When hearing harmonic intervals I can clearly hear and sing the highest but sometimes have trouble hearing the lowest note. Sometimes I can hear and sing the lowest note but I have to sing the highest to figure out the lowest now.

What ways or how do you hear the lowest note in any set of harmonic intervals.

3 Answers 3


Here is a rather different approach, but I've found it to be effective. Rather than thinking about an interval, think about what the two notes sound like in a key center. For instance if you heard Chick Corea playing a Bb and an Eb, and he was playing this over a C Minor chord, then hearing that it is a fourth isn't going to help you identify that he is playing Bb and Eb it will only tell you that he is playing some fourth. By listening to what each note sounds like in the C minor key center you would hear b7 and b3. This not only will be useful for you when you are playing music but will also help you distinguish and separate the sounds so that you can hear both the bottom and the top note.

I don't think I would start by working with two notes to develop this "Contextual" way of hearing, but hearing based on a key center has many advantages and helps clear up the myriad of problems that "interval" training introduces.

Hope that helps

Warm Regards,

Bruce Arnold

  • This is actually a very good contextual way to identify intervals while listening. I suppose I do it a lot while singing harmony, but don't necessarily think what the actual notes are - that could come later as a more academic exercise. +1.
    – Tim
    Aug 13, 2017 at 15:50

For a lot of people, the higher note is easier to discern. Maybe the way our ears work, maybe due to the melody usually being the highest part. Obviously not always. For me, catching two things does it. The higher note and the interval. When I hear a G on top of a P5 interval, the lower note has to be C.

Although sometimes it's easier to clock the lower note and the interval - as intervals use the lower note as the datum point.


There is a specific way to practice this. I struggled with this too and found this particular technique helpful. It essentially entails training the ear to associate known intervals with chords.

The standard way to practice intervals is to listen to a first note, then litsen to a second note, and then identify the interval between them. For example, you might hear C4 then F4, and then say to yourself "that's a perfect fourth." The two notes can be ascending or descending--it's valuable to diversify one's practice and incorporate both into one's ear training.

This interval work can be done alongside ear training for identify chords. In particular, play the two notes (one after the other), and after identifying the interval, play the two notes together as a chord. If you are struggling to hear the bottom note, you might try playing the two notes in descending order, like this: F4, then C4, then an F4-C4 chord. As you hear the chord, sing the lower note from the interval (the C4), and match that lower note you're singing to the tones you hear. This will train you to distinguish the lower note from the higher notes, and it will train you to recognize specific intervals (perfect fourths, major thirds, etc.) within a single chord.

  • The only two note 'chords' seem to be P5s.
    – Tim
    Jul 12, 2017 at 22:33
  • @Tim, I'm not talking about a definite chord, which would require at least 3 tones to define the root and quality of the chord. I'm using the broader definition: "A chord, in music, is any harmonic set of pitches consisting of two or more (usually three) notes (also called "pitches") that are heard as if sounding simultaneously." Chick Corea uses two-note chords/voicings where the two notes are separated by a perfect fourth. P5 are another example. Surely music contains other examples of only 2 notes played together for the purpose of harmony?
    – jdjazz
    Jul 12, 2017 at 22:42
  • @Tim, I don't mean to use the word in a controversial way. I don't think it's worth an edit right now, but I'm open to being convinced otherwise.
    – jdjazz
    Jul 12, 2017 at 22:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.