For those of you that care about it, how do YOU remember all your intervals? As more intervals have become second nature to me, its been a huge advantage in both creative soloing/composing, and for quickly learning melodies. If you agree that working toward perfect "relative" pitch is useful, what's your technique been?

My best effort so far is that I've created a chart, with all intervals from m2 through maybe P9th on the left, followed by at least one song 'ascending" with that interval, and at least one or descending. Simple example: HERE COMES (the bride) is a 4th going UP, TOY LAND is a 4th going down. By picking a random interval each day and looking at my chart, I think of the song(s), confirm it on my instrument, and over time it sticks. Then for that interval I eventually don't need to think of the song, because the "sound" has finally been finally. I must confess its taking me a long time though, and I still have some gaps in my chart (I have no song with a b5 going DOWN for example). Can anyone tell me of some other methods for remembering your intervals?


2 Answers 2


Your method is very common and appears to work well for most people. However, I believe that it is much better to actually sing all the intervals regularly because in this way you will internalize the sound much better. The difference between the two approaches is that your approach is passive, whereas singing is active in the sense that you need to be able to produce that interval on the spot.

I got triggered by you saying "I think of the song", from which I conclude that you don't actually sing it. Anyway, eventually you should be able to sing the intervals even without thinking of any song. Song are useful in the beginning for remembering the intervals, but knowing a song for each interval is of course not the final goal.

What helped me a lot is to play one note on an instrument, sing the desired interval along with the note, and then play another note and again sing the interval. This will help you in becoming independent of thinking in any specific key. E.g., for training the tritone, play a C, sing (at the same time) an F# (above or below the C), then play another note, say a Bb, and sing an E, etc. If you do this with all intervals, they will become second nature and you will be able to immediately recognize them (and produce them) without thinking of a song and without any other intermediate step.

  • Thanks. I guess i do reach for my instrument (guitar) first before trying to sing the interval. But certainly what I was studying jazz and trying to learn famous solos or lines, my teacher would always insist I sing it (at least along with the song) until I "nailed" it, before working it out on the instrument. It does seem that I can sing an interval sometiems more easily and instinctively without even knowing what it is, while on guitar i sometimes have to "find" it. So perhaps I've been trying to kill 2 birds with one stone. :-)
    – Randy
    Dec 19, 2014 at 16:29

Back when I was doing ear-training, I wrote an app that would randomly:

  • Tell me an interval and give me the root tone and then after a keypress play the interval for me.
  • Play an interval and then I would have to name the interval.
  • Give me a choice of what intervals to quiz myself on.

Don't ask me for the app, it's for an obsolete platform, that's how old I am. :-)

But you can look up ear training apps.

One thing that really helps learning anything is spaced repetition software (SRS).

Spaced repetition is a learning technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material in order to exploit the psychological spacing effect.

My favorite SRS is Anki which runs on--well, everything. I use Anki for learning languages but it takes video and sound files so if you can't find an ear training app that does spaced repetition, then you can easily build an SRS flash card deck using Anki.

  • Thanks! Hey I've dabble in writing software back to ATARI days,. so don't be embarrased! :-) And that SRS teqnique seems to be the way i memorize lyrics to songs. But I'm skeptical of such randomized software aids when it comes to this. Somehow, I think my brain makes things stick more when I have an association. If I ask you what a minor7th (b7th) sounds like, don't you find it helpful to think of a song lyric like "There's A..." (as in there's a place for us)". Somehow it helps make it jell for me. Doesn't that suddenly make it 'real"?
    – Randy
    Dec 20, 2014 at 2:23
  • 1
    I understand about the appeal of using songs. I tried this for a while, but it didn't work "in the wild." Nowadays, if I'm stumped, the best way for me to find the interval is to walk it up, singing a tone at a time and then singing semitones around it to hit it if it's altered.
    – empty
    Dec 22, 2014 at 16:48
  • Thanks! Thinking about doing this reminds me I'm not so good at mentally walking up if its a minor variant or non diatonic. I wonder if it would be helpful for me to learn the sing a chromatic scale now, as that would cover everything. My Dad dabbled in trumpet, and I recall he felt practicing chromatics was the most important thing. But I suspect that had more to do with the physical nature of the instrument.
    – Randy
    Dec 23, 2014 at 19:37
  • @Randy, singing up by semitones can work. So can learning to sing a semitone up or down from any given note, which might be easier to master. If my answer and comments help you, please upvote. I've got a drive-by downvoter on my tail these days. :-)
    – empty
    Dec 23, 2014 at 20:02
  • Done! And I know about the "drive by's" here. Can you believe I got down voted for the post linked below? I hope my "comment' got back to whoever it was. music.stackexchange.com/questions/25126/…
    – Randy
    Dec 24, 2014 at 20:40

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