I've always had a problem with some of the songs that are used to remember what an interval sounds like. Particularly, the ones whose melodies don't start on the tonic. For example, Here Comes The Bride is used for a perfect fourth interval, but that interval is not 1 to 4. It's 5 to 1. Similarly, My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean is used for the major sixth. However, that's not a 1 to 6 interval. It's a 5 to 3. So as accessible as these songs are, I feel like they've not giving good tools to hear notes relative to the tonal center of a given piece of music.

I trained my own ear by learning to sing the major scale in my head and then counting the degrees until I just knew which was which. So, having to sit through classes that didn't teach it this way made these other exercises seem like a hindrance. Can anyone confirm or deny my suspicions about these songs? And are there alternatives to learn melodic intervals relative to the root?

  • I don't understand how here comes the bride is 5 to 1? Isn't the "here" the 1 and the "comes the bride" are all 4's? – tarun Feb 12 '15 at 20:26
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    If My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean was written in C, it would start on G. My = G, Bo- = E, nnie- = D, lies = C. The word 'lies' is the root of the scale. So it's not going from the first scale degree to the sixth. It's going from the fifth (G) to the third(E). Here Comes The Bride is similar. If written in C, 'Here' would be G and 'comes' would be C. – Dan D Feb 12 '15 at 20:48
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    Because that melody doesn't start on the root. It starts on the fifth. It's mostly pentatonic, so it leads the ear pretty definitively. – Dan D Feb 12 '15 at 20:52
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    @piofusco - a lot of songs start on the anacrucis, which is often the V. Like this song. So - 1st note - not tonic, not keynote. – Tim Feb 12 '15 at 22:31
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    Yes, they are not a true representation of intervals in the existing key. They work, but why not use a proper tonic interval? – Tim Feb 12 '15 at 22:41
up vote 8 down vote accepted

No.

The intervals chosen for ear training don't have to based on the tonic of a song. 1 up to 6 (Do up to La) is a major sixth just like 5 up to 3 (Sol up to Mi) and just like 5 up to 1 (Sol up to Do) is a perfect fourth just like 1 up to 4 (Do up to Fa). You can take any relative interval for training it really doesn't matter if it is the tonic or not especially if it helps you isolate the interval.

The point of ear training is not only to be able to identity pitches based on keys, but identify intervals between notes. Not everything in music is nice and in the key and ear training is a very important skill for a musician.

  • "The point of ear training is not only to be able to identity pitches based on keys, but identify intervals between notes" - this is what I was trying to say. +1 – piofusco Feb 12 '15 at 21:12
  • This definitely makes sense. I guess the ability of people to isolate the interval like that is what I was worried about. Sorry about the confusion, piofusco. My bad. – Dan D Feb 12 '15 at 21:17
  • No reason to apologize, @DanDavis. Happy ear training, cheers. – piofusco Feb 12 '15 at 21:18
  • Yeah, from my experience this approach is specific to intervals. There are other aspects of ear training that can be used to train individuals to be able to recognize pitches as they relate to the key, ie, being able to hear a note and recognize what scale degree it is. – Basstickler Feb 12 '15 at 21:54
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    To put your last statement another way, if we think about a melody as a sequence of notes (horizontally), rather than by the relationship of each note to the underlying harmony at that instant (vertically), we begin to realize that the intervals are sometimes the only thing that matters. – ninemileskid Feb 13 '15 at 5:58

Intervals are distances between notes. We do not require a tonic to discern an interval, so Here Comes The Bride, while perhaps becoming socially passe, works fine for demonstrating the interval of a fourth.

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