Back to start Email me Simple intervals Neil Hawes Home Page
• Up to now, in all the sight-singing exercises you have done, notes have moved only one step at a time in a vertical direction:
• In other words, movement in single steps of the scale up or down.

• However, all real music has jumps as well as steps; so this is the next challenge, to be able to sight-sing simple jumps in pitch.

• An interval, when talking about musical notes, means the pitch gap between two notes.
• We measure the interval by the number of steps between the two notes on the stave:
• It's also the number of steps on the scale, since a scale occupies each consecutive position on the stave.
• The only catch is that we count inclusively, that is, the start and end positions are counted as well as the ones in between.

• Here's our trusty scale of C major on the treble clef stave, and a number of intervals are marked in:
• So we say there an interval of a fourth between the first and fourth notes of this scale (C and F).
• This doesn't mean there are four notes between the two - there are actually only two, but we count the start and end as well, making four.
• It makes more sense when you see that there is an interval of a second between the first two notes (C and D).

• So an interval of a second is what we have been calling a single step - you should be confident in singing these already.

• To sing an interval of a third, between the first note and the third note on the scale above, C to E, do the following:
• Sing the first three notes of the scale like this - try it on your own;
• Then do the same thing but leave out the middle note, sing it only in your head - like this - try it yourself;
• Now do it a little faster like this - and you are singing an interval of a third.

• To sing an interval of a fourth, between the first and the fourth notes on the scale above, C to F, do the same things:
• Sing the first four notes of the scale like this;
• Then leave out the two middle notes - like this;
• Now get faster until you can sing the two notes next to each other like this.
• It comes down to remembering the first note.

• Try the same for an interval of a fifth and sixth:
• They are not marked on the scale above, but it should be obvious what they are;
• Don't try a seventh - that is hard and anyway quite unusual in music.

• Not all jumps (intervals) start on the key note of the scale, you can measure the interval between any two notes on the stave or scale:
• To sing, for example, the interval of a third that is between the third and fifth notes of the scale above (E to G) you need to:
• Sing the scale from the bottom, proceed through the lower note of the two and up to the higher note like this;
• Then leave out the notes below the lower note of the two like this;
• Then, as before, leave out the note(s) between the top and bottom ones like this;
• And finally, speed up and get the top and bottom notes together like this.

• The first step is most important - you have to start in the correct place in the scale:
• If the lower note of an interval is not the key note, you must not start singing a scale on it;
• If you do, you will not necessarily get the correct interval.
• When you get more confident, this will come naturally, from knowing the key note and scale of the piece you are singing at the time.

• If we combine two of the jumps we have already tried, from the first to the third, and then to the fifth, we get a triad:
• A major triad is the first, third, and fifth notes of the major scale;
• You should already be familiar with singing the triad, so you may want to go back and sing some again, now that you know more about what it is.
• The triad is very important in sight-singing - it occurs very fequently in almost all styles of music.

• So now let's try some sight-reading including simple intervals:
• This first one contains two easy examples of the interval of a third I have just described;
• Before you start, sing a scale to yourself (it doesn't really matter what note you start on) and count to four slowly;
• As you get to the note before the jump, try to "hear" the missing note in your head before you sing the higher one.
• Alternatively (or better, additionally), notice that three of the four notes in the first bar form the triad (C, E, G)
• So you can sing the triad and put in the extra second note (D).
• Also notice that the second and third bars are almost the same as the first and second bars, but up one note (this is called a sequence)
• If you are unsure about any of this, you can hear the whole thing here.

• This one contains two jumps, one straight after the other (twice), but the first three notes are the triad, so should be easy to sing:
• Again, notice that the third bar is exactly the same as the first, but up one note.
• Patterns are very important in music.
• Also notice that it finishes on the key note an octave above the one it started on.
hear it

• This one has downwards jumps of an interval of a third in the second and fourth bars:
• You can do these in perhaps three ways:
1. Either as above, by singing the missing note in your head;
2. Or remember the note that you sang three notes earlier;
3. Or notice that it is two notes of the triad;
• If you can do two or even three of these, you are much more likly to be sure of being correct! ("the belt and braces" technique).
• In bar 4, the notes are the same as in bar 2, so you might remember them from when you sang them 2 bars earlier.
• Memory is very important in sight-singing!
hear it

• This one starts on a note which is not the key note and immediately jumps up an interval of a third:
• But these are the second and third note of the triad, you just have to make sure you start on the correct one.
• Notice that the second bar is the same as the first, but one note up.
• There is also a jump of an interval of a fourth in the third bar:
• This is a junp to the top note of the scale (the key note) you have practised this;
• So again you can use two techniques at once - this will help confirm that you get to the correct note.
• The jump to the very last note is to the same key note.
hear it