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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!

A Few Types of Ear Training

Let's Play Music classes incorporate chord training: listening to multiple notes played as triads to make Red, Yellow, and Blue chords that we can use to harmonize songs. 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 about playing intervals with their turtle pals in the song Turtle Shells, so I know they'll be excited for a bit more fun interval ear training with the turtles.

Reference Songs: Interval Training

An easy trick for improving relative pitch is to remember 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.

Great news! Our students have learned lots of songs in Let's Play Music that will serve as great reference songs when I ask them to sing an interval for me.

Let's go an adventure with Tom and Tim, and sing the intervals!

Major 2nd: Sing the "Do-Re" of a major scale, or sing the first two "up, up" of The Red Balloon song. Tom and Tim begin their adventure by going to the circus to sing the red balloon song to practice this interval.

Major 3rd: Sing "Do-Mi" of the Red chord, or sing "I Am" (first two notes) from the song How to Skip. Tom and Tim skip rope as they sing these notes.

Major 4th: Sing Do-Fa (or Sol-Do) by remembering "Boom Boom!" from the song Ain't it Great to Be Crazy or sing "Tallest Tree" from the song 5 Fat Turkeys. Tom and Tim's next adventure is to find 5 turkeys in that tree.

Major 5th: Sing Do-Sol, or "Hop Hop" from the ostinato of the song Frog Went A-Hoppin, or sing "Twinkle Twinkle" Little Star. Tom and Tim go to the pond and hop-hop-hop on some lily pads.

Here are two more intervals 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!

BONUS: The turtles in this story arrange their bodies in the drawings to make each interval (stuck together, stacked up neat, etc.), while singing along to the very song that helps us remember the interval! Can you see how their shells make intervals?

Big Coloring Pages

If you are interested in having pictures to color on two full-sized sheets that are not formatted into a booklet, click HERE.


Assembling your little book:

1. Print the image on 8x11 paper. Fold along the gray lines, to form 8 sections. Open.

2. Fold in half (short ends together) and cut along the dotted line. Don't cut too far!

3. Next, pinch the pages out so the newly-cut 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!

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!

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