View Full Version : Harmonic interval recognition

04-14-2004, 12:24 PM

I've been doing ear training for a while now and I can recognise all the intervals in a single octave pretty reliably when played melodically (I'm at about 90%). The next step is to try to recognise them harmonically. I am absolutely terrible at this. It almost seems random. I might get one right, but it seems I'm just as likely to get it wildly wrong. This makes it a bit depressing carrying on plugging away at it because I feel like I'm just guessing.

So, a) is this a normal learning path?, and b) how long does it take to start getting hearing the harmonic intervals (at least in the right ball park)?


04-14-2004, 12:47 PM
I have no good answers to your questions. It took me forever to be able to identify chords, and there are a lot of chords that i still can't identify by ear alone. It's easier to identify a chord when put in a context than by itself -- like hearing a V7 - I13 - IV9 is easier than the IV9 alone. So when it comes to normal real book type songs, i can hear maybe 50% of what's going on by listening to the backing track alone, because most of the chords changes are common among many tunes. But if i listen to something like a modern King Crimson thing, i need a lot of work with my guitar in hand to identify the chords.

Eric started two ear training threads that is fun to work through: http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2021 , and http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2802

05-02-2004, 04:57 AM
Hi julianj ... if you're doing melodic intervals at 90% then there is NO WAY you'll fail at harmonic intervals and chords. Its just a new way of 'hearing'. Think about it ... is it that difficult to hear them, and then organize them in your mind ... melodically ... and then recognize them?

Or, if that doesn't work right away ...have someone drill you ...

If you do, keep it very simple. And restrict it, at first to recognizing differences between two pairs of intervals ... such as maj 3 and min 3. All things happen as a result of repetitious practice. LIMIT the field to one you can master, and then go on incremantally ...



05-03-2004, 11:36 AM
I know you're right. I'm doing exactly that and I'm making progress. If it doesn't come naturally it's hard work though.

09-03-2007, 03:06 PM
Hey man, i was in the exact same situation. Two things i tried that have help massively.

1. As already stated lessen the playing field. Start with working on minor and major seconds and then move to 3rds and so on.

2. Sit down at piano or with a guitar and play them harmonically and try to sing them back melodically. With your knowledge of melodic intervals this should be a little harder, but definitely doable.

The more i do this, it's come to a point where when i hear the 2 notes harmoically i actually hear them melodically in my head.

I haven't moved on to chords yet... so i'll tackle that soon. But yea, i was at the exact same point, i was killing melodic intervals, and then harmonic would come along and it was like beating my head against a wall.

but yea... i guess it is all just part of the learning process.

hope this helps.


Joe Pass Jr
09-03-2007, 03:42 PM
I hope not to be repeating whats been said here. As part of my aural class we do this kind of thing alot. I'm not great at some aspects of it. But ill suggest a few things we do which you may consider working at.

Melodic Interval recognition. Root then x interval above or below.
Harmonic - Root and x interval played together.
Mode Recognition - play a mode root to 7th melodically
Harmonic in form of triads.
Harmonic In 4 part harmony.
recognizing tetra chords ( first 4 notes of a scale/mode ). I would start with - Whole tone scale, Major, Minor, Phrygian, Diminished, Hindu scales.
Recognizing Chord Progressions. Start small. 2-5-1 , 3-6-2-5-1, 1-4-5-1.
Sight Singing melodies.

Obviously you cant sing a chord but if you sing the intervals one after the other after you hear it. Soon enough the 3rd and 7th will stand out more. also any alterations such as a #5 will become evident. listen for things like the b7 in a dominant chord. Practice resolving the b7 interval to the root. Then do the same thing with a major 7 interval. These subtle differences will stand out over time aswell. Eventually you will hear a chord and say ' hmm, that sounds like its definitely ready to resolve... must be dominant ' or ' I hear a minor 3rd in there, and it seems to be on its way somewhere. Possibly minor ?'

Hope this helps.

09-03-2007, 04:22 PM
As far as tetrachords go we learned to clasify them into 4 categories:

C D E F Major (M2 M2 m2)
C D E F# Lydian (M2 M2 M2)
C D Eb F Minor (M2 m2 M2)
C Db Eb F Phrygian(m2 M2 M2)

Which exhaust all possibilities using just major and minor seconds. Then you introduce the augmented 2nd and you end up with:

C Db E F (Phrygian-Major)
C D Eb F# (Minor-Lydian)

Which we learned as "exotic tetrachords" which I thought it was kinda silly but it worked for us. The one with an augmented second between the 1st and 2nd note was left out because according to our aural skills teacher it was of no practical use.

Just expanding a bit on the tetrachord stuff.

I hope this helps.


11-30-2007, 10:51 PM
I play the acoustic piano. I don't hear the resonance on the organ or any kind of portable keyboard that I hear on the acoustic piano. The piano has sympathetic vibrations. Any single note sets off vibrations on that set of strings, that resonate other strings. This can be heard easily by playing with the pedal that raises the dampers off the strings, so that they can all vibrate freely. If you play the acoustic guitar as opposed to the electric quitar you may begin to hear resonance.
I hear two voices that sound like one entity when they are played together. The harmonic intervals have their own qualities just like the individual pitches have their qualities. Once you recognize resonance you will be able to distinguish harmonic intervals much better. I suggest that you sing the pitches of each of the pitches that make the harmonic intervals.
If you can't sing the intervals, then you are not hearing the intervals correctly.