Teaching Intervals: The Why and the How – Part 1

So what is an interval and why should we teach this to young music students? An interval is the distance between two notes in a melody. Recognizing that the melody in music is a pattern is one of the first steps in learning to read music. Since all melodies are just a series of intervals, seeing the intervals will help students to read the music later. I start with exploring the concepts of same and different and move on to higher and lower notes.

  1. Same and different notes. For younger children, 3 and 4 you might want to do a little review of same and different in life just so they have a good grasp of same and different.  Once a child has a good grasp of same and different you can explore the idea of the same with either a child’s xylophone (you know, those colored little instruments that you had as a child) or even better, a virtual one. They are free and easy to obtain. You don’t even have to go out. The one I like  best is in the android store and is simply called “Xylophone” from Easy Labs. It is great for little fingers and is on your phone.  It has a good xylophone sound and the higher C is the same color as the lower one. Starting out, I would just let them explore the sounds. Let them play with it for a while. To make it a bit more structured you could play a little improvisational tune and then let them play a little tune. After they have had fun for awhile, you introduce a game where you play the same notes or different notes. When you play the different notes always play an octave, 1 and 8, the lowest note and then the highest note. (This is assuming you have an octave xylophone. Sometimes they give you a couple of notes above an octave. In that case you would play a C and then the higher C.) This is what we are after. Can they hear if you are playing two of the high notes or the lower note and the high note? Or play the low note twice; and then low and high.  Always use an octave (C to C) for the different notes at this stage.  Make sure they are understanding notes that are the same and notes that are different before you go on to the next stage. This comes easy for some children and harder for others, but all will get it.
  2. Higher and lower notes. Once your child can hear that notes are the same or different, you can go on to the concepts of higher and lower. Again, if you are not sure if your child knows what higher and lower means, practice with them using their bodies.  My son used to lift his little sister up high and say higher and crouch down low with her and say lower. (Yes, he was just trying to get in a workout.) You probably have your own games you can play to illustrate this concept. When the concepts of higher and lower are firmly in their minds use the xylophone again to teach the concept of higher and lower in music. Play two upper C’s (the littlest bar) and tell them that they are higher notes. Same thing with the lower C’s (the longest bar) Then play a game where the child does a dance stretched out with their fingers up high or for the lower one does a dance with their hands down low and crouched down low like a troll. This body movement helps them to relate better and remember higher and lower notes. Make it fun by doing the notes close together and let them try to do the crouching and stretching quickly, or play a little rhythm to keep them dancing on one or the other. Switch places and let them play the notes and you do the dances.  Have fun with it, it’s a great bonding time with your child.

You have finished with the exploration and practice portion of this process. Tomorrow we will talk about the labeling process and label 5ths and octaves. Each level in Amarant Music teaches two of the 12 intervals. By the time students reach level 6 they will be able to write and hear every interval. It is just one way that Amarant Music makes children literate in music before they go into middle school where they can join band or choir with more music education than students currently going into college. Please, help us to make this system a reality by going to our Kick Starter page and look at what we are trying to do. Donate some money if you want more for our children and like what you see, even 5$ will help.

Author: Laura Matthews, CCO Amarant Education

Degree: BME, minor English Taught Band, Elementary music and Privately

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