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I have been practicing intervals for some time now. I have gotten good at recognizing ascending melodic intervals and I am currently trying to learn harmonic intervals. From my knowledge, there are 2 methods for harmonic intervals. One of them is to get a feel for the unique flavour of each interval and the other is to hear the two notes separately in your mind or sing them out loud and find the interval between them, this would be preferable as I am good at melodic intervals however I can't hear the two pitches independently when a harmonic interval is played. I can currently do basic pitch-matching but I am not confident in it and I can't sing the two notes accurately when played harmonically. What should I do to resolve this issue?

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    What instrument do you have to play? Why are you learning intervals?
    – Tim
    Mar 8, 2023 at 12:19
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    Can you clarify - does melodic interval mean two notes, one played after the other, and harmonic interval mean two notes played simultaneously. Mar 8, 2023 at 12:40
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    @BrianTHOMAS Yes, that's what they mean. Mar 8, 2023 at 14:22
  • @Tim I play the piano, I'm trying to identify intervals by ear played on it.
    – Ved Rathi
    Mar 10, 2023 at 12:20
  • You MUST bear in mind that just listening to an interval will not necessarily give you the correct answer! Every pair of notes will have at least two different interval names - such as m3 and aug2, same notes, same sound, different names. And without seeing which actual notes would represent those played when written down, you'll only be able to guess as minimum two names for each pair.
    – Tim
    Mar 10, 2023 at 15:44

2 Answers 2

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I am not confident in it and I can't sing the two notes accurately when played harmonically. What should I do to resolve this issue?

Practice. First, when you hear a chord or a harmonic dyad, match one of the pitches. It doesn't matter which one, just get to the point that when you hear a chord you can quickly sing a pitch that matches one of the notes in the chord.

If you aren't sure how to find one of the pitches with your voice, just try sliding around like a siren until you find a match. At first it will sound horribly comical, but you should be able to get faster and faster at finding the right pitch.

Next, train yourself to be able to match a specific pitch in the chord. Start with the bottom or the top. Whichever you choose, just concentrate on that side of the chord until you can reliably sing the bottom (or top) pitch of a chord that you hear.

Once you've reached that point, start practicing the other side of the chord, if you will. In other words, if you began by working on the bottom pitch, switch to the top, and vice versa.

By the time you're done with that, it should be fairly easy to proceed to singing both pitches of a harmonic dyad in succession. A reasonable next step would be to work on singing the middle pitch of a triad. A fully developed instructional method is beyond the scope of this answer, but this should give you a good idea of how to proceed.

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  • "If you aren't sure how to find one of the pitches with your voice, just try sliding around like a siren until you find a match" - Definitely. This is the way Mar 9, 2023 at 2:18
  • I don't believe in this method being practical, sorry. YMMV. Get a chordal instrument. Mar 9, 2023 at 8:04
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TL;DR: you're trying to reproduce chords. Get a chordal instrument, singing won't be enough for this.


If you mean that the two notes are played as a chord, simultaneously, then the problem is: how to recognize chords. You want to recognize chords by ear, and that is learned by trying to produce chords.

Learning to recognize musical ideas is tied to hearing and reproducing. The learning process goes like this:

    1. Observe an example (listen)
    1. Try to reproduce what you observed (heard)
    1. Did your try result in something similar to the example? If yes, you got it right. Good!

The same three-step learning process applies to melodies, chords, rhythms, timbres, words, sentences, dancing, cooking, anything. You observe, try to reproduce, assess success based on observation, repeat. Other people can give you tips for analysis and what to concentrate on, and what things to try if you can't think of anything. Maybe they'll give you opinions on how well you succeeded. You might even use technical aids, but I strongly recommend trying to hear.

So far you have been able to do this for "melodic" note-pair intervals played one note at a time. This has been helped by the ability to sing single notes, so the "try the reproduce" step needs no extra tools. You could have done it by playing an instrument as well, and then perhaps gotten even more accurate or at least different results.

You will not be able to reproduce chords by singing due to biology-related limitations. You will need a technical helper device such as a chordal instrument. Guitar, piano, harp, synthesizer. Something that lets you produce more than one pitch at the same time for the "try to reproduce" part of learning.

As a substitute for a chordal instrument, you might use something like a delay effect, looper, sampler or other recorder where you can sing and overdub two individual notes one at a time, and hear what they sound like when sounding simultaneously. No idea how well this could work for learning. A very echoy room, church or concert hall maybe? I recommend a guitar or a keyboard.

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  • Try as I might, I still regard two notes as a dyad rather than a chord! But, yes, a chordal instrument will help immensely (hence my question).
    – Tim
    Mar 8, 2023 at 15:09
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    @Tim Is that completely regardless of context? If you have a generally understood word that includes dyads as well and means "more than one note played simultaneously", I'm all for hearing the word. I can't see any good outcomes that result in insisting that the word "chord" must only ever be used for three or more simultaneous notes. Power chords have two notes, and in notation applications a group of notes sharing a stem is a chord, even with only two notes. Mar 8, 2023 at 15:19
  • It's me being pedantic! Guitarists (I'm one) seem to be oblivious to 'rules' anyhow. But as an afterthought - what would the 1st inversion of a 'power chord' be..?
    – Tim
    Mar 8, 2023 at 15:38
  • @Tim If you invert a power chord, you get alternating current. But if you're already using AC, then Malcolm and Angus Young magically appear.
    – Aaron
    Mar 8, 2023 at 17:01
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    "singing won't be enough for this": the point of the singing isn't to reproduce the chord but to analyze it into its constituent pitches and to express the harmonic interval melodically, as it were. So if you hear B, D, and F simultaneously and can't identify the intervals in that context, you can try singing the pitches one after another, which will (if you've become "good at recognizing ascending melodic intervals") enable you to recognize that there are two minor thirds.
    – phoog
    Mar 8, 2023 at 21:11

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