Beginner Primer Guitar course
Basic ear training

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Identifying intervals-unisons,3rds and 5ths

In this lesson we are going to learn how to identify three important intervals from the major scale we have learned. This will include recognizing the unison. 3rd and the 5th scale degree of the major scale by simply listening to it.

Contents of this lesson Intervals Interval recognition Types of intervals Identifying unison,3rds and 5ths Exercises References
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The difference between any two notes or pitches is what is known as intervals in music. Think of a piano, the keys that are toward the extreme left are low in pitch and the notes that are towards the right are high in pitch. So the further apart two notes will be, the higher the interval. In simple words, an interval is the distance between two musical notes.
Learning intervals is important because it helps you with ear training and understanding relative pitch as discussed in previous lessons. Relative pitch is what helps you judge the distance between pitches of any two notes.

Interval recognition

Recognizing intervals means that when you hear two notes you can identify the distance between the two of them and determine what kind of an interval they form. At first, it may seem a bit abstract to just play two notes and try to identify the pitch distance between them but over time as you get better at this it becomes more instinctive and natural.
Recognizing an interval means that you hear a pair of notes and you know how far apart in pitch they are. There are different names for different distances.

Types of intervals

We name interval types by using their “degree” in the musical scale and their “quality” which produces names like major 3rd or perfect 5ths. Each name has two elements, quality and degree.
Following is the full list of common intervals that you will come across
Minor second
Major second
Minor third
Major third
Perfect fourth
Perfect fifth
Minor sixth
Major sixth
Minor seventh
Major seventh

Note that some intervals have multiple names from a music theory perspective but for recognition and listening you don't need to worry about that. There are thirteen types of intervals named for the scale degree they correspond to. You just need to know a basic major scale in order to start learning and identifying these nervals.

Identifying unisons, 3rds and 5ths

There are two ways your brain can tell you how to identify intervals
By hearing the characteristic sound of the interval. For example major intervals will tend to sound happier or brighter compared to minor intervals which usually have a bit of contradiction doing on. Other aspects that can make intervals distinctive are that major intervals will sound comfortable and at rest but minor intervals will sound clashing or uncomfortable.
By directly estimating the distance in pitch. For example most musicians can tell you that notes of a major sixth are further apart than a minor second interval.

Both these approaches work hand in hand.


In the following examples, identify the unisons, 3rds and 5ths using the concepts learned in this lesson.
Exercise 1
Exercise 2

Exercise 3
Exercise 4
Exercise 5
Exercise 6

Exercise 7
Exercise 8


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