Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Intervals: how to remember relative pitches

If you sing a cappella and need to know how to quickly and easily get an interval without going up a scale inductively, there are traditional tricks taught to beginners. One is to hum a tune: try the tunes below to get the interval. I wish this list were a bit better: ideally the intervals would not be "on the way" to a further note--in both of the sixth examples below, for example, the sixth notes are not static, but are inclined to the next note in the tune, and this can mess with your pitch. Are there songs for intervals larger than an octave? Those intervals don't happen very often, but it'd be interesting to have tunes in one's head. Furthermore, there would ideally be a dozen songs for each interval, and the one that is clearest in your mind would settle in. I find Ain't It a Pretty Night, for example, really works great for the full seventh. And finally, the songs would ideally be mega-beautiful and rich with meaning: no Jingle Bells allowed.

Anyway, give these intervals a try.
  • diminished second (half-tone): Jaws
  • second (tone): happy birthday
  • minor third: Lull-a-by of Brahms
  • major third: "Have your-self a merry little Christmas"
  • perfect fourth: taps, Wedding March from Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream ("Here Comes the Bride")
  • augmented fourth (tritone): Bernstein's Maria from "West Side Story"
  • perfect fifth: Holst's Mars, "rain drops on roses" from My Favorite Things, "The Sounds of Music"
  • minor sixth: ?
  • major sixth: NBC chime-theme notes (I,VI,IV), Jingle Bells "dash-ing through the snow"
  • diminished seventh: Bernstein's Somewhere "there's a place for us" from "West Side Story"
  • seventh: Floyd's Ain't It a Pretty Night from "Susannah"
  • octave: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

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