, the OP in that thread, replied:
invitapriore - I agree. Learning intervals should be the end of ear training (or a step along the way) and not the beginning. Intervals are difficult to hear. For some beginners even major vs. minor is difficult to hear.

Scale degree & scale function, especially when you're playing chords (V7 -> I, for example) is easier to hear. As I was learning music, I only put emphasis on this later on & I think things would have gone a lot smoother if I'd learned this earlier.

Having a working understanding of the different functions of the various scale degrees - and hearing it - is a powerful "aha."
posted by John Cohen at 6:14 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Interval recognition chart
posted by 3FLryan at 7:06 AM on July 24, 2011

Minor 6th = the "because' in 'Because' (Beatles - Abbey Road
This tip has been a dear friend since high school.
posted by jujulalia at 1:01 PM on July 24, 2011

Minor sixth is also the the third and fourth notes of Joplin's The Entertainer. Minor sixth is probably the toughest interval to recognize, imo.

The easiest way I think to recognize minor and major 7ths: minor 7ths have that unresolved sound - or that jazzy sound - of outlining a dominant 7th chord. The major 7th sounds as if it needs to resolve up, to complete the octave. Otherwise I use Somewhere from West Side, as aforementioned.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:41 PM on July 25, 2011

My favourite Major 7th song is Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original, Gene Wilder one).

Come with me / and we'll be / in a ----> world of pure imagination

Having said that, I totally agree with John Cohen about intervals being far less intuitive than scale degrees and function. if you have to play a song in your head every time you need to recognise an interval, it's going to take you ages to recognise intervals. What helped me to actually understand music was learning solfa (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti) and attaching that to scale function (I, ii, ii, IV, V, vi, viiĀ°) - V-I (so-do) is a very common and emphatic way to end a song, for example. And once you have that, you know that in C major, G-C will end your song nicely.

On a slightly more related note, an 'a-ha!' moment for me was realising how opposites work in intervals. If the distance from note 1 to note 2 is a perfect 5th, then the distance from note 2 to note 1 up an octave will be a perfect 4th. The number always adds up to 9, and the quality is perfect-perfect, major-minor and augmented-diminished. So if you can hear Jaws (minor 2nd) going from note 1 to note 2, then going from note 2 to note 1 will be a major 7th.
posted by lovedbymarylane at 5:06 PM on July 25, 2011

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