This is my 15th year of teaching piano lessons. And it just so happens that I am sick of teaching students to recognize melodic intervals on the piano by ear. Perfect 4th is “Here Comes The Bride”… “Major 6th is “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”… Minor 7th is “There’s a Place for Us” from West Side Story… How many kids actually even know these songs? Probably none. Which actually makes them not much of a memory trick at all! I know it’s good for them to be able to hear and identify these intervals. I know that piano exams require it. But frankly… it’s boring.
Because tomorrow I’m surprising my piano students with a whole new way of remembering their melodic intervals. And they’re going to think that I am completely awesome.
Melodic Intervals and The Top 40
As piano teachers we always need to be one step ahead. And we need to be cool. It’s a fact of life – we are teaching children. Children like things that are cool.
So here’s a fun way to bring the music your students are currently listening to into your piano teaching studio – and teach them how to correctly identify melodic intervals all at the same time. (This will require some homework on your part… homework that consists of finding your inner teen and breaking out some serious pop music on youtube). These songs are so engrained in your students’ minds that once you make the connection for them they will be an interval-naming whiz!
When teaching intervals I play just the part of the song on the piano that matters (about one or two notes before and after the actual interval I want them to hear) and I sing the lyrics that go along with that part. It’s all you need for the lightbulb to go off in their brian.
The New Melodic Interval Memory Tricks for Piano Students
*Disclaimer: These songs are “cool” as of September 24, 2012. Update your list regularly to avoid falling behind the times! Please also be sure to check lyrics before playing these for any of your students and use your judgement.
Minor 2nd “Hard Day’s Night” by the Beatles
Major 2nd “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry (repeated over and over!)
Minor 3rd “Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood (“Blown away”)
Major 3rd “Wavin’ Flag” by K’nan (first 4 notes outline a major 3rd)
Perfect 4th “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars (beginning of the chorus “When I see…”)
Perfect 5th “The Cave” by Mumford and Sons (“And I…”)
Minor 6th “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga (the first two notes are a 5th but they lead to a minor 6th. Teach your student to hum the 5th and then go up the half step to the minor 6th)
Major 6th “Hey Soul Sister” by Train (the first two sung notes “Your lipstick”) or “Back Together” by Taylor Swift “…are never”
Minor 7th “Firework” by Katy Perry (“As you shoot a-…” is an octave moving to a Minor 7th)
Perfect Octave “Glad you Came” by The Wanted (“The Sun…”)
Major 9th “Paradise” by Coldplay (first two notes of the main riff)
And now for a real challenge… finding a song that has a Major 7th! I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below for a *current* pop song that would help with hearing the interval of a Major 7th. Have fun! Ear training has officially become cool 🙂
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