Saturday, April 5, 2014

Intervals By Ear: Fun with Turtle Tom and Tim

I love how the ear training components of Let's Play Music lessons train students to hear more in the music they are listening to and understand what they are hearing.  With the better understanding of what's happening in music, students are ready to be expressive (and "musical") in their own composing and playing.  It thrills me to know these skills can be taught- anyone can learn to be musically talented!
What Interval Did You Hear?
A Few Types of Ear Training
Let's Play Music classes incorporate chords training: listening to multiple notes played as triads to make Red, Yellow, Blue chords that are major and minor. But there's more!

Pitch Training refers to hearing and identifying specific notes.  C is always C.  G is always G. When we teach students to sing "Do is Home" or "Middle C" with the pitch of Middle C, with no reference to other notes, they are refining their  absolute pitch.

Interval Training refers to identifying one note based on another note by hearing the distance (interval) between the two pitches.  When students sing or identify specific intervals, they are working on their relative pitch.  I've written about the many reasons learning intervals is so helpful to musicians!

Our second year students are learning so much about playing intervals with their turtle pals in the song Turtle Shells, I wanted to focus on helping them get more interval ear training with these guys.

Turtle Adventures: Interval Training
An easy trick for improving relative pitch is to have a list of your favorite interval reference songs.  Take the first 2 notes of a song you love, and use those notes as a reminder any time you want to sing that interval. 

Major 2nd: Sing the "Do-Re" of a major scale, or sing the first two "up, up" of The Red Balloon song.
Major 3rd: Sing "Do-Mi" of the Red chord, or sing "I Am" from the song How to Skip.
Major 4th: Sing Do-Fa (or Sol-Do), or sing "Boom Boom!" from the song Ain't it Great to Be Crazy or sing "Tallest Tree" from the song 5 Fat Turkeys.
Major 5th: Sing Do-Sol, or "Hop Hop" from the ostinato of the song Frog Went A-Hoppin, or sing "Twinkle Twinkle" Little Star.

Here are two more that we aren't using today, but our students are ready to learn:
Minor 2nd: Sing a major scale and focus on Ti-Do at the end. 
Minor 3rd: Sing Sol-Mi, or Hickety Pickety Bumblebee, a song made entirely of this interval.  In our Sound Beginnings class, we have 2 songs every semester focusing on this important interval, since it's the first one young children can learn and sing back on pitch!

To help my daughter practice and remember these intervals (and because she requested something to color), we made the Adventures of Turtle Tom and Turtle Tim coloring storybook!  The turtles in this story arrange their bodies in the drawings to make each interval, while playing along to the very song that helps us remember the interval.

Click Image to Download PDF
Assembling your little book:
1. Print the image on 8x11 paper.  Fold along the gray lines, to form 8 sections.
2. Open so the page is folded in half (short ends together) and cut along the dotted line.  Don't cut too far!
3. Fold the page so long ends are together (fresh cut is at the seam), then pinch the pages out so the seam separates.
4. Adjust the pages nicely so you have a cute little book!  Let your child color and practice singing intervals.
Two Ways to Use The Book
I like to read the story with my daughter, pausing on each page to sing the song.  Then I ask her to sing me just the specified notes (interval) several times.  Then we sing those notes using the solfeg names instead of lyrics several times before going to the next page.

On other days, she has her book in hand, and I play a 'mystery interval' at the piano, or sing it with my voice ("bum-bum").  She flips through her book trying to decide which of the songs I was beginning to sing or play, in other words, she identifies which interval I played.
Bigger Coloring Pages
If you are interested in having larger pictures to color on two full-sized sheets that are not formatted into a booklet, click HERE.  These would go well on your wall and you could enjoy the same games.

Wow, Interval Ear-Training Was Easy!
So now you have mastered a few intervals and are off to a great start!  There are a few more to learn (and be sure to recognize and sing them descending as well as ascending), and luckily there are some websites like this and this where you can add more songs and do some drills to get better.  Have fun!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

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