Intervals ear training

An interval is the distance in pitch between two notes.

Different distances have different characteristic sounds, and so the intervals between notes have a big impact on the way those notes sound together.

Interval ear training can help you learn to recognize and reproduce intervals, and connect the characteristic sounds with their corresponding names. This may seem a little abstract, but it will assist you in a variety of real musical tasks. For example:

  • Appreciate and understand harmonies
  • Hear how melodies are constructed
  • Play by ear, using your improved sense of pitch distances
  • Sight-sing by using intervals to understand the sheet music
  • Distinguish mistakes or inaccuracies in pitch and tuning

Most musicians start by learning to recognise the intervals in one octave:

unison, semitone, tone, minor third, major third, perfect fourth, augmented fourth, perfect fifth, minor sixth, major sixth, minor seventh, major seventh, and perfect octave

There are some other names for these too (e.g. "half step", "whole step", "tri-tone", etc.) but just 13 core intervals. Learning the sounds of these when the notes are ascending, descending and played together, and continuing on to study compound intervals (those larger than an octave) will solidify your ear for intervals even further.

The Ultimate Guide to Interval Ear Training

Here's the best place to start: a comprehensive all-in-one guide which answers all the essential questions you might have about interval ear training: The Ultimate Guide to Interval Ear Training. The ultimate guide to interval ear training

Why do Intervals Ear Training

Interval Ear Training Benefits

At first, intervals can seem like a purely conceptual musical element, straight out of a music theory textbook. Use ear training to develop your interval recognition skills and sense of relative pitch though, and the theory is brought to life. You can actually hear in your head how the notes on the page sound.

Intervals are the building blocks of relative pitch which means that ear training intervals lets you understand the pitch of music, and comprehend melody and harmony by ear.

On top of this general benefit there are four specific musical advantages which intervals ear training provides:

  1. Measure distances in pitch with your ear
  2. Hear the notes in music more clearly
  3. Sight-sing with confidence and accuracy
  4. Bring music theory to life
→ Learn more about these benefits in "Interval Ear Training: What’s the point?"

How to do Intervals Ear Training

How to Learn Intervals

Many musicians never pause to consider how best to learn intervals and instead simply take a basic, theory-based approach.

In fact, there are three distinct methods you can choose from when learning intervals and if you really want to improve your interval recognition fast it's important to choose the method that best suits you.

Depending on your musical background and interests, each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Explore each of them so that you can choose the approach (or combination of approaches) that will develop your ear most effectively.

→ Learn about interval recognition methods in "How to Learn Intervals"

Help with Intervals Ear Training

Interval Ear Training Help

Even with the right training method, there are times when every musician struggles with interval recognition.

There are some core questions you can ask yourself to ensure your ear training plan is on target and you'll be able to stick with it reliably in the long term.

If you really want to achieve your interval ear training goals, it's essential that you ask these questions and get clear on your own answers.

→ Learn more in "Interval Ear Training Help"

Tips and Tricks for Intervals Ear Training

Interval Tips and Tricks

With 13 different intervals in just one octave alone, there's plenty of room for confusion with interval ear training!

Fortunately, there are lots of interval ear training tips and tricks you can use to boost your progress and help you with those tricky ones.

We've gathered up some of the best:

  • General tips for interval recognition
  • Tricks for identifying particular intervals
  • Shortcuts to accelerate your progress with interval recognition


Pitch and Harmony

The Pitch & Harmony series starts by teaching intervals, and then uses them to build up to chords and more complex harmonies. A great starting point to get to grips with intervals, or to build on your existing knowledge.

Interval Ear Training Resources

Here are three great ways to learn intervals: with a multimedia-enhanced eBook, an interactive iOS app, or a "learn by listening" training album. All three are now available as part of Musical U membership!
Learning Intervals ear training eBook

"Learning Intervals" is the all-in-one guide to intervals.

It teaches 3 different methods for learning interval recognition, which you can combine to create your own perfect approach. Full of tips, advice, and resources to help you learn intervals.

RelativePitch interval ear training app

If you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch, check out our interval training app, RelativePitch. It starts from the basics and teaches you all the intervals of the octave in a fun and effective way.

It's been rated 4-stars or above in 95% of user reviews, and was chosen by Apple to be a featured app on the App Store.

Step and a Half melody ear training app

Once you've got a good feel for the intervals in isolation, take your interval ear training to the next level with the Step and a Half melody training app. You'll learn to use intervals to figure out tunes - and you'll do it by playing a game!

Introducing Intervals ear training album

The first album in our Unravelling Music series, Introducing Intervals is the best way to start hearing intervals in real music.

You don't need any special equipment (or music theory knowledge) to learn with Introducing Intervals. Just put the MP3s onto your music player, have a quick read of the track notes, and then start learning - by listening to music!

Intervals Music Theory

Watch a short video introducing the music theory behind intervals:

Online interval training

Here's another great way to practise your interval recognition online. The Melodic Drops game from Theta Music Trainer:

Sorry, this game requires the Adobe Flash Player and a browser with JavaScript enabled. Get Flash

If you've enjoyed this game you could try Harmonic Drops and Flash Intervals next. We also recommend the full Theta Music Trainer.

Theta Music Trainer

Topics Related to Intervals Ear Training


Intervals are made up of two notes - and so studying them leads you naturally to chords: 3 or more notes played together. Developing your aural skills for intervals will benefit your chord skills, and vice-versa.

Intervals can also be used as the building blocks for understanding musical scales. In particular you can use a keen sense of small intervals to really appreciate the pattern of a scale, and use your knowledge of larger intervals to recognise the overall character of the scale.

The topic of relative pitch covers a variety of pitch-based aural skills, including scales, intervals, chords and chord progressions.

Articles about Intervals

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