Playing Intervals

Purpose: Learn to play on the keyboard the basic intervals that make up melody and harmony: the seconds, thirds, fourths, etc. and their various qualities of major, minor, augmented, and diminished.

Difficulty: Beginning level for the first two levels, moderately difficult when you get to augmented and diminished intervals. You'll start with easy choices like the minor and major seconds. You don't need to understand note spelling for this exercise, you only need to know how many half steps are in each interval. For example, if you are asked for a minor third above C and you correctly play C and the black key between D and E, the program will automatically supply Eb instead of D# for that black key. In the practice level you can choose particular intervals for practice. Points are not counted in the practice level.

How it works:

You are asked to play a particular interval ascending or descending from a given start note. To avoid octave problems, the starting note is marked with a blue dot on its piano key. To play a perfect fifth descending from F, touch the F marked with a blue dot and then the Bb below it. The notes enter into the staff as you play them. Notice that in this exercise when you play a note the key stays depressed. The key will lift if you touch it a second time.

If you make a mistake you'll see the correct notes appear on the staff, while the correct piano keys will animate to show you the requested interval.

You can use any clef for the displayed music. To choose a new clef just click on the clef tool above the keyboard and touch the one you want.

The Intervals

More information about intervals can be found in our free eBook, Exploring Theory with Practica Musica, available on the iBook store. Intervals are presented in chapter V with the help of multimedia examples.

For this exercise you can get away with knowing just these things:

• Intervals are named numerically (seconds, thirds, etc) according to the number of letter names covered between the two notes. C-F, for example, is a fourth; it covers four letter names: C D E F. To name the quality of an interval (major, minor etc) you must count the number of half steps between the two notes. For example, a second covers two letter names, like C-D, or C-Db, or even C-D#. These are all seconds but each has a different number of half steps determining the interval's quality. Two intervals can have the same number of half steps (and will be played on the same piano keys) but will be named differently: C-D# has 3 half steps as does C-Eb yet the first is a type of second (augmented) and the other is a type of third (minor)!

• Intervals can be major, minor, perfect, augmented, or diminished. Seconds, thirds, sixths, and sevenths have two basic sizes: major and minor. Unisons, fourths, fifths, and octaves have one basic size, perfect. A major interval is one half step larger than a minor interval. Add a half step to a major or a perfect interval and it is augmented. Take away a half step from a minor or perfect interval and it is diminished. Standard abbreviations, such as you see in the chart at right, are used to show the quality of an interval: Uppercase "M" for major, lowercase "m" for minor, a small plus sign for augmented and a small circle for diminished.

If you're asked to play a minor third ascending from F, you would start on F and count two letter names more, making a third: F, G, A. The number of halfsteps from F to A is 4, making that a major third. So you play Ab instead. You could also just count 3 half steps from F, since in this exercise that will work - but it's better to know what the words mean: that interval is a third because it includes 3 letter names, and it's minor because it has 3 half steps instead of the 4 required by major thirds.

Here are the most common intervals as they would appear starting from F, and with their sizes in half steps.

To enter Practice Mode touch "Practice" at the top of the screen. In Practice mode you'll be able to choose the intervals you want to learn. To bring up the practice window again touch "Change practice choices" above the selection boxes. To leave practice mode touch "Exit Practice" at the top of the screen.

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