As the tutor for my school's music department, I spend a lot of time helping students drill intervals. However, I only have a handful of songs to recommend recognition.

P8 — Somewhere Over the Rainbow
P5 — Also Sprach Zarathustra
P4 — Here Comes the Bride
m7 — Somewhere (West Side Story)

And there's the extent of my help. Everything else I work as either arpeggios or scales. What are good pieces to help my students? Particularly Tritone and the Major and Minor 6ths.

  • never thought of using example songs to memorise intervals. +1 for this interesting question. – Doktor Mayhem Nov 14 '12 at 13:03
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    Note to someone: If the context, in which you need to figure out the interval, is a different - such as that the tonic root is different relative to the notes of the interval - than the original for the melody, it can be tricky, but still useful, to use a specific song for interval recognition. – Ulf Åkerstedt Nov 14 '12 at 14:15

My music teacher taught us to memorise and recognise intervals using the "compare-it-to-a-familiar-song" method too.

It works really well and Somewhere Over The Rainbow was the exact song we used as well.

However, it's only effective if you're actually familiar with the tune - Also Sprach Zarathustra doesn't ring any bells with me.

So, as my teacher did, why not play the interval to the student and get them to name a tune they know which contains the same interval?

If it happens to be by some obscure X-Factor drop-out, so be it - they'll always remember it because they made the link. If you're too proscriptive about the tunes they'll not be able to identify and remember them.

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  • If you don't know "Also Sprach Zarathustra" do you know the theme from the movie "2001, A Space Oddysey"? – Mark Lutton Nov 15 '12 at 0:39
  • @MarkLutton Apparently I didn't, as I thought that film used "Fanfare for the Common Man"... – Widor Nov 15 '12 at 11:07

A great one to use for the rising major 6th is the "NBC" motif. Fun fact, NBC was originally a subsidiary of General Electric, and instead of "National Broadcasting Company", "General Electric Company" was used, or G-E-C for short. That initialism spells the notes that make up what is now known as the NBC motif!

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M7: Bali Hai, from "South Pacific" -- actually it's an octave jump up followed immediately by a half-step down, but you hear that M7 clearly.

West Side Story is all about tritones. The signal whistle is G C F#. Jet Song: G G E C F#. Maria: C F# G. Cool: C F# G C First sung note of "Gee Officer Krupke" is an F# against C in the bass.

m2: Jaws theme of course!

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Since you're already using West Side Story: the canonical mnemonic for the tritone is Maria. (In fact, I've never seen anybody use a different one.)

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Very nice question.... You brought back memories :) My music teacher did the exact same thing. I can't seem to recall all the songs she taught us though. I remember she used Singing in the rain for Octave though! :)

Check out this link it has many interesting examples many of which my teacher used as well (like jaws, happy birthday, Superman Theme)


Widor's answer presents an interesting approach I have to say.

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m6 - 'Bei Mir Bistu Shein' (or 'Bei Mir Bist Du Schön')
M6 - 'My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean'

(For most intervals I use(d) non-internationally known songs that I chose myself like Widor so nicely suggests.)


M3 (going down to tonic from major 3rd) = doorbell... ding dong. Don't laugh - I still use it. (Love the other examples!)

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This site has an extensive list of songs corresponding to the intervals. It's too much to reproduce here but I will note that it's missing "O Canada" for the ascending minor third :P

  • "O Canada" = minor third, right? – Ulf Åkerstedt Nov 15 '12 at 9:38

The stacked thirds from the bridge of Twist and Shout by the Beatles. It gives you the whole layout of the scale in one meme.

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