Saturday, November 10, 2018

Intervals in Motion Ear Training Group Game

Identifying intervals by ear can be a tricky skill for some students to master, but this group piano lesson game gets students in action as they sharpen their interval ear training skills as a group!
Ear Training, Teaching Music

Being able to correctly identify intervals by ear paves the way for easier melodic dictation of compositions, improvisation, playing pop songs by ear and sight singing as students become adept at hearing the distance between notes. Christopher Sutton at MusicalU explores this topic more in-depth in his post "What's the Point of Interval Ear Training?"

For group lessons this month the focus was ear training.  This quick game got students moving and laughing as they identified intervals by ear. Playing Tim Topham's Scale Stops made a great preparatory activity.

Intervals in Motion Game
Concept: Identify ascending intervals with familiar songs.
Preparation: Prepare visuals that include common songs and their intervals for students to refer to during the game. I had posters on the wall behind my piano with simple illustrations for students to refer to during the game.  Since this was a new concept for a few, I also had them make their own illustrations in the boxes of this handout as the opening activity for the group lesson while I explained and gave examples of interval songs.

Perfect Unison 1
Happy Birthday

Major 2nd
London Bridge
Major 3rd
Oh When the Saints
Perfect 4th
Here Comes
the Bride

Perfect 5th
Star Wars

Major 6th
Dashing Through the Snow

Major 7th
Perfect Octave 8
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
How to Play:  Teacher plays an ascending interval on the piano. Students race to perform a motion below that matches the beginning interval of the song they hear. For beginners, starting with just a few song choices and using Middle C as the starting note for every interval can help them gradually build confidence in their ear training skills. Then gradually ramp up the difficulty by adding more songs to choose from and change up the starting note.
Interval Motions:
Perfect Unison Happy Birthday - Blow out Candles in 1 big breath.
Major 2nd London Bridge - Make a bridge with 2 arms.
Major 3rd Oh When the Saints - March 3x in place.
Perfect 4th Here Comes the Bride -  Toss imaginary rice in the air 4x.
Perfect 5th - Star Wars - Make 5 Light Saber Motions in the air.
Major 6th - Dashing through the Snow Pretend to shake bells 6x.
Major 7th - Plug your ears for the dissonant sound!
Perfect Octave Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Draw a rainbow in the sky with your finger as you count silently to 8.

Extend the Learning:

  • Sightreading Bonus: Print ascending interval cards for each interval in the major scale (free at - Over the Edge game).  Have students take turns sightreading the intervals for their peers to guess instead of having the teacher play.
  • Harmonic: Play harmonic intervals instead of melodic to ramp up the difficulty.
  • Descend: Add descending intervals into the mix.
  • Make it minor: Add minor intervals.

Ear Master's Interval Song Chart Generator includes many other ideas for familiar songs matching all of the ascending/descending intervals.  Some students who may not recognize "Oh When the Saints" can instead instantly associate a Major 3rd with the opening repeating 3rd in The Greatest Showman's "A Million Dreams." 

For more fun ideas related to ear training check out these previous posts.

Ear Training Group Lesson Piano Games

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