Intervals: Sure-fire songs for memorizing by ear [ascending and descending]

When it comes to learning intervals by ear, you want unforgettable tunes that will get stuck in your head! Let’s call them Ear Training Ear Worms!

I’ve attempted to curate the most memorable tunes for each interval, as well as the best music videos. Sometimes it’s tempting to jump on current songs because they’re popular with our students right now. This is okay, but in two years those tunes will be the least desirable to the next generation of students because of pop music’s rapid turnover. You’ll be searching endlessly for new songs. Instead, I’ve here opted to include standards that have stood the test of time. Perhaps students haven’t heard them all before. Regardless, these tunes are quick to learn as Ear Training Ear Worms (mnemonic devices) and are valuable to know because they belong to our vast shared musical culture and canon. It’s simply edifying to know this cross-section of music!

You’re reading the companion post to Ear training Interval Dash, off-the-bench teaching strategy [Printables]! This off-the-bench resource teaches intervals by ear and visualizes them spatially without using notation. When all laid out, the interval cards look like a hop-scotch! It’s highly effective in helping students to gain a sound perspective and to learn to identify intervals by ear with accuracy. Plus, it’s fun! …

All of the intervals are indexed below in order from smallest to biggest. This is for ease of finding them, rather than a suggested order of learning them. Some examples have the main interval alternate up and down and could be used for both!

Perfect Unison — Happy Birthday

Listen to the traditional Happy Birthday on YouTube!

Minor 2nd Ascending — Jaws Theme

Listen to John Williams’s Jaws Theme on YouTube! (Minor 2nd at 0:27)

Minor 2nd Descending — Für Elise

Listen to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Für Elise on YouTube! (Minor 2nd at 0:20)

Major 2nd Ascending — Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Listen to Johnny Marks’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on YouTube (Major 2nd at 0:23).

Major 2nd Descending — Mary Had a Little Lamb

Listen to the traditional Mary Had a Little Lamb on YouTube!

Minor 3rd Ascending — Oh Where, Oh Where has My Little Dog Gone?

Listen to the traditional Oh Where, Oh Where has My Little Dog Gone on YouTube!

Minor 3rd Descending — This Old Man

Listen to the traditional This Old Man on YouTube!

Major 3rd Ascending — Oh When the Saints go Marching In

Listen to the traditional Oh When the Saints go Marching In on YouTube!

Major 3rd Descending — Shoo! Fly, Don’t Bother Me!

Listen to the traditional Shoo! Fly, Don’t Bother Me! on YouTube!

Perfect 4th Ascending — Here Comes the Bride

Listen to Richard Wagner’s Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin on YouTube!

Perfect 4th Descending — I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

Listen to the traditional song I’ve Been Working on the Railroad on YouTube!

Tritone Ascending — The Simpsons Theme

Listen to Danny Elfman’s The Simpsons end credits on YouTube!

Tritone Descending — Danse Macabre

Listen to Camille Saint-Saëns’s Danse Macabre on YouTube! (Tritone at 0:24)

Perfect 5th Ascending — Star Wars Theme

Listen to John Williams’s Star Wars theme on YouTube! (Perfect 5th at 0:08)

Perfect 5th Descending — The Flintstones Theme

Watch the Flintstones theme on YouTube!

Minor 6th Ascending — The Entertainer

Listen to Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer on YouTube! (Minor 6th at 0:09)

Minor 6th Descending — Love Story Theme

Listen to Francis Lai’s Love Story theme on YouTube! (Minor 6th at 0:11)

Major 6th Ascending — My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean

Listen to the traditional My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean on YouTube! (Major 6th at 0:24)

Major 6th Descending — Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen

Listen to the traditional Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen on YouTube! (Major 6th at 0:15)

Minor 7th Ascending — Star Trek Original Theme

Listen to Alexander Courage’s Star Trek theme on YouTube (Minor 7th at 0:30)

Minor 7th Descending — Watermelon Man

Listen to Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man on YouTube! (Minor 7th at 0:15)

Major 7th Ascending — Take On Me

Listen to a-ha’s Take On Me on YouTube! (Major 7th at 0:54)

Major 7th Descending — I Love You

Listen to Cole Porter’s I Love You on YouTube! (Major 7th at 0:15)

Perfect Octave Ascending — Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Listen to Harold Arlen’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow on YouTube!

Perfect Octave Descending — Mozart Symphony No. 29

Listen to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 in A Major on YouTube!

Looking for a hands-on approach to intervals?

Piano students learning intervals by ear!

For ideas on how to teach intervals, remember to check out the companion post, Ear training Interval Dash, off-the-bench teaching strategy [Printables]!

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I appreciate shares, comments and likes. Happy teaching! ❤

Rebekah Maxner, composer, blogger, piano teacher. Follow my blog for great tips!

Video of the Week

The Hanging Tree (Late Intermediate, Level 6), has a haunting quality of a lost father’s voice and bird echoes in a forest. From the print and eBook Madge’s Notebook, A Piano Tribute to The Hunger Games, Early Intermediate to Early Advanced piano, music that is a bright light in a dark world. Or, check out The Hanging Tree eSheet!

Listen to The Hanging Tree on YouTube!

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