skip to content

UK Guitar - A UK-wide directory of guitar and bass teachers
Gregory Hofmann. Bass Teacher.

Bass teacher based in London

Owner and Founder of Online Bass Lessons. Private Teaching for over 5 years. Teacher and Author for Bmus(hons) Deg... read more > >

Gregory Hofmann

Aural: Intervals Of The Major Scale

18th April 2012


Aural: Recognizing Major Scale Intervals  

In our first aural lesson, we will focus on recognizing intervals.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to be able to not only play well, but also ‘hear well’.

Our ears are our greatest asset as musicians and we should all spend a portion of our practice transcribing, listening and singing melodic lines, bass lines etc. There are a number of ways to learn songs, solos and melodies. We can write them down, we can learn them on our instruments, we can picture our fretboard, we can understand the theory behind it but being able to hear the music in your head and sing it in tune is an amazing skill to have. Many great musicians have that ability and it can only add to your musicality in a huge way. 

If our instruments purpose is to mimic the human voice, with all the inflections, slides, vibratos etc we find in our accents and dialects, then the best way to achieve that is to improve our ear and our voice and get our instruments to become extensions of that.

So with that said, Lets start with recognising the intervals we find in the Major Scale. It is very important to have the Major Scale down as all that we learn in music is related back to it. Most of us have a strong grasp of what the major scale feels like on our instruments but many musicians cant even sing the intervals or the scale itself!?!?

Our major scale is made up of 7 notes, 8 including the octave. In the key of C we have C D E F G A B C.

Each scale degree is given a number relating to the root. When we count, we include the root and the interval.

C = 1st, Root

D = 2nd, Major 2nd

E = 3rd , Major 3rd

F = 4th , Perfect 4th

G = 5th , Perfect 5th

A = 6th , Major 6th

B = 7th ,  Major 7th

C = Root, Octave.

So the 3rd in the key of C major is E. The 7th in C major is B etc.

Now hopefully you know this already and hopefully you can play a major scale on your instrument. But could you hear a major 7th if someone played it to you or could you sing a major 3rd?

The first thing we are going to do is try associating each interval with a familiar melody. This is a very common method of teaching aural interval recognition; HOWEVER I recommend you use it for a week, get your major scale interval recognition down and then work on your own ways of hearing them. Some people think of colours. ‘When I hear a major 6th I hear Blue’ Some people think of photos or movies, some people think of moods and some people just get a certain vibe or feeling when they hear it. Try using all these methods and see which suits you. What you want is for the recognition to be instantaneous and to be more than just numbers and theory, but rather a feeling or mood.

We do not want to associate a major 3rd with Kum Ba Ya every time we hear it. We don’t want to think about other songs or melodies that don’t relate to the music we are playing. I don’t want to think about Britney Spears when I’m listening to Wayne Shorter. (Maybe I do, I don’t know? ha)

Here is a list of commonly used songs related to each interval. You have to be singing this. Don’t use your instrument. We need to be able to use only our ears with no extra help. Choose an interval at random and sing the Root and the Interval. Try get your voice to sound as pure as possible and try and hear how good your intonation is. Maybe sing to a tuner so you can see if you usually sing flat or sharp. Then you know what you need to work on.

Here are some melodies to try:

to D = Major 2nd  

Happy Birthday

Silent Night

Bob Marley – Could you be loved

Berlin – Take my breath away (chorus)

Miles Davis – Four

Phil Collins – Groovy kind of Love

Prince – Purple Rain (chorus)

to E = Major 3rd

Kum Ba Ya

Pop Goes the weasel

When The Saints Go Marching In

Cat Stevens – Morning has Broken

Violent Femmes – Blister in the Sun,

Thelionious Monk – Blue Monk

to F = Perfect 4th

Auld Lang Syne

All the things you are

Amazing Grace

Otis Redding – These Arms of Mine

Nat King Cole – When I fall in Love

to G = Perfect 5th

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

My Favourite Things

Baa Baa Black Sheep

Star Wars (Main Theme)

Katy Perry – Thinking of You (chorus)

to A = Major 6th

My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean

For He’s a Jolly Good fellow

Take the A Train

C to B = Major 7th

Aha – Take On Me(chorus)

to C = Octave

Somewhere over the Rainbow

Singing in the Rain

Try thinking of your own tunes and melodies to recognise these intervals. There are millions. But remember the goal is for it to be an instantaneous feeling that just hits you. There are some great Apps on Itunes for ear training such as the Solfege App and many great websites too. Type ear training in Wikipedia. Try testing yourself with your friends or just closing your eyes and hit two white notes on the piano at random. Do it 10 minutes a day for 2 weeks and you should start hearing results. Then we can start moving on to the intervals that appear in the chromatic scale.

As always, if you have any question please feel free to E mail me at


Teachers login

Not a member yet?

As a free to use service, is funded by your donations. Thank you for your support.

copyright © Ping Lee