Musical theory is one of the most important things that a musician can learn. Not only does it teach the skills necessary to play music within a proper and modern context, but it also teaches the good and bad of music, and more importantly, how to identify it.
Intervals are one of the most basic concepts of musical theory. Interval identification is an important ear training skill for any musician to learn.
Whether you enjoy playing covers, or your taste leans more towards writing your own music, learning your intervals and how to decipher them will allow you to do both correctly.
You may think that there is no ‘wrong’ way to write music, and this is both true and false. While there is no wrong process, there is a wrong way; anything that sounds bad is the wrong way.
If you don’t understand intervals, you won’t understand why people cringe at your hard work. Intervals are the key to relating your ideas into music, and will allow you to avoid the problem of bad sound. Likewise, knowing them will allow you to pick out separate notes and keys within a piece of music.
Through practice. There is simply no other way to learn your intervals. There are websites dedicated to interval recognition which will allow you to quiz yourself on intervallic differences.
Using these sites will allow you to train your ear. No one knows everything at once, and thus it will take quite a bit of time to learn your intervals. The best way to learn them before jumping head first into the quizzes is to play them on your bass.
Start off with a minor second interval. This is simply one fret to the next, known in guitar and bass slang as half steps.
Half steps may be easy to identify while playing, but you will soon come to realize that when intervals are compared, or when you yourself are not actually playing the interval, the difficulty in deciphering them increases substantially.
The only way you can truly teach your ear, though, is by putting in the hard work of playing your intervals. Try recording your playing. Play different intervals, mixing up the values. Don’t go to extremes at first; keep the intervals relatively close to one another, such as minor seconds, major thirds, and minor thirds.
You might want to check out this video on using popular songs to help you out on intervals.
Take a few days off and allow yourself to forget. Then, come back to the tape and try to decipher the intervals without your bass guitar in your hands. Check your work by then picking up the bass and playing the intervals. Once you feel comfortable and you get the majority correct, test your skills with an online quiz on an interval quizzing website.
The best thing about these sites is that they will allow you to check your results. This will show you your weaknesses, which in turn will allow you to focus more upon them.
Remember, practice makes perfect, and when ear training, practice is the only way to learn. Have fun, keep your cool, and good luck!
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