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• When we looked at simple intervals we learnt that an interval is a description of the pitch difference between two notes

• It is very useful for sight-singing to understand intervals and to be able to pitch at least common intervals

• A full interval description consists of an ordinal number (second, third, fourth etc.) preceded by an adjective which defines the interval more precisely, for example "perfect fifth", "major third", or "diminished fourth".

• The ordinal number (as we saw in the simple examples) is simply a count of the number of note names between the two notes, counting inclusively.
• So for example, the interval between C and E is a third (C, D, E is 3 notes); between F and B is a fourth (F, G, A, B is 4 notes).
• This number can be written in words or more commonly as a number, 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc.

• The preceding adjective can be one of five things: perfect, major, minor, diminished or augmented

• The following rules apply to these adjectives:
• An interval of a 2nd, 3rd, 6th or 7th must be one of: major, minor, augmented or diminished.
• An interval of a 4th or 5th must be one of: perfect, augmented or diminished.

• A major interval appears in the major scale of which the bottom note of the two is the key-note.
• A minor interval is one less semitone than its equivalent major interval.
• A perfect interval appears in the major and minor scales of which the bottom note of the two is the key-note.

• A diminished interval is one semitone less than its equivalent minor or perfect interval.
• An augmented interval is one semitone more than its equivalent major or perfect interval.

• These rules giving what adjective is allowed with what intervals and the relationships between them can be shown in the following table:
 0 Perfect Major Number of semitones adjustment -2 -1 +1 Interval of 4th or 5th Diminished Augmented Interval of 2nd, 3rd, 6th or 7th Diminished Minor Augmented
• The central column headed with a zero represent the intervals found in a major key when the lower note of the two is the key note.

• You can also count the number of semitones in an interval.
• In the following table, the first column is the number of semitones in the interval, the next two columns give alternate description of that interval, and the last column give examples of tunes that contain the interval.
• You can click on each tune to hear the interval followed by a the first few notes of the piece that contain the interval.
• Try singing each interval as you hear it.
• If you can get used to what the common intervals sound like, it might help with sight-singing.
• Each song or piece given has the specified interval between the first and second notes (unless otherwise stated).
NumDescriptionsTunes to help you remember the interval
0Diminshed 2ndUnison(The same note, so no tune)
1Minor 2ndSemitoneI'm dreaming of a White Christmas (the whole of this phrase is minor 2nd intervals)
2Major 2ndDiminished 3rd Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer - up and down on “Rudolph the”
Happy birthday to you - 2nd and 3rd notes on “-py birth” and down again on “day”
3Augmented 2ndMinor 3rdGreensleeves (Alas! my love)
After the ball is over - up and down
Star Spangled Banner (Oh! say can you see - USA National Anthem) - down
4Diminished 4thMajor 3rdBlue Danube - the first ascending interval
While Shepherds watched their flocks by night
5Perfect 4thAugmented 3rdAway in a manger
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
6Augmented 4thDiminished 5thMar-i-a, I just met a girl called Maria (from West Side Story)
The Simp-sons - main theme of cartoon signature tune
7Diminished 6thPerfect 5thDear Lord and Father of mankind
Twinkle, Twinkle little star - between two “twinkles”
8Minor 6thAugmented 5thHearts and Flowers (tear-jerker tune played at silent movies)
The Entertainer (otherwise known as the theme from “The Sting”)
- the first big jump up between the 3rd and 4th notes
9Major 6thDiminished 7thDashing though the snow (verse from Jingle Bells)
Oliver (from the show Oliver) - up and down
Chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken (lay a little egg for me) - up and down several times
10Augmented 6thMinor 7thThe theme from the original Star Trek
(actually has the words "Beyond the rim of the starlight")
11Major 7thClimax of the theme from Superman
12OctaveAugmented 7thSomewhere (over the rainbow - from The Wizard of Oz)

• An augmented 4th will sound the same as a diminished 5th, but will be described and notated differently, so is a different interval.

• The following simple tune (of my invention) has all the most common intervals in the key of C major contained within it. Learning it may help you to recognise intervals within a major scale, and might help you to identify intervals by ear:
Hear it