I started practicing interval comparison, but I'm completely unable to consistently identify major and minor second intervals.

I am so bad at identifying them, that I started to think I had a disability, being tone deaf or something (which it seems its not the case).

I have been struggling for 3 days, which I understand it's not a lot of time. But I'm completely lost, I feel no progress at all, and when I think I'm starting to understand, I make the wrong guess.

I tried using the trick or associating each interval to a song, but each time I hear an interval, but I'm starting to hear Fur Elise every time. Even when I listen to a major second I still hear it but in a messed up scale. I feel like I'm disabled.

I feel like I'm making no progress and that I'm not learning anything at all from my mistakes.

Is there any process to help you get started with intervals? I'm using EarMaster Pro, which starts with Unison and minor second (which I had no problem at all in completing the course), and continues to minor second and major second, which is making me feel like I'm completely tone deaf.

Any suggestion?

  • 1
    Community wiki list of interval reference songs: Wiki: List of reference songs for interval training (esp. A5/d5; M6; m6).
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 4:28
  • I'm kind of in the same camp now. I've been wanting to take an ear training class for awhile and decided to finally do it. The first lesson is identifying harmonic minor and harmonic major 2nds and I am failing miserably in the practice tests. The instructor offered a tip regarding being able to hear shorter and longer beatings (sp?) between major and minor harmonic 2nds, to help identify the intervals, but I'm not really able to hear it very well yet. Thanks for this post and for all of the advise
    – Tikhon
    Commented Jan 9 at 0:22

3 Answers 3


I think @Tim has the right idea - use your instrument to help you - the music itself will teach you. It always does, if you let it.

If you are having trouble with certain intervals - practicing scales, chords and arpeggios on your instrument with those intervals - counting off the intervals and naming them, and then comparing their sound with other scales that differ only in the interval that's giving you trouble - should help you a good deal. Singing out the interval names as you go can also be helpful to fix the sound in your mind: "R-O-O-T | M-i-n-o-r 2nd | M-i-n-o-r 3rd"...

In the case of m2nds, try working through Phrygian mode for example and comparing its sound and the sound of its arpeggios, to natural minor (Aeolian) in the same key - the only difference between them is the minor 2nd in Phrygian.

Try working through Dorian mode and comparing its sound and the sound of its arpeggios, to natural minor in the same key - the only difference between them is the b6 in Aeolian.

Try playing a major scale and comparing its sound to a Mixolydian scale in the same key - the only difference is a dominant 7th vs a M7th - focus on how and why their sound differs because of the leading tone vs the dominant.

Try playing a major scale and comparing its sound to a Lydian scale in the same key - the only difference is the augmented 4th vs the perfect 4th.

Taking it to the next level, absorb the sound of different pieces of music that are exploiting the m2nd in particular. @alephzero touches on that in another answer.

By focusing how the minor 2nd functions and sounds in different musical scenarios, in contrast to a major 2nd, you will become familiar with the particular sound and quality of the minor 2nd. Same applies to all intervals that are difficult for you to distinguish.

BTW: Three days is not a long time! Many times you work on something for a while in music - more than three days - and it doesn't seem like you're making much headway. Then one day, everything comes together and you discover it has become easy.

Also, when you feel like you're at a dead-end, take a break and do something else, then come back to it. Same thing might happen - after the break, everything has jelled in your mind. The brain is funny like that - it doesn't usually like to be forced.


Get on an instrument. Music is rather more about instruments and playing them than messing about on some of these sites. Don't keep relying on them - be self-sufficient, and play the intervals, feel them, work out pieces with them in. Get live!

  • The thing is I already play an instrument, and while playing I can tell when I'm messing up some note by a tone, but when it comes to hearing two isolated notes, my brain is just completely lost. I guess it's just practice then.
    – Leo
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 19:30

Three days to learn something new isn't a big deal. If you still don't "get it" after three months, that would be more of a problem. If you want instant gratification, learning music is probably the wrong thing to try!

A common way to learn intervals is to find songs that you already know which start with them.

Major seconds are common at the start of songs but minor seconds not so common - though many songs end with a minor second from the leading note to the tonic of the scale.

A song that starts with both intervals is "Waterloo" by Abba - a minor second down and back up, then a major second down. But finding your own examples, if you can, will work better for you.

  • As I said, 3 days is a really short time, but when I'm learning stuff, even if I get something wrong, and make mistakes, I understand why and reflect on what I'm doing wrong. But as I pointer in the question, I feel like I'm learning nothing at all from my mistakes, which is what I'm really concerned about. I guess it is normal then?
    – Leo
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 17:28

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