Monday, December 09, 2019

Does interval training work?

There are many interval training exercises to help singers distinguish between, say, a perfect fourth and a minor third.

But do they actually work? Do the exercises carry over into the singing?

There are plenty of vocal exercises out there designed to help singers distinguish between different intervals.

Even if singers don’t know the technical names of intervals, they can sing these exercises to get a feel for how different intervals sound.

There are also plenty of examples drawn from well-know songs which illustrate particular intervals. For example, the first two notes of Silent Night form a major second, and the first two notes of Auld Lang Syne form a perfect fourth.

I’ve no doubt that ear training is valuable in helping singers to pitch notes and to nail intervals more accurately. I use lots of scale-based interval exercises in warm ups. With a little feedback and encouragement, even novice singers can sing a series of major intervals without too much trouble.

The problem is, this doesn’t always carry over into the singing of a song. See also Mind the gap between warm up and song: how to ensure vocal technique gets applied.

In the warm up singers might be able to go from a perfect fourth to a minor sixth, but there is no context. In a particular song, they might flounder.

This is where intervals from well-known songs can help a little. If there is a tricky part in a song, it’s possible to remind singers of how an interval sounds by choosing the same interval in a well-known song. Drilling the interval in this way and then going back to the song being learnt can help.

It’s important to realise that this is only a rehearsal technique. You don’t want singers in the middle of a performance to pause and try to remember how Auld Lang Syne goes!

What’s your experience? Do you find that interval training helps?

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Chris Rowbury




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