Before reading on, please make sure you have visited the other interval blog posts and watched the relevant YouTube videos! In today’s blog we will be looking at what to do if you have a bottom note with a scale you don’t know?
Before starting let’s look at a few examples of intervals to refresh our memories!
What interval do we have below?
Remember to work out the distance between the notes first (the number) first…
A is the 5th note of the D major scale, making this interval a 5th.
Is Ab in D major?
No, it is not, we have an A natural in D major!
As you can see on the piano we have come down by one semitone. This brings what would have been our perfect 5th into a diminished 5th!
If you are unclear about why a 5th is perfect please read up in the other blog posts.
What about this one?
What is the interval?
That’s correct! It’s a 3rd! Is B sharp in G major?
No, it is not! We have a B natural in G major?
To get to B sharp we have come up by one semitone, taking what would have been our major 3rd into an augmented 3rd!
Notice how these intervals are relatively simple to work out if you know what is in the scale of the bottom note! Make sure you are super confident with your circle of fifths up to 6 sharps and 6 flats and you will be very confident with this question!
Ear Training and Intervals
To develop as a musician you’ll want to be able to recognise intervals by ear. This is where ear training comes in, as the more you practice, the better your’ll get.
My recommendation for this is Tonegym as they have a comprehensive and fun program for training your ears. It’s what has gotten the best results with for my own students.
In the ‘tools’ section of their site, Tonegym even have an interval memorizer that allows you to learn every type of interval.
For an in-depth look at ear training, here’s my full review of Tonegym.
But what do I do if I don’t know the scale of the bottom note?
Sometimes you will be given a question where you simply do not know the scale of the bottom note!
Look at this interval below…
Now, G sharp major is an extremely difficult scale… I bet you can’t tell me how many sharps are in it?!
So rather than struggling to figure out how many sharps are in G# major… bring this note down a semitone to G natural!
However, you must remember, if you bring this note down a semitone to G natural then you must also bring the top note down as well to keep the interval the same! So, if we bring D down a semitone, we get to D flat!
This is our new interval…
An easier interval to work out! So, what is the distance between these two notes?
That’s correct, it is a 5th! Is Db in G major? No, it is not, we have a D natural. Therefore, we have come down a semitone. G-D would have been a perfect 5th but G-Db is a diminished 5th!
Let’s try another one…
Now, do we know A double sharp major?! No, we don’t!
So, let’s bring this down a semitone…
Well I don’t like A sharp major much either…. Shall we go down another semitone?
A major! Much nicer!
Now we have come down two semitones so we need to make sure we do the same to the top note… What is two semitones lower than C sharp?
Two semitones lower than C sharp is C flat!
So now our interval looks like this…
Much easier to work out! Now what is the distance between these two notes?
The distance between A-C is a 3rd !
Is Cb in A major? Take a look at the A major scale above!
No, it is not. In A major we have a C sharp – so how many semitones have we come down?
That’s correct we have come down two semitones!
Two semitones down from major brings us to diminished!
So, the answer to this question is DIMINISHED 3rd!
I hope that has made things a little clearer for you! Check out our worksheets to practice this further!