By now, if you have followed the steps outlined in my previous posts, your students are comfortable playing short melodic phrases by ear and can identify intervals of a second and third by listening. Now it is time to expand their interval vocabulary by learning fourths and fifths!
My favorite way to teach these intervals is to connect them to a familiar song. Try singing the first phrase of each of these songs with your students. Don’t forget to use your hands to show how far apart the notes are!
- “Here comes the bride!” This famous Wagner tune starts with an interval of a fourth.
- “Twinkle twinkle little star…” This famous folk song begins with the interval of a fifth.
Like before, have your students play, sing, and gesture these intervals as much as possible to really hear the difference between them. If you are using an ear training app (like the "Interval Ear Training" exercise in Tenuto), add these two new intervals to your seconds and thirds and drill students on all of them. You can also use my “Play by Ear Challenge #3” worksheet (found here with all my free resources) to practice these intervals.
If your students can master the skill of distinguishing 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, and 5ths by ear, they will be able to begin playing the melodies from many famous folk tunes and Christmas songs—there are plenty that use just these four intervals!
What do you think? Any tips you would like to share for teaching students to play by ear? Please leave a comment below!