I am using different instruments from my Keyboard to do ear training. In practicing ear training, i have learnt from the forums here that I should focus and pay attention to the pitch of the note. While theoretically I know what pitch is, practically during playing notes what part of the "Sound of the notes" should I specifically focus on & pay attention to to correctly identify the notes? Does that part sound the same in different instruments like when I play piano, flute and harmonica? Plz help me visualize that part so that I can use it in my ear training.

On the similar lines, is there a sound pattern that will help me identify intervals? Like when i play M2 and M6, what is the difference in the sound I should focus on to identify the notes of the interval correctly?

2 Answers 2


Regarding identifying intervals, you're likely better off matching intervals with the first 2 notes of well-known musical excerpts until you know your intervals by heart. That's how I was ear-trained on intervals. For example, Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" has an early and distinctive ascending minor 6th leap in its melody, and "O Christmas Tree" starts with an ascending perfect fourth. Keep checking intervals against candidates until you get a match.

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    There's always been a slight problem with this - as things like the two you mention, whilst they are what you say, don't start on the tonic - which is important for a beginner, as stated in my answer. Examples like P8 - Over the Rainbow are fine.
    – Tim
    Aug 1, 2020 at 12:48
  • @Tim - My piano teachers (who taught me ear training) generally treated the (perceived) tonics of ear training intervals as unimportant. They just trusted that I'd memorized the base tune.
    – Dekkadeci
    Aug 1, 2020 at 16:37
  • We'll have to agree to disagree. I'd never teach students that idea, as I believe it's flawed. As long as the lower note is tonic, it makes far more sense - to me - and my students
    – Tim
    Aug 1, 2020 at 17:29
  • It's this type of chart, from a quick web search: My interval song examples chart.
    – user70304
    Aug 2, 2020 at 2:38
  • @OwainEvans - thanks for the examples. I feel they illustrate my concerns. Both Brahms Lullaby and Star Spangled Banner are used to show m3, which they do. Both are in a major key, and highlight the interval between 3rd and 5th notes, no tonic at all, which I think will be confusing to beginners. Let's face it - it's only beginners that will need to use this mnemonic.
    – Tim
    Aug 3, 2020 at 7:00

Almost every sound you can make will have its basic pitch, and to a greater or lesser extent, some harmonics which are inevitably included in its sound.

Those harmonics, in most instruments, are quieter than the basic note, which will be the lowest sound heard. That's the pitch to consider most. Listen to a piano note, and the same note with a violin sound. They certainly have a different timbre, but the basic pitch will sound the same. If you can't hear that, then stick to piano, flute or trumpet sounds.

When trying to identify intervals, then always think the lower note is the start point. Sing up, as if that's the tonic of its own key. Use a major scale initially, and when you reach the higher note, count up. Your last sentence doesn't make sense, as although there is a specific interval between M2 and M6, you wouldn't be calculating intervals in that way - at least not until you were pretty good at them anyway.

In key Cmajor, M2=D, M6=A. Interval between them is P5, but at your stage, that's inconsequential. Lower note - D, uper note - A, go up major scale and interval is P5.

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    Disagree, focusing mainly on the fundamental is often not optimal for precise pitch detection. It is the best for relatively high-pitched instruments where the fundamental really dominates (and maybe the harmonics aren't all that harmonic!), such as flute, xylophone, nylonstring guitar, but for lower-pitches instruments and ones where the fundamental is actually weaker than some of the harmonics, focusing only on it will give poor accuracy. Aug 1, 2020 at 11:03
  • @leftaroundabout - so, it's instrument (as I suggested) and/or pitch. A list in your answer sounds like it would be useful.
    – Tim
    Aug 1, 2020 at 11:10
  • Well, I'm not sure if that's really helpful though. My answer would be “pitch is best defined by the signal's periodicity” (or, as a practical/mathematical implementation of that, by its autocorrelation, which is what good electronic tuners, autotune etc. use for pitch detection). But neither that nor any Fourier decomposition ideas are really much use for ear training. Aug 1, 2020 at 11:24
  • @leftaroundabout - not at all sure if that terminology sits well with OP, or even me for that matter! Like I often say when trying to speak another language - 'talk to me as if I'm about 7 or 8'.
    – Tim
    Aug 1, 2020 at 11:36
  • Well, that's kind of my point: there's no way bringing up autocorrelation would actually help the OP. Neither does it really help to try and make them try to decompose the sound into fundamental+harmonics, because that requires Fourier analysis if all you have is the audio. (Yes, many instruments allow accessing the harmonics individually while playing, but I don't think this applies here either.) Aug 1, 2020 at 16:20

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