Distinguishing intervals which are close together, like semitone and tone (a.k.a. whole step and half step / major and minor seconds) is a sticking point for many students as they learn interval recognition.

The RelativePitch app begins with these intervals and while the lesson sequence works well for many students, in reality every musician is different and so it won’t always be a smooth learning progression. This is why the “Custom Mode” is always available, so you can adjust the sequence to help you keep progressing.

So when you get stuck with a certain pair of intervals don’t be afraid to adjust your lesson plan to work around it. After improving your ear for other intervals, you’ll find you can return to the problem pair and will find it much easier.

Interval recognition background

With intervals, there are two main things your ear can use to distinguish the types:

  • The first is their characteristic sound (e.g. major thirds sound “brighter” and “happier” than minor thirds).
  • The second is the distance in pitch, or the “size” of the interval. Your ear can hear how close or far apart the notes are from each other.

Both of these aspects help you to recognise intervals.

Because your ear uses both, you may find you have difficulty distinguishing interval types which have similar characteristic sounds (e.g. perfect fifth and perfect octave both sound very stable or “consonant”) or those which have similar sizes (e.g. semitone and tone a