Friday, September 20, 2013

Intervals are Worth Knowing

If you're in the second year of Let's Play Music, you're about to get to know intervals very well. This student demonstrates how his hands can create the intervals from our Turtle Shells song:

in·ter·val /ˈintərvəl/  - the difference in pitch between two notes

Soon your student will reliably identify the sight and sound of harmonic intervals: two notes played at the same time, thanks to our turtle shells.
Astute students will also realize that melodies are made of up melodic intervals: notes played one after the other.  That's right...a baby step is a melodic second and a skip is a melodic third.

So, why the big emphasis on intervals?  Here are a few good reasons you'll be glad to hear, "My intervals: I know them very well!"

Music Reading

You may have heard that it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteers be at the rghit pclae.  That's not exactly true, but the take-home message is that humans read words in chunks, not letter-by-letter, and the parallel is true for music.

In the 3rd year of Let's Play Music, your child will learn how to read and play every note from the staff, but playing note-by-note through every song would be slow and laborious.  

Musicians can learn to read music with ease and fluidity (remember how many hours of practice it took to read storybooks with ease and fluidity?), but they don't do it by thinking of each note as an 'A' or a 'G'.  They use intervals and chord shapes to quickly interpret music.

You've seen this on the bells in the first year classes: once the first note is identified, the melody can be quickly read by considering steps and skips up and down the staff.  Likewise, with  practice, your student can use intervals, scales and chord shapes to read chunks of notes with two part or thicker textures moving independently throughout a piece of piano music.


Sight-singers interpret written music and audiate the melodic intervals. We can test what someone is audiating by asking her to sing what she's thinking. Since there's no other way to test what a student is hearing in her mind, we always practice the skill of audiating intervals and the skill of singing intervals together.

In class we sing each interval to practice accurately jumping our voices to each pitch. Have you sung and signed this melodic interval activity in class?
Do- DO- Do!

Another way to train yourself to accurately sing intervals is to choose a reference song for each (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th). This post has a fun turtle coloring book helping you practice singing each interval.
Hearing harmonic intervals enables singers to harmonize a part in a choir, unlocking the joys of singing with friends and choir ensembles.


Have you ever had a little tune playing in your mind?  Would you love to jot it down and flesh it out into a complete composition?  

A first step is to follow that melody interval-by-interval to discover the notes. The more you practice this game at the keyboard, the better you get. Pick a starting pitch, and play a song you know by hearing and sensing how far to jump up or down to the next note! You'll be a genius at playing by ear if you play this game frequently.
Next, add some red, yellow, and blue chords for harmonization with your melody, and you'll be well on your way to creating an excellent composition like the 3rd year Let's Play Music students do.

So keep up the ear-training to identify those intervals, because, "that's the nicest sound I've ever heard!"

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

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